Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Teacher Feature - Kristine Gruenberg

This week's featured teacher is East Grand Forks's Kristine Gruenberg, who has been involved with the Red River Valley Writing Project since 2006. 

Where and what do you currently teach?  

I am at East Grand Forks Senior High where I teach primarily English 9, but also college in the high school Introduction to Literature and Composition I to seniors. I really enjoy working with freshman. These
kids are always surprised to hear that I actually choose to work with them. They are my favorite grade, both because of their intellectual curiosity and the literature they/I get to read during the year. I appreciate that all the books we read are ones that have a strong central character to whom the kids have passionate reactions. They either like these characters, or they don't--but their reactions tell me they're reading and thinking about the texts, and, to me, that's such an important first step that is often missing.
What is your involvement with the RRVWP?

I was part of the 2006 summer institute at UND. Since then I have been part of the Grand Forks "fun" book club as well as the professional book club. In the “fun” book club we're currently reading Aurora, a science fiction novel by Kim Stanley Robinson. He was at the UND Writers Conference earlier this month. For the professional book club, I just read Teaching Literacy for Love and Wisdom: Being the Book and Being the Change, by Jeffrey Wilhelm and Bruce Novak.
What is your favorite writing assignment you give your students?
For my college-level seniors, it's a paper they write on satire, and they can choose to write in the vein of Horatian satire (like Dave Barry or Sarah Vowell) or in the vein of Juvenalian satire (like Jonathan Swift or South Park). I find that the students are the most creative, thinking outside the box, and challenging themselves with ideas for this assignment. I've reflected over the years on why this paper produces the highest grades, and I think it's because they think it's "easy." I'm still wrestling with why that is, however! The most successful assignment for my 9th grade class is the last paper I ask them to write--an essay on what they have learned in English class that year. I really enjoy reading their responses. It's almost like a class evaluation. I appreciate the opportunity to see patterns and similar ideas that they share and then read those "outlier" papers too!
Who encouraged you to be a teacher?  

I can't say it was one person or experience in particular, but two of my high school teachers stick out to me after all these years. My junior and senior year English teacher, Mr. Darrell Schmidt, is someone I can still picture to this day. I can still hear his voice and see him wearing his crazy hats and large medallion necklaces. He was a character! He made English challenging and enjoyable for me. The second person I still think about is my Spanish teacher, Mrs. Sue Nordquist. I was an ok Spanish student, but what I remember about her is her school involvement in all things kid-related. As a kid involved in everything that didn't involve a ball or puck, we spent many hours in a Suburban together--whether on our way to a debate tournament or a Model United Nations competition.  Her dedication and devotion to her students was apparent, and when she retired from coaching these activities, they unfortunately weren't picked up by someone else. I think it just goes to show that one person can be so much to some kids.

Know someone who would make a great Featured Teacher? 
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