SUMMER SCHOOL ZONE: Women’s studies class broadens perspective

Summer School Zone writer Sydney Heitkamp discusses her experience in a women's studies class at Windermere Prep.

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  • | 12:36 p.m. July 27, 2022
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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To you, July may be the month of pool parties, ice cream, fireworks and cookouts — but did you know July is a monumental month for women’s history? 

For years, July has been a month full of ideas, protests and change within women’s suffrage and history. Women who came generations before me have fought to ensure that I am able to proudly be a woman in the U.S., and although we have a long way to go, I am grateful for their achievements.

This past school year, I was lucky enough to be able to take a women’s studies class at my high school, Windermere Preparatory School. This was the inaugural year of this class being available at WPS, and I am so grateful I got to be a part of the first group of students to experience this class. 

Going into this school year, I figured we would cover basic women’s history movements and struggles throughout American history — but little did I know, this class would cover much more. 

We started out the school year with discussions about what we thought women’s history meant, and we transitioned into discussing gender roles, gender terminology and gender inclusivity. The teacher of this course, Stephanie Immel, ensured every student was heard, felt safe and was comfortable discussing difficult topics in class.

Furthermore, we incorporated current themes of pop culture into discovering women’s history, such as how comics have portrayed women over the years. For example, how has Wonder Woman been portrayed when compared to male superheroes? How is her body different? How are her powers different? Each of these questions stemmed into larger in-class discussions that allowed students to share their opinions and ideas.

Each day, students had the opportunity to share something with the class. It could be about a student’s day, a story a student recently heard, a burning question a student had or simply a thought. These moments in class also grew to become some of my favorites, because they allowed us to connect to one another and grow relationships before having heavy discussions in class. 

Also, these opening remarks often led to larger class discussions about current events, politics and how women fall into both categories. Windermere Prep is lucky enough to have a large variety of students from many different countries, cultures and backgrounds. My class had students from more than 10 different countries, which made discussions about women’s history spread beyond the U.S. and made conversations even richer with knowledge and learning. 

My experience extended beyond the classroom walls and made me more aware and interested in the role of women in society, the workplace and the world. 

If you do not have the opportunity to take this class, there are many achievements in women’s history you can celebrate anytime — especially in July. On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination in the work place. On July 2, 1979, the Susan B. Anthony dollar was released, and on July 20, 1942, the first class of Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps began at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. 


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