South students praise teacher

By Rebecca Goldstein, Nathan Yeo and David Han
Published: April 2008

After teaching at Newton South for seven months, English teacher Brody Lipton had a profound impact on many of his students. Following his resignation on April 9, students reflected on the teacher who many felt inspired them.
English department head Fran Moyer stated in an email statement that Lipton resigned for “personal reasons.
Lipton’s leave was unexpected. “When we got the news¦it was a complete surprise, sophomore William Lind said.
Lipton taught two blocks each of sophomore and junior Curriculum I English, and, according to his students, his creative teaching methods were one of the many engaging aspects of his class.
“He would take a small idea, something about the book we were reading or how to write, and just let us go with it. Wherever the discussion went, that was fine, junior Max Wechter said.
Wechter called Lipton “definitely my favorite teacher.
“English used to be my worst subject, sophomore Joseph Klickstein said “But with Mr. Lipton, that feeling is gone, and now I look forward to every class.
Lipton’s classes often consisted of unique activities. During one class, he cut up hundreds of slips of papers containing quotes from The Great Gatsby and asked students to match them to the character who said them. In order to help his students understand what believable fiction was, he played “Two truths and a lie with them.
“He never told us why we were doing [the activity], junior Tucker Berk said. “You had to find out your own lesson from it.
Multiple students recalled a particular class when Lipton ran an entire class without speaking. He initiated discussions by writing on the board, but never directly spoke.
“He went the whole hour without saying a word. That was really cool, and he did stuff like that all the time. So whenever you went into his class, you didn’t know what to expect. He kept you on your toes and you knew it was going to be something unexpected and usually kind of fun, Lind said.
Lipton’s teaching style extended to his writing assignments. Lipton rarely gave overly explicit assignments, and students were encouraged to write about topics of their own choice, in many cases positively influencing their opinions of English as a subject.
“He gave us hints during class, but his way of teaching was for us to figure connections for ourselves, sophomore Jacob Klickstein said.
“He wanted us to come to a natural connection between them, and just write about things as they came to us instead of planning everything out and writing a boring essay, Lind said. “We would make our own connections and come to our own conclusions. [It] was something I never got to do before. That was really interesting.
Junior Jay Epstein wrote a paper about his personal connections with Jay Gatsby, the central character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Epstein said he felt magnetically drawn to the tragic hero of the Gilded Age. Lipton played a critical role in helping Epstein make the links.
“He knew just what to say to coax your thoughts out, he said. “He knew us.
Epstein’s connection with Gatsby stuck; his friends often refer to him as “Jay Gatsby.
Lipton emphasized writing whenever possible, occasionally giving students a blank sheet of paper and telling them to, initially, write whatever came to mind.
“He took everything you wrote as something special, Berk said.
Lipton, a playwright, sometimes wrote plays for his classes, including one that satirized their confusion about an assignment. He used the play to tell his students that it didn’t matter if their writing didn’t explicitly conform to the assignment; all that mattered was the writing itself.
Lipton also had an original and sensitive grading style to motivate his students. Instead of grading according to a rigid standard, he based grades on how a student’s writing compared to their capabilities. If they made improvement, they were guaranteed a good grade. If they didn’t put in much effort, he would dock them, and encourage improvement.
Writing Center aide Jana McCarthy will take over Lipton’s classes for the remainder of the academic year.

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