We love words. More good, and more harm, is done with language than anything else, so it is essential that Brentwood students learn to develop their rhetorical crafts.

English Faculty
Paul Collis
Rebecca Day Reynolds
Jim Ganley
Karen Hedquist
Edna Widenmaier
Ryan Skardal
Toby Collis-Handford
Justine Backlund

Brentwood students in any grade will study a variety of texts in various rhetorical modes, will write both critical and creative prose in multiple styles, and will learn how to communicate.

From a Grade 8 concrete poem to a Literature 12 style analysis of the differences between the quarto and folio text versions of Hamlet's third soliloquy, our standards are high. Our students will be well-prepared for English provincial Literacy Assessments and/or Advanced Placement exams; more importantly, we believe the joy of text is profound and lifelong and hope to instill this passion in our students as we read, think, and write together.

Brentwood Logo
The head of english teaching a class

Paul Collis

Paul Collis

B.A. (UBC), M.Lit., (St. Andrews, U.K.) Head of English, Soccer

Head of the English Department, the senior Privett man, and sartorial inspiration for multitudes of Brentwood students, Paul Collis teaches English 10, Language and Composition 11AP, and Literature 12. With an undergraduate degree from the University of British Columbia, a Masters in Shakespeare from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, no experience as a long snapper for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and a teaching diploma from the University of Victoria, Mr. Collis ensured that he remained in school in perpetuity by joining the Brentwood faculty in 1998. When not brandishing semi-colons to the reluctant or championing Dickens to the incredulous, Mr. Collis coaches soccer year round at BCS and then returns on his bicycle to Cobble Hill, where he, his wife, Karen Handford, and their children spend many pleasant hours reenacting great scenes from Pickwick Papers.

Rebecca Day-Reynolds

Rebecca Day Reynolds

B.A. (University College Cork, Ireland) English, Cross Country

A campaign of wheedling and insistence that began in 1999 and spanned two administrations ended successfully for Rebecca Day Reynolds when she was invited to join the Department of English near the close of the 2004-2005 academic year. A Brentonian herself (1980), Mrs. Reynolds returned to the school she loves after teaching English in the Alberta college system for a number of years and living, studying, working, and playing on three continents during a gleeful nine year hiatus from North American life. Mrs. Reynolds' eclectic employment history spans a bizarre spectrum: she has worked as a ghost-writer, an editor, an Irish barmaid, a course writer, a phone canvasser, a minor bureaucrat, a fundraiser, a barn-mucker, an instructor of "Gymboree" and "Babyswim," and a reader for audio books. Her hobbies include working at Brentwood and gratuitously correcting the grammar of others. The proud mother of three Brentonians, Mrs. Reynolds lives in Mill Bay with her husband, a physician, and their menagerie of obese and semi-obese pets.

Jim Ganley

B.A. (Trent), B.Ed. (Toronto), M.A. (Toronto) English, BEAT Sponsor, Brentwood Blog & News, Yearbook

Parents with a sense of adventure took Jim from his childhood home in sleepy Peterborough, Ontario, to encounter his adolescence in Kingston, Jamaica and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Along the way, he attended numerous independent schools as either a student or teacher. These included  International School of Tanganyika, Lakefield College, Trinity College, and Shawnigan Lake School. In between, Mr. Ganley earned an Honours B.A. in English from Trent, a B.Ed. and M.A. from the University of Toronto and developed a passion for travelling backwards over water in narrow rowing shells which he pursued enthusiastically for 25 years. Jim is currently the editor of the Yearbook, Brentwood Blog and Website News. Jim and his wife, Jillian, are raising their three children in the peaceful beauty of the Cowichan Valley. In moments of boyish indulgence, Jim can be found playing hockey with similar, silver-haired skaters at the Kerry Park Arena.

Karen Hedquist

Karen Hedquist

B.A. (University of Victoria), M.A. (Heriot-Watt University, U.K.) Hope Houseparent, English

After graduating from the University of Victoria with an undergraduate degree in English and History, Karen Hedquist moved to Japan, where she taught English, tried to learn Japanese, and explored much of Japan and Europe by bicycle. In 1994, she moved to Edinburgh to earn her Master's degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Still unsure of her destiny, she thought she'd return to her native West Coast for a bit before moving abroad again. After six years at Collingwood in West Vancouver, the Island beckoned, however, and so 2002 found Ms Hedquist at Brentwood College, where she, her husband, and two young daughters live on campus. Ms Hedquist teaches English and is the houseparent of Hope House.

