New English elective focuses on public speaking, leadership and communication

English teacher Lucy Filppu introduces and implements new Communications elective course available to juniors and seniors


Amira Berezin

English teacher Lucy Filppu explains to her students how to improve and execute a how-to speech, the class’s latest project.

The Communications English Elective course is in progress for the first time at Palo Alto High School, taking a new perspective on literature by focusing on practical life skills.

The new English elective is taught by teacher Lucy Filppu and is available to both juniors and seniors. Filppu has a passion for starting new classes, as she also started Comedy Literature, another English elective.

“I wanted to teach an English class that incorporated real world speaking and listening skills into literature,” Filppu said. “The class is a new spin on English, teaching communication and leadership skills. In the class, the students will examine the foundations of communication and leadership techniques as well as study texts both past and present to raise questions about how communication affects the ability to actualize an authentic relationship with oneself and others.”

Filppu plans to help students create their own digital portfolios for future business plans as well as improve presentation skills.

“Right now we’re just starting the how-to presentations and it’s going great,” Filppu said. “Just this morning I learned how to speed read and how to tie ice skates.”

The class has spent the past weeks preparing for one of its bigger projects: a how-to speech.

“The goal of the project is to practice giving speeches on potentially technical topics to a general audience,” senior Lilia Tang said.

The curriculum focuses on public speaking, leadership skills and different forms of communication such as business etiquette. The class combines global competencies such as understanding international issues and business models with literature. The class is also recommended for students participating in the “sports pathway.”

The class adopted some of its curriculum from Gunn’s Communications class. However, Communications at Gunn is a required semester course taken by all freshmen and sophomores while the course at Paly is one of many available elective courses.

Tang, a Communications student, believes that this course builds people skills and will be useful to her future.

Though Communications is a new addition to Paly, many students already recommend the class to others.

According to senior Shaun Pike, the class is different than any normal English course.

“I think it’s run a lot smoother and is a lot less stressful because it isn’t as based on essays and things like that,” Pike said. “It’s a good class because it’s the best at preparing you for real life.”

Senior Aidan Van Vleck agrees with Pike, in that the new course differs from other classes and that the class is applicable to day-to-day life.

“It’s a Psychology [and] English class that has a useful social practicality,” Van Vleck said. “It’s certainly very practical as English classes go because it’s basically training in communication, and understanding others who struggle with communication.”