Gina Kortuem: Using English to Teach Empathy and Love

Whether you have a high school student or remember being there yourself, you know that teaching high schoolers is never boring! This rings especially true for Gina Kortuem, Upper School English teacher and the head of the English department at New Life Academy. From tea parties to dress-up days, acting out Shakespeare to defining funny slang, Mrs. Kortuem’s classroom is always brimming with joy and excitement.

Mrs. Kortuem began teaching at New Life Academy in 2010. In a rapidly changing world, she has been incredibly intentional about not only adjusting curriculum but prioritizing empathy, love, and relationships in her classroom.

She shared, “The way I see it, we read to grow in empathy. By learning about characters in different time periods, cultures, and circumstances, we grow in patience and understanding for others. Then, we can use our empathy skills as we live with others, learning to forgive and assuming the best.”

This is an important perspective that she passes to her students daily. Likewise, she explained that writing helps students relate to the world. Sharing one’s perspective, and seeking to understand others in the process, is an act of love that improves the world around us.

“Everything we do in class has been to help them grow as learners and Christians living in the world. This requires a relationship of trust, so I emphasize transparency, kindness, and hard work in my lessons,” explained Mrs. Kortuem.

I want my students to know that no matter what, I am rooting for them to succeed.

Gina Kortuem

Over the past several years, Mrs. Kortuem has been an integral part of the NLA community, including being a mom to three children currently attending NLA. She has also stepped into new opportunities such as writing and co-directing the One Act Play and leading a Writing Center at New Life.

She shared, “My involvement with the One Act gives me a chance to work with students outside of the classroom. The Writing Center gives me an opportunity to coach students and help them mentor others in the writing process.” Beyond just the time in the classroom, Mrs. Kortuem purposefully develops Christ-centered relationships with her students while equipping them for future success.

“A strong teacher, especially one with faith in the Lord, moves from just an instructor and can become a true mentor to a young person. That is a role I don’t take lightly and I cherish the time I get to spend with young people just starting out on their journey into the world,” explained Mrs. Kortuem. The New Life Academy community is deeply thankful for the positive and lasting impact she has had so far.

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