CEL MEMBER: GRODEN HULTBERG
Intermountain Christian School
Salt Lake City, Utah
Meet Gordon Hultberg, ELA teacher, AP English Literature and Composition, and drama director at Intermountain Christian School! Gordon shares his insights on teaching and leadership and what CEL offers him as a professional.
Tell us about your experiences as an English language arts teacher and leader.
After 23 years of teaching, I enter the classroom every day as a learner. I listen to my students and they teach me something new about how to meet their needs. Listening to those around me keeps me dedicated to trying new things and sharing my discoveries.
My students tell me in our classroom conferences and written journals how much they love independent reading time and value choice, so as I tinker with ways for them to share books and choices for them to make, I learn how to better equip them to become decision makers. My prekindergarten–12 colleagues seek collaborative time and a tool kit for teaching writing across the curriculum, so I enjoy time spent with them coaching, planning, and encouraging. I have learned that every teacher has a success story waiting to be told. Lately, I have been in dialogue with the technology specialist, parents, and administrators about using Twitter to share success stories and make discoveries. My hope is that all stakeholders construct meaningful Personal Learning Networks, which can help them support their students and staff.
What keeps you engaged with CEL members and current issues in our profession?
Accepting the CEL position as a Utah liaison has heightened my awareness of concerns outside my own school, and provided a network of people with whom I can share my teaching journey. The annual conferences afford opportunities over meals, during, and between sessions to learn about the involvement of teachers and literacy coaches at their schools and colleges. Such conversations shift my localized focus toward more global issues of effective teacher training and the future of English Education. This all begins with the warmth of personal face-to-face interactions built into the CEL program and occurring naturally by virtue of its comfortable size. All of this continues with a network of fellow professionals who remind me of my value as an educator and encourage me in my ventures.
Describe an exciting moment in teaching that reminded you why you teach.
At the end of spring semester, juniors shared aloud their personal learning journeys. One after another, they told stories of transformation, of seeing themselves as more confident; they spoke about enjoying reading for the first time and finding genres they actually wanted to continue reading. A few students insisted that whereas previous English teachers had made them afraid to write, in my class they had received encouragement to read and write.
One student described (in his third language) the day he asked me about poetry and was astonished when I plopped down five books which I had selected for him to read as research for his Unfamiliar Genre Paper.
“I thought ‘Hell, no!’, his voice rang out.
At this, all the students gasped, then laughed, because they all knew from experience how insistent and “helpful” I could be. I naturally laughed, too, and cried. He finished by relating how he had come to begin writing poetry and feeling strongly about liking it as a form.
Hearing all those stories from my kids on one day helped me see why I do what I do.
Tell us something humorous about yourself.
At the end of a long day of parent-teacher conferences, I expected to hear how my good teaching had affected the lives of two students whose mom and dad were sitting down with me. Instead, they revealed that the moment their students talked about that quarter was when I had responded to a ruckus in the classroom next door by rushing to the connecting wall, assuming the “wall plank” yoga position, and kicking the wall loudly, quickly and vigorously, before returning to my seat as if nothing had happened. The parents said it made their children see me as human, and thanked me for it.