New class Hero’s Journey blasts off at Dougherty

English teacher Mrs. Jessica Tsuji is teaching the new Hero’s Journey class at Dougherty Valley High School in an effort to start conversations about what it means to be a literary hero, and how it applies to real life.

In the senior English course,  students analyze the characteristics of heroes found in literary works and then apply the lessons they learn to community service projects. The real-life applicability of this course is very important to Tsuji.

She explains, “The whole idea of us reading books at school is to take something from them. The authors can teach us lessons. But we very rarely can actually try to do those lessons. In this class, the community service aspect is where we take the things we’ve learned and apply them to actual situations in life.”

Tsuji also hopes that, through this course, students will learn how to become better people. Her unorthodox approach focuses on cultivating “heroic” traits in students.

Students of the class have recently started Acts of Random Kindness projects. These projects, aimed to prepare students for larger community service ventures, entails going to a class and helping a teacher to make their day a little easier. For her project, senior Simran Chodavarapu decided to help Ms. Ramona Altman in Dance 3 by evaluating student dances.

Chodavarapu expressed, “I learned that to be a hero, you don’t necessarily have to save someone. Patience and respect can also make you a good person, a.k.a. a hero.”

In seeing the effects of their service firsthand, Tsuji hopes that students will become more interested in future projects.

The quarterly curriculum of Hero’s Journey includes books and a community service project specifically tailored to highlight those book’s morals. This is in addition to senior English requirements, like research and working on college essays.

This unique class, in the words of one student, teaches that “anyone can make a difference.”