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Exactly an hour before students start to flood the brightly lit, green room, English teacher Mrs. Robyn Corelitz, already beaming, walks past the grey U shaped tables, her golden keys jingling in her left hand. She settles at her desk with ease. Her desk is surrounded by many unconventional things that catch the eye, including a white mini podium, a white mug and the smallest potted plant I’ve ever seen. A kettle, a consistently empty navy chair, colorful books, a stuffed monkey, six scented candles, surrounded by a string of pink lights, sit behind her on a wooden bookshelf. Motivational quotes surround the pistachio walls and a queen frame rests on the whiteboard ledge. Mrs. Corelitz is wearing a grey speckled, white, lightweight cardigan, appropriate for the constantly changing weather.
Even at 7:30 a.m., she exerts a cheery aura, that radiates toward everyone, especially her students. She values mindfulness with herself and encourages her students to be mindful of themselves as well. She values it in every class she teaches (AP Literature, Creative Writing, English I) so every one of her students gets to know the importance of mental health and mindfulness in and out of class. Many students of hers know her class as something they look forward to because of the nonchalant but diligent classroom environment, where students can work at their own pace.
Parker Jones, sophomore, is one of those students. Jones describes her creative writing class to be easy going and a safe space for students to express themselves.
“[The course is]pretty carefree, not careless, but carefree. She let’s us write about whatever we want as long as it is appropriate. A lot of people like her as a teacher for that reason and she doesn’t have harsh assignments or homework,” Jones said.
Jasmine Qadeer, sophomore, agrees, and added, “She makes an effort to create a non-stressful class environment by helping her students. She really enforced the idea to our class that mental health and awareness is crucial to success in and out of class.”
Qadeer was in her English I class last year. She describes Mrs. Corelitz’s style of teaching as easy going because there was never immense amounts of work at once.
Mrs. Corelitz first began her journey in creative writing and teaching by attending Interlochen Center For The Arts in Interlochen, Michigan, an arts high school where you can study different art forms. She later attended The College of Wooster, a liberal arts school in Ohio.
“I went to an arts high school and I played violin but I ended up taking creative writing classes and poetry classes and eventually in college shifted my major from performance to creative writing because I love it so much,” Mrs. Corelitz said. “[I] worked a little bit as a writer and began an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) program…and taught some classes and sort of just fell in love with writing communities in general.”
Many students describe her as one of the more understanding teachers when it comes to stress and workload during the school year. She shows this by co-sponsoring a meditation and mindfulness club with Mrs. Gagliano, math teacher, along with poetry club with Mrs. Landry, another English teacher. Both clubs let students use different ways to lessen the stress and the feeling of being overwhelmed.
According to students, she helps provide a community at the school for students interested in opening up their own practice, interested in yoga movement, or simply just engaging in conversation about mindfulness. Poetry Club is another safe space she provides for students to get into more personal writing or just an area to enjoy freedom of expression. She took it over once the previous sponsor left. Having been to a meeting of Poetry Club, I observed that it’s one of the most accepting and non-judgemental groups of people in the school. Throughout her career, even before she taught at Central, she was involved in the LTAB (Louder Than a Bomb) community at previous schools she taught at like Maine East, Maine South, and Deerfield High School. LTAB is the world’s largest poetry slam for youth.
“She didn’t force us to do anything we didn’t want to or force us to share our work, both in [creative writing] class and Poetry Club,” Jones said.
Mrs. Corelitz says her ultimate goal isn’t to enforce writing on any student , she just wants it to be accessible to them if they choose writing as a way to express themselves.
“It’s a class where students are not given a million points assignments or punishing grades. It’s about showing up and doing the work and putting your best effort forward,” Mrs. Corelitz said. “I think that can help students ease into it a little bit which is important.”
She brings students together to appreciate each others’ art, provide a low stress classroom environment, encourage students to speak their minds, and introduce a diverse group of students to different methods of expression.
“…In any given moment I feel like I could be the best teacher for a kid and the worst teacher for a kid, and I always remind myself of that and try to be a better teacher for the kid who is maybe struggling with my teaching style,” Mrs. Corelitz said.