Q&A: Natasha Ludlow, Upper School English Teacher

Natasha Ludlow, English teacher in oak knoll's upper schoolActions is a new editorial feature from Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child. Each month we will spotlight the dedicated faculty and staff across the PK-12 campus who make a difference in the lives of OKS students and the life of the school. This month, we feature:

Natasha Ludlow

Upper School English Teacher

Q: What has been your favorite class project as an Upper School English teacher and why?
A: We have had so many great projects during my time at Oak Knoll. One was having an art gallery as a “final presentation” after reading The Portrait of Dorian Gray. Students wrote a screen play or graphic novel, made a movie trailer, or painted portraits. Currently, the eighth graders do a film project in which they write a script about themselves and then make a movie to show to their classmates.

Q: What are some examples of hands-on activities/projects that you do in class to help support English lessons?
A: Many times, we ask students to emulate an author’s style of writing. Or we take an example from the book we are reading and ask a student to relate it to her life in some way. For instance, in reading “My Name” from The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros, students are asked to find out information about their own names and then write a vignette about themselves in the style of Cisneros’ writing. After reading To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, students make a time capsule where they place five items into a box that represent Scout and her life during the book. Students write a paper, in the voice of Scout, explaining why she chose these items. They then decorate theses boxes with two themes, two different settings, three significant quotes, and an example of Scout’s rite of passage. 

Q: As one of Oak Knoll’s Capstone project coordinators, can you talk about the process by which seniors are placed into a Capstone during the month of May? How do these Capstones – similar to a month-long internship – prepare our seniors for college and careers?
A: The goal is to allow each senior to independently explore an area of interest whether it is academic, creative, career or service oriented. Seniors choose where they would like to do their Capstone and find a sponsor to guide them through this internship. They learn how to set goals, manage their time wisely, act responsibly and demonstrate initiative. They keep a log of their time and their experiences. They work 60 hours (40 this year due to COVID restrictions) and present what they have learned and accomplished during the week of final exams to their Capstone advisor, classmates, and the junior class so they know what to expect the following year when it is their turn. The interpersonal skills they develop, and hone help prepare students for the independence they will gain in college. Many of these internships turn into possible job opportunities in the future. Conversely, sometimes a student realizes that something she thought appealed to her, really wasn’t the right fit. And that is also just as valuable a lesson. 

Q: If a senior is interested in pursuing an English college major or career, what are some examples of a Capstone Project that we have coordinated to support this interest?
A: Some of our students have secured internships with magazine publications and book publishers. Others have worked alongside OKS faculty in the classroom to see what teaching entails. There are also Capstones that involve girls creating advertisements or blasting posts for a company’s social media.

Q: How did you first become interested in English and can you share a bit about your career in it?
A: I have always loved writing. In high school, English was the class I always did well in – it came naturally. I also loved my teachers. They were excited and inspiring and made me want to do well. In college, I gravitated toward the English courses that were being offered and became an English major. At first, I thought I would go into journalism or writing of some kind. I went to graduate school to become an author, writing books for children. 

I also grew up playing sports. I played soccer and softball, mainly, and played both in college. So, I also had an itch to coach. I had spent my summers working as a camp counselor and always loved children. I was in my second year of grad school when I saw an ad for an English teacher and High School soccer coach. I applied and the rest is history.

Natasha Ludlow, from Verona, NJ, holds a bachelor’s degree from Union College and her MFA from The New School. Before landing at Oak Knoll School six years ago, she taught at The Hudson School in Hoboken for three years and at Saddle River Day School in Saddle River, NJ, for six years. Ludlow is married to an Englishman and is mom to Max, 12 and Mia, 9.