Kevin Downey Paves way for new History, English curriculum


Brooklin Barilone

Downey reviews History textbook as students read along in their guided reading textbook before test on Oct. 7, 2021.

 Students may have been surprised to find Kevin Downey teaching United States History and English as a block class in the choir room on the first day of school, a room that is filled with stadium seats and small detachable desks. 

Downey, who is uniquely qualified to teach this course as he has teaching credentials in both English and History, is the first Buena faculty member to teach History and English as a block class, giving Downey the opportunity to build  courses that complement one another. 

“I have these two worlds and I always wanted to put them together,” Downey said. “I am really excited.” 

The junior English curriculum  reviews The Great Gatsby by F. Scotts Fitzgerald  towards the end of the school year and History classes typically review the 1920 decade during the beginning of the year. Downey’s vision was to keep both classes on a similar schedule by reading The Great Gatsby in English while learning about the 1920s in History. 

Downey appreciates the “flexibility” he has to build content and courses that complement one another and allow students to “make better connections”, enhancing their learning experiences. Seeing the same group of students for an hour and 54 minutes every day instead of just 57 minutes has allowed him to maximize on time. 

“I get to know students writing better because I am seeing more of their writing,” Downey said. 

“He seems to care about the subjects which is harder to find in high school.

— junior Chris Owen

 His experience during this new class has helped him connect on a personal level with students and offer more assistance to students that need help. 

“Normally, when I have 180 students or more, it is harder to remember their names and get to know them,” Downey said. “If there is an issue, I can talk to someone during History about an assignment in English.”

Assistant principal of curriculum and instruction Tiffany Dyer helps to create Buena’s Master Schedule which is a working schedule for both students and teachers. Dyer fits together schedules and classes, by adding block classes like Downey’s, the process becomes “harder”.  Dyer takes class sizes, student requests and the allowed number of periods the school can hold at once, to create a schedule that functions for both students and teachers. Although scheduling can be a challenge, Dyer is “glad” to have these courses.  

 During his new adventure of teaching these classes, Downey has felt students are learning more but are still “recovering” from Covid-19. 

Students such as junior Chris Owens found the class to be “unfamiliar” at first because they had not experienced anything similar but have found the block class to be beneficial as it provides the opportunity to dive deeper with the curriculum. 

“We have more time to talk about the material, so it has given us a chance to connect and understand it,” Owens said. 

Outside of the curriculum having a teacher for both subjects evolves the security students have with class work. 

“It is nice to have a teacher for both classes, because you know expectations,” Owens said.  

In the future Downey hopes to teach similar courses like these, as he believes they will benefit students and teachers. 

“I think it is a great pathway and I would love to see more of it,” Downey said.