Transitioning to college can be difficult for an incoming freshman, but transitioning to a new college as a professor can be even harder. Kortney Stern is a visiting professor of English, and she teaches with a twist.Stern grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and attended a large high school, but due to some personal challenges, she almost didn’t graduate. Because of that, she ended up being too late to apply to four-year institutions and so her mother suggested she take classes at Diablo Valley College. Stern ended up enrolling in an English class with professor Julie Roemer.
“Julie walked into the room and I immediately thought she was very captivating and I liked her style,” Stern said. “Then, at the end of the class, I was so enraptured and really kind of felt like I fell back in love with reading and writing.”
Stern realized at that moment that she wanted to be an English professor.
She continued her education and transferred to San Francisco State University as a junior.
She enrolled in a class that year, needing the credit, and the professor came in reading the opening lines of ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,’ a work from the late 14th century written in Middle English. She fell in love, which led to an academic career focused on Middle English literature.
“Every … step of my career, I’ve met someone that has impacted me and guided me,” she said.
Graduate school landed her at Indiana University Bloomington. She liked it so much she stayed, and has lived in Indiana for six years, but being the first of her family to move away from the Bay Area, it was a hard adjustment.
Stern is enjoying her time at GC and has made new connections with students and faculty.
“She goes out of her way to get a hold of you and talk about things and wants to know you and your story,” said Gracie Stevens, a student in Stern’s History of English Literature class.
“She makes sure that you are okay and works with you to get the resources you need whether it is mental health wise or what you have missed in class.”
Stevens also talked about Stern’s style, describing it as “cool aunt vibes.”
A situation came up recently where Stevens was unable to make it to her class. She appreciated how Stern “reached out to me and she was so sincere. It was like a three paragraph long email to make sure I was OK.”
Stern has taught at DePauw, IU and Franklin University. Goshen College is the smallest institution she has taught at.
“I love my students and I just feel so welcome and supported here and you lose that in big institutions,” Stern said. “I just feel welcomed by the whole community. Being the new person is something that I’m used to and I feel like I adapt pretty quickly.”
Stern gives her students more skips than most other professors, doesn’t care about due dates and grades mostly on completion.
“So pre-pandemic when I was teaching I noticed that my students had more stamina. They didn’t get burnt out till at least halfway, sometimes three-quarters of the way through the semester,” Stern said. “After the pandemic, I noticed at weeks three, four, and five, that students were getting burnt out and I felt concerned about it. We have a long way to go. How do I sustain student engagement when they are getting burnt out so much earlier?
“I have seen that students push harder and are more motivated because they don’t have the stress and fear of grades and pressure.”
Stern’s enthusiasm and teaching style excites Jessica Baldanzi, another professor of English.
“She was the most ready and had the best questions when coming in,” Baldanzi said. “Suzanne [Ehst] and I were both kinda like ‘she sounds perfect, she sounds too good to be true.’”