Christina Wassell

At New Hope since 2004
B.A., Gordon College

Christina Wassell's love for literature and writing took off in middle school when she discovered C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, and her excitement about the classics has never ceased to grow. For this reason, she is thrilled to work with the youngest of New Hope's students at a time when they are so ripe to develop a great love for the fantastic works of the canon, and are ready to be empowered as writers themselves. As an English major at Gordon College, with focuses in both Secondary Education and Youth Ministry, she continued to pursue this passion for good writing, and to build skills around her desire to work with young people. Today a wife and full-time mother of four little boys, Christina also finds time (against all odds) to pursue other opportunities to work with people on their writing, including employment as the head writing tutor at Gordon's Academic Support Center. Christina is regularly inspired by her students at New Hope as they dive headlong into their studies and regards it a privilege to read and write alongside them.

When asked about her vision for the Middle School Literature and Writing tutorial at New Hope, Christina Wassell shared her excitement about a focus on community in the classroom, and literature as the ideal medium for young people to embark on a great search:

"My vision for working with New Hope students in the Middle School Literature and Writing tutorial could be summed up in one word: community. I believe, based on my experience, that literature is best taught in an environment of safe intimacy. Students must feel safe enough and close enough to be able to put forth new ideas in the classroom, knowing that they will not be ridiculed and that no answer is "stupid". When this closeness and safety emerge, students are challenged and inspired by one another, and a momentum is gained in the classroom that pushes everyone to work a little harder and dig a little deeper.

"Creating this level of community is no small challenge, but it can be achieved. Honesty and respect should be set as the standards of the classroom and must be upheld from the outset. Modeling analysis of writing or ideas that is creative and encouraging, as opposed to rhetorical and destructive, helps students to learn the art of classroom conversation. Team-building activities knit students together as both friends and colleagues as they seek to meet the challenges of learning literature as a team.

"My hope is that New Hope's Middle School Literature and Writing tutorial will always be a welcoming space for sharing ideas, working hard, and challenging students to think further. I hope to nurture students into this type of community in my tutorial, and to give them an exciting experience which demonstrates how wonderful learning can be in a small group setting.

"Literature especially lends itself as a perfect medium for this type of teaching. In a safe context of honest sharing, young people can be inspired to really dig in to the fantastic works available to us. To scrutinize people's lives (fictional or not) from the safety of a book and to discuss them with peers in an intentional way goes far beyond teaching literary concepts like plot, characterization, and style. It looks at the heart of what it has meant to be human throughout history. It examines how people have sought to relate to each other and to God. It lays bare the various facets and flaws of human nature. All of these things, I believe, help to meet the deep need that young people have to uncover truth."