BERRYVILLE — When Madisyn Mettenburg was studying to be a teacher, she spent weeks developing a teaching plan on poetry for middle-school students. But she wasn’t in the classroom long before she realized her initial idea wasn’t going to work.
“When I got in and I met the kids I realized that what I had planned wasn’t going to work at all because it just wasn’t going to connect with them the way that something else would,” the 22-year-old said.
She had prepared to teach a poem by e.e. cummings, but then realized it might be too abstract. So she decided to teach the students a Billy Collins poem in which he imagines himself in the paintings at a museum. From there, Mettenburg gave the students postcards and told them to write about what it would be like to be in the places depicted in the photo.
The students really liked the updated teaching plan, Mettenburg said. It was this moment that influenced her to apply for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Award to teach in South Korea this year.
“It was just cool to reach kids that way and connect with them,” Mettenburg said.
A graduate of Clarke County High School, Mettenburg recently graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio. She will leave on July 5 for South Korea where she will teach elementary or middle school students as a part of the Fulbright program for at least one year.
Although Mettenburg will not specifically be teaching poetry in South Korea, she’s hopeful she can start a poetry club at the school. Mettenburg does not know any Korean, but she said she must learn the language’s alphabet before she starts the program. And she will also be immersed into the language during her six weeks of orientation before she begins teaching.
Mettenburg said she’s learned about the hardships of South Korea, including the Korean War and the Japanese occupation of the country.
“They had a very hard past, and it’s now this really modern democracy,” Mettenburg said. “I think it’s really cool how resilient the culture seems to be.”
South Korean classrooms can be strict and rigorous but Mettenburg hopes she can create a more relaxing and fun learning environment where there is less stress on the students to be perfect.
Growing up in Clarke County has taught Mettenburg to be grounded, independent and driven, she said.
Mettenburg isn’t sure yet if she wants to pursue teaching full-time after her time in South Korea ends. She’s considering a career in academia and wants to be a writer. She likes to write short stories that incorporate magical realism, history, and fantasy — which sometimes feature robots.