Teacher Spotlight: Kathy Kim
Kathy Kim is an English teacher at MEK, who teaches MLC Writing for Grades 4-6 and is currently teaching Critical Reading for Grade 6 this summer.
The following is an interview between her and our content writer:
Teaching at MEK
Interviewer: What is your favorite part of teaching at MEK?
Kim: I am really proud of when my students are able to take what they learn in class and apply it to their writing independently. I love seeing my students progress.
I also really like the physical space of the Closter campus. It’s newly renovated and is super comfortable, private, and clean.
Interviewer: Do you teach outside of MEK?
Kim: I work at a preschool with children between the ages of 3-5. They are a pretty mixed group, but they are very funny.
Interviewer: How long have you been doing that for?
Kim: I started working at the preschool and at MEK in 2017.
Interviewer: What inspired you to become a teacher?
Kim: When I was 5, it was my dream to become a teacher. I used to pretend to be a teacher all the time when I played. But as I was going through school, I actually found that I didn’t want to pursue that path.
After college, while I was working at a home decor company, I started volunteering at my church. I taught Sunday School and helped out with events and with the youth group, which is when I realized that I loved working with kids. I found the experience really fulfilling.
Being able to make kids feel cared for is what propelled me to pursue a career in teaching.
Interviewer: Keeping younger kids interested in the lesson can be challenging. What’s your key to student engagement in the classroom?
Kim: Children in younger grades are energetic, and they are trying to figure themselves out. During my in-person classes I stand up and walk around. This makes it easier for me to monitor them. But no matter if I am with them in-person or in the virtual classroom, I engage them in the way I talk to them. I like to use humor and to joke around with them. This helps them relate to me, and also helps them to see their errors in a way that feels safe and comfortable.
Advice for Success in the English Classroom
Interviewer: What does it take to be successful in an English class?
Kim: I think attitude is important. As a student, you need to be open minded and understanding. You may be a decent writer, but there is always more to learn. For example, I sometimes get students who think they know everything, and then, after a class or two, they realize they don’t. I have spent a lot of time writing, and there’s still more for me to learn!
Another way to succeed in an English class is to understand the basics of writing. It takes repetition. Students need to repeatedly use the 5 paragraph essay structure. Once they have the basics mastered, then they can be creative and subvert the rules.
I always tell them that the strategies they learn in class may seem pointless, but these strategies are actually helping their brains build essential skills. There’s a bigger picture. For example, when it comes to grammar, grammar isn’t just about knowing how to use a comma or semicolon, it’s about understanding basic structure, which helps your brain develop foundational skills that lead to later success.
Interviewer: How do you teach students to have confidence in their writing?
Kim: I tell students that their scores don’t correlate to their intelligence. I make sure to explain the grading parameters and expectations for essay writing very clearly, but I also explain that a low grade doesn’t mean that they are a bad writer. A low grade on an essay simply means that you need to take into account what you’re putting into your writing. Your writing needs to show the effort that you put into it.
For example, if a student earns a 3 on an essay, the grade does not reflect on him/her as a writer. It’s that they simply didn’t include one of the essential components of the essay. Alternatively, if a student is scoring a 4 or 5 on the essays, and he/she starts to score lower, it’s because I want the student’s writing to mature and because he/she is ready to add to his/her writing through compositional risks, such as using figurative language.
Interviewer: Do you have a favorite writing assignment that you enjoy giving your students?
Kim: I like when the older students have a chance to write about their favorite things. For an essay about their favorite place, two students actually wrote about their homes. The students did a beautiful job writing about how they felt safe and protected and how their parents made their homes feel comfortable. Another student wrote about his town.
I like the writing assignments that have to do with students talking about their life experiences. One assignment had students writing about whether it was best to focus on the past, present, or future. That prompt was very thought provoking and garnered good discussion.
Interviewer: Any favorite class readings you enjoy teaching?
Kim: I like the poetry assignments. They are a little different. We just did our first poem today. The students didn’t understand why the poem was so short or how we were going to read it. They were confused, so I had to explain to them about figurative language. These are my favorite kinds of readings.
Interests Outside of MEK
Interviewer: What do you like to do outside of MEK?
Kim: I love to make crafts. I even have a craft room at home. Recently, I made the lettering on coasters for a housewarming. I also emboss greeting cards, which I have sold on my etsy shop. Other than that, I enjoy volunteering at church where I choreograph the worship dances.
Favorite Childhood Book
Interviewer: What book did you love when you were younger?
Kim: When I was in 5th grade, I read The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. The book is a mystery, and I thought it pieced together really well.