Justine Backlund

Justine Backlund B.F.A (SFU) M.St (Oxford) English, Brentwood Broadcast

Justine is originally from the Lower Mainland but has spent as many summers as she can remember exploring coastal waters by sailboat. She completed her B.F.A. at Simon Fraser University, receiving the Praxis Centre for Screenwriting Award for her final project. By her love of storytelling, Justine was propelled to complete a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford, where the perfect day consisted of a morning at the Bodleian Library and an afternoon spent reading in the University Parks by the River Cherwell. Justine is most interested in the power writing has to connect us and hopes to instill a love of language in her students here at Brentwood. In her spare time, Justine enjoys swimming in the ocean(regardless of temperature) and working on children’s book illustrations.

Toby Collis Handford

B.A.(UBC) B.Ed (UBC), English, Soccer

Born and raised on Vancouver Island, Toby Collis Handford is thrilled to return home and dedicate himself towards excellence in both teaching and coaching. While completing a Bachelor of Arts degree at UBC, Toby was able to receive the Chancellor’s Scholarship in academics, accept the Kelly’s Curtis Memorial Scholarship in English, and defeat Harold Wardrop in a fantasy football league. As he pursued his degree in education, Toby was able to become an accredited LSAT tutor, a TOEFL tutor, and The 2020 Bow Valley Disc Golf champion. Toby is grateful to have had the opportunity to hold teaching positions at UBC-O, West Vancouver Secondary Secondary, and Academic Camps Canada. This recent addition to the English Department is ready to honour the First People’s Principles of Learning and make the Island his home once more.

Susan Quinton

B.A. (U of Winnipeg), B.Ed. (U of Manitoba), M.Ed. (U of Manitoba)

A drama and theatre specialist from Winnipeg, Susan Quinton immigrated to the West Coast in 2003 to teach English and Drama at Brentwood. With an undergraduate degree in English and Dramatic Arts from the University of Winnipeg and a Master's degree in Education from the University of Manitoba, Mrs. Quinton taught and directed theatre for 26 years at the secondary and university levels in Winnipeg. Her love of the dramatic is only surpassed by her love of nature, the game of tennis, and her family and friends she is encouraging to move to British Columbia. Mrs. Quinton and her husband, Jeff, enjoy the natural beauty of the Cowichan Valley and the weather, which allows them to play outside all year round. She does not miss the snow of her beloved prairie province where she still spends her summers on the shores of Lake Winnipeg.

Rachel Steele-MacInnis

Rachel Steele MacInnis

B.A. (UVic), M. Ed. (Sydney) English, Debating

Growing up in Western Newfoundland, Rachel Steele-MacInnis was inspired by the powerful landscapes and extraordinary storytelling. She completed her schooling in Ottawa and continued her cross-country journey when she chose to complete her undergraduate studies in Victoria. Having set her sights on another, somewhat larger, island, she then moved to Melbourne, Australia, which would become her home of the next ten years. Uplifted by the energy in her classroom, Ms. MacInnis is excited by the insights and creativity of the students she guides. She has travelled widely, but has never escaped the spell that was cast when she first arrived on Vancouver Island. As a teacher of English, Ms. MacInnis often finds herself discussing the significance of setting. She feels very fortunate to find herself in this one.

Edna Widenmaier

Edna Widenmaier

Hons. B.A. (Guelph), M.A. ( Toronto-Massey College), T.T. University of B.C. Drama Centre, London, England (Directing Programme), Director of Arts, English, Musical, Theatre Manager

A graduate of the Masters Degree programme in English and Drama, Massey College, the University of Toronto, and the Drama Centre in London, England, Edna Widenmaier has enjoyed over two decades of teaching experience in English, dram,a and musical theatre. After several years in the real business, including management of Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto and Canadian Place Theatre in Stratford, she began her teaching career in Vancouver. Since joining the Brentwood faculty in 1990, Mrs. Widenmaier has tap danced as a teacher of English, drama, and musical theatre, and Head of the English Department before her present appointments as Theatre Manager of the T. Gil Bunch Centre for Performing Arts, and Head of Arts. Her experience as a setter of exams for the Ministry of Education and a reader and faculty consultant for the College Board supports her passion for teaching Advanced Placement English Literature and her obsession as a "bardologist". Mrs. Widenmaier also directs and produces the annual Brentwood spring musical. At home in the summer with her husband, Michael, Mrs. Widenmaier enjoys puttering in the garden and reading.

