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Faculty Focus for December 2022: Mrs. Laura (Enriquez) Bertalmio '08

Newlywed alumna Mrs. B. returns to her high school alma mater to share her passion for literature and writing.
What is your educational background?

LB: I earned my bachelor’s from Sacred Heart University (Fairfield, CT), where I majored in English literature and minored in psychology. Then I attended National Louis University to earn my M.A.T. (Master’s of Art in Teaching). Additionally, I studied writing, directing and acting for the camera at Second City and was a member of a Second City “writer’s room.”

What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?

LB: I was an educator, writer and public speaker. I began my career teaching writing in a charter school where I also held an English Department Chair position. From there, I  was fortunate to join Nazareth Academy’s English Department [in La Grange Park, IL]. I taught English I and World Literature as well as coached the Debate Team. 

In 2020, I took a hiatus from the classroom and published my best-selling novel, Demons. Through its success, I was able to gain partnerships and speaking opportunities with several organizations, including: AAU Sports, Boys & Girls Club of America, and Girls, Inc. My most popular speech was titled “Maintaining Grit Through Adversity.” I especially enjoyed speaking to and working with students outside of the classroom to develop character-building traits. 

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

LB: Relentless by Tim Grover. In addition to the classics, I enjoy character-building books, biographies and historical texts. I am also an avid National Geographic fan!

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

LB: I thoroughly enjoy writing and am presently editing my screenplay with the hopes of my book being adopted into a movie. Additionally, I love being in the kitchen -- whether that’s cooking or baking. I recently married my passion for food and writing and run a food blog. I’m also interested in hiking/camping and have proudly hiked almost 20 National Parks.

To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?

LB: In high school at Fenwick [Class of 2008], I was on the Debate Team and competed in Lincoln-Douglas & Public Forum. I qualified for and debated at the State Tournament (Bloomington, IL) three times and the National Tournament (Houston, TX) once. Additionally, I played varsity softball and participated in the Art Club.

In college, I played club softball for two years and women’s rugby for one. I played softball my whole life and knew there were adult leagues to participate in post-college, so I was intrigued by the opportunity to play rugby. Prior to college, I never heard of the sport, but once I attended a match I knew I wanted to have that experience. It didn’t disappoint! Playing rugby pushed my physical limits and had a comradery that is unlike any other sport I’ve played. I also volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and Feel the Warmth Soup Kitchen. 

Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?

LB: I currently moderate the Broadcasting Club!

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

LB: Fenwick's students are competitive, high achievers and well-rounded. Many students here show these qualities through their involvement in multiple sports/clubs.

When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?

LB: After graduating undergrad, I was preparing to take the LSAT and apply to Law Schools. Before the big test, I took a trip to Europe. I was sitting in a pub in London reading A Tale of Two Cities since I was heading to France soon. While I was there, a man from Australia approached me and asked about my book. From there, we had a three-hour conversation about literature.

I couldn’t get over how incredible it was to have met a stranger from across the world and still have a deep conversation about books and what they say about us as humans. We even exchanged books -- I gave him mine and he gave me his: Animal Farm. I realized at that moment how passionate I was about literature. When I returned from my trip, I canceled my LSAT test and signed up for a program to earn my Master’s in teaching. 

What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?

LB: I am a very organized person, which helps tremendously in the classroom. I teach my students the importance of organization though how they approach homework, note taking and managing deadlines. I also think my positive attitude and kindness aid in teaching. One of my favorite quotes is, “In a world where you can be anything, simply choose to be kind.”

What are your favorite classes to teach?

LB: I’ve enjoyed teaching British Literature and World Literature. What I like about these subjects is the ability to learn about humans and different cultures and cultural pluralism through texts. I also enjoy the depth and layers that come from embedded allusions. 

What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?

LB: My greatest success in teaching is shown through my relationships with students. Even if students do not enjoy English as a subject, I still find students enjoy coming to my class or finding a positive takeaway. Also, a mark of success is when students who are struggling feel comfortable seeking additional help -- whether it’s academic or personal. I find it very rewarding when students see me as their advocate.

What challenges face students today?

LB: One of the biggest challenges students face is coping with mental health issues. I feel like social media has inflamed teenage angst. Now, students have an even more unrealistic image of “what should be” rather than being okay with what is. I think this can toll on students’ mental well being of always wanting to compare themselves to something that is unrealistic or unattainable. Additionally, I think the pressure put on students today can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety.
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