What Do English Teachers Do For Fun?

AP essay graders read ‘The Great Gatsby’ in Fitzgerald’s favorite bar

Jim Quiinlan

Jim Quiinlan


What do 3,000 English Lit instructors do to relax after reading 100 Advanced Placement (AP) papers in a day?

Go to the bar at the Seelbach Hilton Hotel in Louisville, Ky. to listen to people reading excerpts from “The Great Gatsby.”

“As I understand, F. Scott Fitzgerald got the inspiration for his novel there,” said Jim Quinlan, Payson Unified School District school board member, Gila Community College English literature instructor and official reader for the AP English literature exam.

For the past six years in June, Quinlan has gone back to Louisville to sit with 3,000 other college and high school English Lit teachers to grade the high stakes AP exam.

The College Board administers AP classes and the exams. High school students, looking to take a rigorous course of study, may take classes that teach subjects at a college level. When they finish, they may opt to take the AP exam in their subject.

A high enough score gives students college credit for their area of study.

Besides English literature, students may study chemistry, physics, history and English language.

Quinlan said the dean of Gila Community College suggested he apply to be an AP exam reader six years ago. He has enjoyed going ever since.

“It’s like searching for gold,” he said. “When that great paper comes along, it makes it all worthwhile.”

He said he reads about 100 papers a day. Readers must commit to seven days for eight hours each day.

To make sure readers do not burn out, Quinlan said the College Board has back up readers.

“It’s important that we put the same amount of effort into the first paper we read as the last paper,” he said.

Perks come along with the job, too.

The College Board flies him to Louisville and puts him up in a hotel — kind of a mini-vacation.

Quinlan adamantly defends Louisville, Ky. as having lots to do.

“Louisville is where they make (baseball) bats — so there’s the bat museum,” he said, “It’s also where Muhammad Ali proudly claims his roots, so there’s the Muhammad Ali museum.”

He also gets paid well enough to not have to teach summer school.

Yet his greatest joy is keeping his finger on the pulse of how the students of today write.

Quinlan’s first love is the classroom. He worked for years in the Payson Unified School District and now heads up the English department at Gila Community College.

Quinlan said not many readers come from Arizona. It is an honor for him to serve the state and represent Payson.

Oh — and listening to “The Great Gatsby” in the Seelbach Hilton Hotel is a perfect event for an English literature instructor like him.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.