Behind the Mask: English teacher Katie Reilly

Behind the Mask: English teacher Katie Reilly

Ari Collins
eSomethin’ staff

The first quarter of the 2021-2022 school year has quickly come to a close and Perrysburg High School is still in the process of welcoming new members of its community. Ms. Katie Reilly is the newest addition to the PHS English department, teaching AP and sophomore English. She told eSomethin that she loves stories—what’s hers? 

Reilly is from a small township in Michigan, just outside of Detroit. “It’s where the River Rouge runs through it, that’s why it’s called Redford,” she said. 

Her love for English began when she was a small child. “I love stories. I feel like all of what it means to be human is just one big story, and also people are stories.”

Reilly always knew she wanted to be a teacher. “I was one of those goofy little kids who wanted to play school,” she said.

“We would sit down and I would force my brother and our little friends to play school and do lessons. They probably hated me but we read some stories.”

She went on to attend college in Kalamazoo, Michigan. and then she taught in a small town in Michigan called Goodrich.

Reilly said, “Perrysburg reminds me a lot of Goodrich, just it’s a lot bigger.”

After a few years teaching in Goodrich, she moved to teach at St. Ursula Academy, in Toledo, where she taught for ten years. It was “really interesting because I had never gone to a private school. I didn’t really know that much about them. And it was all girls, so that was a whole experience,” she said.

“I really loved it but, you know, after a while you kind of get the feeling that it’s time to go back to your roots,” she said. For Reilly, that meant public school. “I decided to shoot my shot with Perrysburg, and I made it.”

Reilly told eSomethin that she was both excited and nervous to start the year at Perrysburg. “It’s different…But I think I’m getting the hang of it. There are actually quite a few kind of teacher buddies, especially the whole English department, that have been really really welcoming.”

Reilly said her biggest expectation for Perrysburg was “excellence. I live in the community—my husband and I bought our house here in 2016. He grew up here. He is actually an alum of Perrysburg High School. After everything I had heard [from] all of his family members, and just living here, I know that Perrysburg is a place that puts a lot of faith, emphasis, and support behind its school system.”

She was primarily excited to teach a class of all seniors this year because she loves teaching AP classes. She mentioned that she has taught them before but not this specific course.

“I also have English 211 which is the, like, the standard, college-prep sophomore English. That’s also pretty eye-opening because I haven’t had a chance to teach normal sophomores. I’ve had a weird mix of AP sophomores and then creative writing and other kind of elective classes. It’s kinda cool.”

Reilly says that the school year is moving at a really fast pace and that she is already “getting more comfortable. I know that I’m going to need to get through the full year to get a really good handle on how things truly work. But, I’m finding my way.”

“It’s like breaking in a new pair of shoes—still not totally broken in yet, though.”

The importance of English class

Reilly says that English class stands for many purposes but that its main purpose is to teach students how to use their language for whatever they should need it for. And through literature, it connects you to the human story.

“History is the human story. You can’t make that stuff up and somehow it is real…History is fascinating, it really is, but it’s not going to capture your imagination the way that a good piece of literature necessarily might. That’s what English class ultimately does. It is your language and it is your legacy.”

“Every piece of literature is ultimately a reflection of what it means to be human to that author.”

Katie Reilly

“One of the most challenging things about English Language Arts, and it is like any other subject, is that students don’t always value it and they don’t always see the point.”

Reilly thinks that, to connect with literature, students can and should cast themselves into stories and in characters’ lives. She thinks that students need to bring literature to life. For some, that means telling “stories that are similar to what’s going on in that novel because we need connection.”

“It is really in trying to tap into what about our own lives can we connect to the literature,” she said. Though direct connection cannot be found in every story, Reilly has embraced the fact that she is learning, in thousands of ways, about different interpretations of life.

Reilly’s favorite thing to teach is Gothic and horror fiction like “Frankenstein.”

“I’m a huge Mary Shelley fan and an absolute nerd,” Reilly said.

What’s to come?

“I want to look into how we can expand that curriculum—my team partners for the 211, we’re looking at changing up the Shakespeare selection,” Reilly said.

“Ultimately, if I had to think master goal: Tackling this senior AP class,” Reilly said. She wants her students to receive college credit and exit high school smoothly and with confidence.

“If I had like an absolute, concrete goal, I want every single student to not only take the AP test but to pass it and to walk out of here feeling like they’ve learned something.”

Reilly is enthusiastic and ready to be involved in our community. “I want people to know that I’m all in. I don’t do anything halfway. I’m open to working with students in a capacity even beyond English.”

“I tend to live my job, probably in an unhealthy way, but I want to be connected to this place. If anyone needs a staff sponsor for something or just sees me wandering around aimlessly or doing something goofy, grab me and get me involved. I want to be involved, I don’t want to just be a hermit in my office. I’m all in.”

She looks forward to making many connections—with PHS and with literature—in the years to come.

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