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English Department

The four required years of English instruction constitute a cumulative program that immerses students in the diversity of literature in English and encourages them to make connections across the curriculum. All students study Shakespeare and benefit from field trips to the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C.

The English program helps students become thoughtful, lifelong readers, hones their analytical abilities, and trains them to write fluently and creatively. In all English courses, students learn how to develop logical arguments and use a rich and precise vocabulary. The English Department uses the study of literature to lead each student to a greater sense of self, community, and the world. 

Available Courses


12 credits (3 credits per year)


Donavan Arizmendi, Ph.D.

English Teacher

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Dr. Arizmendi worked at Madeira from 2003 to 2006. She returned in 2008 and is a Master Teacher in the English Department. Dr. Arizmendi holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Loyola College and a doctorate in Comparative Literature from Cornell University. Prior to teaching at Madeira, she taught interdisciplinary courses as a Fellow in the Humanities at Stanford University from 1999 to 2002. Currently, her favorite authors to teach are Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Aldous Huxley, and John Keats. She also enjoys exploring modernism in literature and the arts in her interdisciplinary course "Expatriates in Paris." Dr. Arizmendi is the recipient of the Deborah Loeb Brice Endowed Chair.

MA Mahoney

Dean of Faculty and Academics

(703) 556-8249 View Full Bio

Ms. Mahoney began teaching at Madeira in 1993 and is a Master Teacher in the English Department. She earned a bachelor's degree in English from Goucher College and a master's degree in English from George Mason University. In her role as Dean of Faculty and Academic, Ms. Mahoney has the privilege of working with Madeira faculty, students, and parents.

Keith Ward, Ph.D.

English Department Head

(703) 556-8231 View Full Bio

Dr. Ward began teaching at Madeira in 2003 and is a Master Teacher in the English Department. He earned a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of California-Irvine, a master's degree in English from The Ohio State University, and a PhD in English Literature from The George Washington University.

Amy Heishman

English Teacher

(703) 556-8347 View Full Bio

Ms. Amy Heishman joined the English Department in 2014, bringing with her a love of American literature and history. Ms. Heishman earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Belmont Abbey College and a master’s in American literature from North Carolina State University. While at NC State University, she was nominated twice by the English department faculty to represent excellence in research at the annual Graduate Research Symposium. Upon graduating, she taught at Duke University and Durham Technical Community College. Most recently, Ms. Heishman spent the last year working with a non-profit organization, developing material for the National Endowment for Humanities, and this summer marked her fourth year with Duke’s Talent Identification Program as an instructor. While she spent the summer helping students stage an original Shakespeare adaptation, she is most excited to share her passion of American history and literature with Madeira girls.

Jillian Meyer

English Teacher

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Sarah Yarborough

English Teacher

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Sarah Yarborough earned her B.A. in English Literature and Theatre from Smith College (Northampton, MA) and is a Madeira School alumna, Class of 2009.  Previously, Sarah worked in residential life at boarding schools in Maryland, Michigan, and Jeju-do, South Korea. After three summers working for Madeira's Girls First! program, she joined the Dean of Students Office in 2017 as the Assistant Dean of Students for Campus Life.

Sheila McGrory

English Teacher

703-556-8207 View Full Bio

Sheila McGrory joined the English Department in 2017. Previously she taught at Phillips Andover, the University of Vermont, Middlebury College, and Rice Memorial High School. She has also worked as a professional writer and editor in the nonprofit world, and she’s excited to bring her passion for writing to the Madeira classroom. She holds a BA in English from Wake Forest University and an MA in English from the College of William and Mary.