English teacher Bill Peck combines new and old

November 21, 2008 — by Vijay Menon and Guy Quanrud

For English teacher Bill Peck, it seems as if all roads lead back to Saratoga. A former student who graduated from here in 1971, Peck now serves as an English teacher and coach of the school’s mock trial team in addition to being involved in the school’s drama department.

“I guess it was fate that I would end up back at Saratoga High,” said Peck.

Peck said that his love for English literature influenced his decision to become a teacher.

“I had a background in Shakespeare and I love language,” said Peck.

What Peck didn’t know was the effect his teaching would have on his students.

“He is an amazing teacher and a very good educator,” said senior Alex Shabenow. “I learned so much and he made class fun.”
Some of his unique style of teaching has roots from his early career. Among other acting experiences, Peck worked at a Shakespeare company run by Executive Director Judith Sutton, a longtime English and poetry teacher at the school. Prior to this, Peck went to the American Conservatory Theater, an acting school in San Francisco. During Peck’s acting career, he co-starred as Romeo in a stage production with two-time Academy Award nominated actress Annette Benning, who played Juliet.

Peck “won the draft lottery” after graduating from high school, but was not deployed to Vietnam. Later, he worked at juvenile hall and in the East Side school district of San Jose as a substitute. Over the years, Peck became a fan of rap music and gained a good grasp of youth culture

In teaching, Peck has been able to combine old and new cultures.

Using this combination, Peck has made a strong impact on his students.

“I try to stay up on my pop culture,” said Peck. “I’m really interested in the language, how students talk these days.”

Techniques such as breaking down “Romeo and Juliet” into life-like situations and comparing them to the gangs of today or even the odd but informative news he brings up in class have built the appreciation that his students have for him.

Peck is known for interesting students with his quirky methods, many of which can be attributed to his up-to-date knowledge of law.
One such method is Peck’s usage of legal documents, including sworn statements such as affidavits, as permission slips for students in his classes.

In class, Peck discusses students’ rights as well as the school rules. Peck believes that by explaining this to his students, he can make them more aware of the school and answer any questions they have.

While legal talk has sparked interest among students, he also believes in some more traditional methods such as asking kids to memorize sonnets and lines from Shakespeare plays to perform for extra credit.

Most kids seem to appreciate Peck’s approach. His love for the American culture including English literature is apparent to his students.

“His methods are really great,” said senior Chapin Griffith. “His talk about stuff outside school made me really enjoy his class. He’s just an incredible teacher.”

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