Ashley Academy students receive professorial feedback on literary essays

Brandon Paykamian • May 4, 2018 at 11:35 PM

Two years ago, Rucht Lilavivat, a language arts instructor at Ashley Academy, began to take more notice of his students’ writing abilities after noticing they were writing at a collegiate level. 

Eventually, Lilavivat reached out to Scott Contreras-Koterbay, director of the East Tennessee State University Fine and Performing Arts Scholars Program, to encourage him to take a look at his students’ essays and give them professorial feedback on their writing.

“Rucht had shown me a couple of their essays a couple years ago, and I was pleasantly surprised by their quality of work,” Contreras-Koterbay said, crediting the students’ work to Lilavivat’s skills as an instructor. 

On Friday afternoon, Contreras-Koterbay, along with Honors College Dean Judy Slagle and Jesse Graves from the ETSU Department of Literature and Language, reviewed the students’ literary analysis essays for their first Scholars’ Day event.

After reviewing the papers for the first time, Slagle and Graves were thoroughly impressed.

Both said they originally expected the students to be juniors or seniors in high school, but were surprised to find out the essays were written by sixth-graders Sophia Stone and Selena Wheeler, and two eighth-graders, Karimah Mohammed and Leah Rafuls. 

“I thought they were excellent for high school students. I was thinking, ‘Most of our freshman don’t even write that well,’ ” Slagle said. “I was really impressed with the organization of the papers; it was very sophisticated.”

Contreras-Koterbay, who has done extensive research on the work of Sigmund Freud, was particularly interested in Rafuls’ psychoanalysis of the characters in Harper Lee’s iconic novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” 

“I really found that idea of talking about the id, the ego and superego really interesting. I actually learned from this paper,” Contreras-Koterbay said.

Rafuls said she chose to analyze the book in this way due to her personal interest in psychology and Sigmund Freud. 

“Freud is really interesting to study because there are so many things to think about today in psychology and there are some things that are insane to us now, so I thought it was really fun to do a paper on the subject,” she said.

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