Northcutt puts her stamp on women’s studies class

11-year Mac veteran creates a relevant course by offering structure then trusting her students to run the show


Camilla Vandegrift

ME TOO: In the second-period women’s studies class on Oct. 4, Ms. Northcutt observes her class participating in a carousel activity relating to the Me Too movement. The students read the questions on the walls and talked about their responses with partners. “We used it to connect modern issues with literature and it’s such an easy activity to use!” said Ms. Northcutt about the discussion.

Zahraa Alogaili, staff reporter

The women’s studies course has offered different opportunities to students this year, with a new teacher—Nikki Northcutt—who leads the class with a concentration on inclusivity and equality. 

Northcutt has been a teacher at McCallum for 11 years and has taught every grade level throughout her career. She primarily teaches sophomores and juniors because she feels it allows her to contribute during a very important stage in her students’ life. 

I enjoy taking this class because I’m not just learning about women. … I’m more aware of how to treat other people, and it was an eye opener for me. 

— senior Arscillia Chmelir

Originally, Northcutt didn’t choose the position of being the new women’s studies teacher. It was offered to her by the head of the English department, Diana Adamson after Cassandra Troy resigned last year. 

“Ms. Northcutt is so dynamic in that area,” Adamson said. “She is the person that I go to if I have questions about how to put something together. She is so on board with things.” 

Northcutt’s class is mainly run by her students. She offers the structure for the class and then allows them to use creativity to carry the topic to a new level. Her students say that her way of teaching has proved to be successful, creating students engaged and enthusiastic about what they learn.

“I believe this class can have an impact even outside of the classroom because it makes you more aware of your surroundings and things that they might be going through,” senior Arscillia Chmelir said. “And by understanding others’ circumstances, it can make their day go by easier.”

When Northcutt was asked to take over this class, she agreed because she has never been a person to shy away from difficult topics. 

“She got comfortable in being uncomfortable,” Adamson said.

Although the class is called Women’s Studies, there are many different people given a voice and a chance to speak up in the class. There are students from different genders, sexuality, race and religion, making it very diverse. Northcutt’s teaching style led many student to give the class a chance.

#METOO: During a “carousel discussion” in second-period Women’s Studies on Oct. 4, student Rae Placker gives her response to various questions regarding the #MeToo Movement. “My favorite quote was, ‘Joking about sexual assault isn’t funny and leads to larger issues,’” Placker said. (Perla Vela)

“I enjoy taking this class because I’m not just learning about women,” Chmelir said “I’m learning about the history that this nation has somewhat manipulated out of textbooks and how misleading it could be. I’m more aware of how to treat other people, and it was an eye opener for me.” 

The purpose of the class is to empower students so they can become individuals who can have an impact. The discussions that the students share gives them the ability to look outside of themselves and put their thoughts into action. 

“I’ve always been surrounded by strong women such as my mom who worked in a male-dominated field but she never backed down,” Northcutt said.  “I’ve experienced firsthand inequality so having this class can help us understand the root and how it has all started.”