Christine Engelbrecht/Courtesy photo
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos High School English teacher Christine Engelbrecht has been recognized as a recipient of a 2021 Yale Educator Award.
The awards are sponsored by the Yale Office of Undergraduate Admissions and recognize outstanding educators from around the world who have supported and inspired their students to achieve at high levels. Matriculating students are invited to nominate high school educators, and a committee composed of Yale admissions officers reviews the nominations individually and designates recipients. This year there were 305 nominees from 38 states and 17 countries. Fifty teachers and 21 counselors were selected and each received an engraved desk set and a congratulatory letter.
Los Alamos High School alumnus Andrew West, now a freshman at Yale, nominated Engelbrecht for the award. His main interests are Applied Mathematics and Economics but he told the Los Alamos Reporter that even though he was a math and science person in high school, Engelbrecht’s classes were definitely his favorites.
“I feel like she expected a lot but she went above and beyond to make sure her students succeeded in her classes,” West said, adding that he had completed Engelbrecht’s Honors English and AP Language & Composition classes over a two-year period.
“It was one of the only environments where I was pushed to my fullest potential. I felt I came out of those two years as an improved writer and critical thinker,” West said.
Engelbrecht has always taught high school English which is where her passion lies, but she is also certified to teach literacy for kindergarten through 12th grade.
“I find working with high school students, especially the junior and sophomore level, particularly rewarding. That’s where you see so much transformation from incoming high school student to outgoing young adult,” she said.
Engelbrecht noted that with the AP Language & Composition class she teaches, she thinks a lot of students assume that it’s going to be college preparatory because there’s a college credit component to it
“But at the end we talk about letters or recommendation, cover letters, finding references in the school district. In that way, we’re looking at not just college-bound afterwards but how students can use persuasion and their understanding of language and context to make them successful in a variety of post-high school scenarios,” she said. “Particularly during the last school year, we looked at community colleges and in-state schools and nearby states that will give in-state tuition as well. We talked about military enlistment and trades.”
One of the units in Engelbrecht’s Honors English has students create a cover letter and a resume using their understanding of a rhetorical situation.
“I have them either pick a job in town or I have them pick maybe a summer program they’d like to do or an apprenticeship or a job shadow. Not every kid is 16 at the time. Some of them aren’t ready to work. Some of them don’t know how to drive. Some of them may be more interested in something that’s more career-oriented than a summer program. We do that around January of Honors English 10,” she said.
Many students come back to Engelbrecht during their junior and senior year to tell her they’re using the resume and the cover letter to actually pursue their goal.
Engelbrecht also teaches an Academic Skills class. Parents, counselors and teachers work together to identify the students who would benefit from the class. She noted the importance of helping students with issues like managing all the extra time they had during remote learning last year as opposed to having it managed by their class schedule.
“That’s what I love about all three of my classes – that they kind of overlap – there’s something to take from one to share with the others,” she said.
Engelbrecht earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Language Arts Education from the University of Oklahoma and her Master’s of Education in Reading Education from Vanderbilt University. She has been teaching at LAHS since 2014.
Los Alamos High School alumnus Andrew West. Courtesy photo