Ryan Skardal

B.A., B.Ed. (Brandon University) English Department, Advisory, Cross Country

Originally from Manitoba, Ryan attended Brandon University. There, he studied English literature, wrote for the student newspaper, The Quill, and spoke persuasively and sometimes heckled loudly for the Brandon University Debating Society. When Brandon University offered him a chance to study as an exchange student at Tamkang University in Taiwan, Ryan jumped at the opportunity. Upon returning to Manitoba, Ryan completed his teacher training with the intent to explore new places after graduation. Before coming to Brentwood, teaching took Ryan to Kuwait, Hong Kong, and New Jersey. While in America, Ryan presented at a variety of conferences, including the NCTE Annual Conference, the AP Annual Conference, and the National Writing Project Mid-Winter Conference. In spite of his terribly lacking sense of direction, Ryan is a cheerful -- if often lost -- hiker, runner, and traveler. Pleased to have found a beautiful home with Brentwood College School, Ryan can most likely be found wandering amongst the trees or else through the aisles of a nearby library.

English 9

English 9 students will read independently as well as assigned nonfiction prose, novels, short fiction, verse, Shakespeare, and selections from Homer’s Odyssey.  Students will write approximately once a week in a variety of different styles, with particular attention to artistic description as well as the expository paragraph and then keyhole essay.  Students will be introduced to the writing process.  Students will speak informally and formally, at times from memory, at times with interpretive emotion. Grade 9 teachers give particular emphasis to the foundations of grammar, the gods and goddesses of Greek myth, poetry, and short fiction.  A formal exam concludes the year. The journey begins here; say hello to Romeo and Juliet on the way.

English 10

English 10 students will travel through the varied landscapes of both Literary Studies 10 and Composition 10.  Students will read independently as well as assigned nonfiction, novels, short fiction, verse, and Shakespeare.  10s will write often in a variety of different styles, with particular attention to the expository essay as well as the synthesis and journalism.  Our juniors will also speak informally and formally, at times from memory, at times with interpretive emotion. Grade 10s will crush the Provincial Literacy exam in January, but the year climaxes with the four week genre studies unit in May, when students are reassigned into specialized classes to study such esoteric topics as the romance novel, Stephen King, David Sedaris, children’s literature, or photojournalism. 

English 11

Students in Literary Studies 11 will engage is such esoteric pursuits as the study of biblical allusions in Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies, or a critical research paper examining sources of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Grade 11s will think critically and laterally in their synthesis essays, will learn how to distinguish a 4/6 composition from a 6/6 composition from a hundred yards, and will learn that the most exciting moment of a young person’s life is the identification of “Option D: No error” in a grammar quiz.  By year’s end, students should have a good idea as to which path they wish to travel in Grade 12: English 12 or Literature 12. 

AP English 11

As Grade 11s who choose this English option will dive into the AP English Language & Composition pool, in addition to covering the English 11 curriculum, they will spend much more time learning the dark and potent arts of textual analysis and persuasion. The likes of Mary Oliver, Camille Paglia, Trevor Noah, George Orwell, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and, of course, Charles Dickens lurk in this class. 

English 12

Students who choose English 12 (English Studies 12) spend less time studying poetry than do their Literature 12 cousins, and more time honing the rhetorical skills needed for post-secondary life.  English 12 students will read independently as well as assigned nonfiction, novels, short fiction, verse, and Shakespeare.  English 12 students will write approximately every two weeks in a variety of different styles.  English 12 students will speak informally and formally, at times from memory, at times with interpretive emotion.  

Literary Studies 12

Students who choose Literary Studies 12 receive credit for both English Studies 12 and Literary Studies 12 as they will cover the curricula for both. The Lit canon includes: the greatest texts to ever touch paper, from Beowulf to Virginia Woolf. This course does not demand memorization, but it does demand a love of poetry and close reading. As Literary Studies 12 is often the time when many Brentwood students are introduced to the prose of Dickens, it also marks the first occasion when the young experience unadulterated bliss.

AP English Literature & Composition 12

Grade 12 students who choose AP English Literature and Composition, in addition to covering the English Studies 12 and Literary Studies 12 curricula, are the kind of students who get excited about the textual differences between the quarto version of Hamlet and the folio version of Hamlet, and who look wistfully into bookshop window displays of 19th-century Russian novels.

Creative Writing 12

In addition to a senior English course, up to ten students may enrol in Mr. Collis’ Creative Writing 12 course. As this course will be predominantly experiential – students will learn to write better mainly by writing more frequently and with greater creative variety, not by listening to talking about writing or reading about writing – the majority of this class will be run electronically, as students will be expected to be handwriting and typing throughout the week when daily, weekly, and monthly tasks are posted. 

Play Youtube
Raise/Lower Content Zoom
load image