The Student News Site of Kinnelon High School

Colt Chronicle

The Student News Site of Kinnelon High School

Colt Chronicle

The Student News Site of Kinnelon High School

Colt Chronicle

Enrique Ortega: Newest Edition to the KHS Staff

Another school year and yet another fresh wave of teachers eager to take their place at KHS
Ortega teaches his AP Literature and Composition class.
Liyana Aslani
Ortega teaches his AP Literature and Composition class.

This school year, the halls of KHS welcome a couple of new faces to the staff. In the English department, one classroom in particular has found a new teacher to fill its space. Room 208 now holds the belongings of Enrique Ortega, neatly sprawled against the wooden desk in the corner. Although the room itself lacks a sense of personality, the man in front of the board appears eager for students to get to know him.

As I sit across from Ortega under the fluorescent lights of the classroom, I immediately pick up on a calm and collected demeanor. The room itself does not give away any personal details; however, Ortega did pick up on the high energy of the KHS students around him. In fact, one of his first impressions was the high energy level and enthusiasm in each of his classes. Ortega even mentioned hearing of the upcoming “Spirit Week” and the excitement he’s noticed.

What many do not know is that Ortega is not completely new to the district, or to teaching. Last year, he worked in Kinnelon at Pearl R. Miller Middle School in addition to teaching at Indian Hills High School in Oakland. Ortega’s 15-month stay at PRM was part of his clinical for his master’s degree. Even so, teaching is not always where he thought he would end up.

If you would have asked me ten years ago if I was gonna be a teacher, I definitely would have said no. I hated school, and I really didn’t find my stride until junior or senior year.”

— Enrique Ortega

Ortega explained that he dealt with a lot of struggles when he was in school that held him back from enjoying the experience. Specifically, he spoke of struggles with ADHD, his home life, and lack of support. Despite this, higher education and learning to enjoy the process and value of school have brought him to where he is today. 

Regarding how his method of grading will affect the high-achieving AP students, he says that he has “…pretty high expectations for all the students but at the same time it’s not like I want to take somebody who was an A student for three years and make them a C student.”

Ortega emphasizes his wish to encourage students to want to learn more and explore their ability to do better. For that reason, he likes to give students “honest feedback for the writing, reading, and deep analysis…we do in class.” 

He believes that honesty is required for an honest education, rather than simply telling everyone they did a good job. “Isn’t it my goal to take somebody from a position of less understanding to a position of more understanding?” Ortega says. 

Ortega poses proudly with his garden grown tomatoes. Photo courtesy of Enrique Ortega.

He mentions that some of his previous work experience has assisted in his belief in personal growth. “I was a personal trainer at one point…it’s my job to build up their strengths, so that’s kind of my philosophy,” he said. In fact, Ortega still has a passion for fitness when he’s not teaching. “You can probably catch me at the weight room,” he says. 

Regarding his view on AP classes and the number of students who have dropped these courses, Ortega notes that expectations are generally at higher levels and dependent upon the student. 

From his own experience with an AP Psychology class, he says, “I was a terrible student – they let me take that class, they gave me an opportunity and I worked really really hard to get an A in that class. It wasn’t easy for me – I never did homework before, I never read things on my own but I did it for that class.”

He applies this similar philosophy of hard work and personal growth in his teaching method today. Ortega mentioned how the intensity of AP classes has not changed, but education has been interrupted in the past few years by things like COVID-19. Even so, that does not remove the higher standards of the class. 

Regarding his involvement in the Kinnelon community, he says, “I want to be involved as much as I possibly can.” Whether this be coaching or after-school clubs, Ortega is eager to become a bigger part of the community.  “I kind of dive head first into the culture of a place,” he said. 

Before wrapping up the interview, Ortega once again expressed his ultimate desire to help students. He says, “I hope that I can communicate effectively that I’m just trying to help people, I think that’s why a lot of teachers become teachers.”

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