This past month, Mrs. Kortuem launched a Writing Center at New Life Academy with the goal of helping students become stronger, more confident writers and communicators. Inspired by a long line of students requesting assistance and her dream of having a resource similar to those you find at college, she set out to explore a model that would benefit students in High School. We sat down with Mrs. Kortuem recently to talk about her love of English, her desire to strengthen the writing program and her joy in helping and teaching others.
You recently launched a writing center. Can you talk about the writing center and where the idea came from?
The idea came from earlier in the year. Mrs Hagen and I noticed that during FLEX time, we were quite busy with students that were coming in for help with writing, not just for assignments in our class, but for college essays and application recommendations. At one point, I had a line out the door with students who were needing help and I thought, I really wish we had a writing center like we did in college. That inspired me to look into writing center models for high schools and saw that Minnetonka High School had a writing center. I was able to visit their writing center and talk with the director about a model that would work for New Life Academy. What is really great about our writing center is that it is open during FLEX time for students to come get help.
The goals for the writing center are to strengthen everyone’s writing skills, both in coaches and students that visit. It gives the opportunity for peer to peer relationships and mentorship. The writing center has 50 Coaches that are National Honor Society members and are trained to work with other students in a relational way and at any stage of the writing process.
What is something unique that you feel you bring to your classroom to help shape the learning experience and make learning engaging?
I try to avoid busy work and create real-world writing assignments. I never want students to ask why they need to know or do something. I strive to be very transparent as the purpose behind each activity and assignment.
Every year I also require my AP Lit students to submit a photo of them reading from the summer and it goes on my “Just Caught You Reading” wall. I’ve been doing it for 5 years now and the collage of students now stretches halfway around my room. Students love to see the pictures from this year and previous students as well, and I hope it shows them that reading can be done as a recreational activity, not just as schoolwork.
What do you love about teaching at NLA?
I have always wanted to be a teacher and because of my great experience in Christian education as a student I wanted to pursue Christian teaching as a professional. I love NLA because I get a real opportunity to be creative and dig deep into the content, but also get to be very plugged into the community as well. I also love that my children get to attend NLA and they love seeing the “big kids” that I teach.
What sets NLA and its students apart from other schools in your opinion?
NLA is set apart because of our community. We are made up of families who are involved with the growth and development of our students, and not just their academics. The prayer walks, the support from parents at any extra-curricular event, and the kind e-mails I receive almost weekly show how kind the families are at NLA. I really feel appreciated and it makes me want to do a good job.
What do you want students to gain from having you as their teacher?
I became an English teacher because I love literature, and I try to pour that passion into the books I teach. If one student ends up loving a book, poem, or English activity because of my efforts, I call it a good day! I also try to show that teaching is a vocation, and that any job can glorify God if done in an effort to model and lead others to Christ.
Gina graduated from Concordia University Chicago in 2006 with a B.A. in Secondary Education – English, and a minor in Psychology. She worked for 4 years at Martin Luther High School in Milwaukee before moving back to MN. She earned her Masters Degree in 2014 from Bethel University. She began teaching at NLA in 2010 as a part time AP English Lit teacher and became full time the following year.