Mrs. Oppedisano: Feline Enthusiast, Gamer, and the Teacher Behind Humanities English


At Tenafly High School, the notoriety of the Humanities Honors courses generally generates apprehension within upcoming sophomore students. For most students, the best-known stories about Humanities English are the formidable Odyssey quiz on the second day of class and the summer reading essay in the second week of school, both of which are next to impossible to get above a 90 on. Although students may feel burdened by the arduous course, they leave the class moved by their experiences, drastically improved in their writing ability, and positively impacted by Mrs. Oppedisano’s teaching style fueled by critical thinking, reflection, and high expectations of her students.

Mrs. Oppedisano has been teaching at Tenafly High School for eleven years, and prior to that she taught in central New Jersey for two years. She came to Tenafly High School to get away from home and to broaden her horizons. Mrs. Oppedisano also teaches American Literature and the Tenakin yearbook class, and she advises the Book Club.

Regarding the infamous difficulty of her class, she explained that the Humanities classes were designed by her and Mr. Hutchinson to be demanding, as sophomore year is an important year for growth. They believe that the students who signed up for the class are independent, confident, and ready thinkers and writers who can exercise that confidence through provided materials. When students make conclusions, they have an epiphany. Even though the quizzes and readings feel unfair, they are not meant to be a gauntlet but instead a way to check if students keep their contract to read. Although the course is rigorous, it’s a tradition to maintain a standard that rewards students who take the time and energy to do well. “I want students to think their ways into a more conscious world. We’re reading 1984 now, and as Winston battles that war inside him, students make connections to Night and the World Wars and synthesize the information with dictatorships and totalitarian governments.”

When asked about the atmosphere at Tenafly High School, Mrs. Oppedisano said, “Sometimes I think there are interesting microcosms at Tenafly High School. Social lives are wrapped up in everyone surviving a competitive atmosphere, [since] people use the resources they’re given to be parts of clubs, honors classes, and AP tests. Students are constantly in a race against themselves and their expectations, and sometimes it is hard to separate yourself from what you want to do and what you are compelled to do. People are gathered together in a manic hilarity, laughing to help each other relieve stress.”

Despite the difficulty of her class, she is admired by her students. Michael Wong (’21) said, “Mrs. O. has so much infectious, bubbly energy that it’s impossible not to get caught up in her love for the subject. Learn all you can; she is incisive and knowledgeable on so many different levels and is definitely willing to go the extra mile for you if you put in effort. I actually find myself writing for fun now and again!”

Her class fosters enjoyable discussion and opens up new methods of analysis and perspective. Hana Lee (‘21) said, “I learned a lot in her class and by taking her class, I’ve learned to analyze and dissect works of writing more carefully. I’ve also learned how to think more critically about subjects. Her class is very challenging and she is a hard teacher, but the hard work has truly been worth it because of how much I have learned and grown.”

Another student also described how the class is known to be equal parts extremely difficult and fascinating among the student body. Maia Dimant (’21) said, “She is the most difficult and the most intriguing teacher you will ever have.”

In terms of personal interests and hobbies, Mrs. Oppedisano enjoys the opportunity to destress and follow story narratives in an interactive fashion through gaming. She also loves to play with her feline pets. Her favorite activity, however, is discussing what she finds truly meaningful in life with her friends, sharing the opportunity to open up and find value in the time they spend together. Inspired by a book at Comic Con, she had a month-long phase revolving around crafting with her cats’ hair, even making a portrait of her cat with its hair. Since then, she has moved past the art form but still is open to learning and appreciating new hobbies and activities.

Mrs. Oppedisano feels passionate about her expectations of students in and out of the classroom, wishing the best for them in their high school and social experience. “Mr. Hutchinson and I just hope to see you enjoy your high school experience, be your own person, challenge yourself with what you learn from class, and see yourself excel. Be at the steering wheel, choose friends that are authentic, and maintain your sense of integrity and sense of self. Those who navigate confidently and are comfortable in their own head can weather the storm that is high school.”

As such, if you are considering taking Humanities English, take these students’ words and Mrs. Oppedisano’s advice to heart when deciding if you’d fit with the classes’ atmosphere and intensity. From personal experience, although pitfalls, dips in grade averages, and rough patches may arise, it’s worth it in the end for the developments in your writing and perception of literature.