Helping Middle Schoolers thrive

When you walk into Sarah Hansen’s sixth grade classroom, there is usually a funny meme or joke projected on the wall. This particular day, it’s a picture of a pencil. The text reads: “A long time ago… THE ORIGINAL COMPUTER!!” The pencil tip reads “Print” and by the eraser end, it says “Delete”.  While the jokes have varying degrees of funniness, the end goal is always the same: make reading fun. Mrs. Hansen is passionate about reading, and one of her goals in her English class is “to help students realize that they are all readers, and they can enjoy it too.” That’s why she “sneaks” reading in wherever she can, whether it’s quotes on her wall or the things she puts up on the screen for her students to laugh at. “And before I know it, a lot of them are like, ‘Oh wow, I really don’t mind reading.’“ Her greatest satisfaction comes when those hesitant readers start to recommend books back to her or want to have a contest for the most minutes read. 

Another big area of growth for her sixth grade students comes in their faith life. Many start to understand what having a personal relationship with Jesus is like, apart from their parents. It becomes less about what they’re told and more about owning it for themselves. Attending youth group and the annual NLA Camp Forest Springs retreat all help to reinforce that Jesus is real and He loves them each individually and personally.  

Mrs. Hansen has worked hard in her eight years at New Life to make sure each of her Middle School students know they are loved by Jesus and by her too. She has a special opportunity to get to know students even more through Intervention Lab, a class designed to offer additional support to students around homework help or study skills. “I love Intervention Lab because a lot of times kids don’t want to be there at first. As much as they don’t want to be there in the beginning, they come away really liking it because they can talk and be themselves. It’s like a weight off their shoulders,” said Mrs. Hansen. “For 45 minutes they can get the help they need without being embarrassed. It’s like a family; they look out for each other like brothers and sisters. It’s a lot of fun to work with them.” Intervention Lab allows Mrs. Hansen to work with these students past sixth grade, and she can really form a bond with them.  

The connection she forms with her students is evident. Miya, class of 2022, says, “Mrs. Hansen has impacted my life because she has treated me with total kindness. She has tutored me over the summers, so I would continue to succeed in the years to come.”