Steve Undseth shared his philosophy in teaching English. Highlighting that all people bear God's image, Mr. Undseth gave a poignant Biblical explanation to the study of English. His explanation is a quick example of what has Hillcrest Academy listed as one of America's top Christian Boarding Schools

After 34 years of teaching English at Hillcrest Academy, Steve Undseth has never been more excited to begin a school year. His primary function at HLA is to instill a love of WORDS in his students, beginning with “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” When God speaks, things happen and he has granted humans a portion of this same creative power in language--the spoken and written word. Words are powerful. Words can outlive and outlast the one who speaks/writes them. How important then, that we learn to use words wisely?

Mr. Undseth opened American Lit this week with the account of the prophet’s verbal trapping of King David, exposing his murderous and adulterous acts with Uriah and Bathsheba. “You are the man!” Nathan announced. When confronted with the truth, David was immediately brought to contrition. He was later called, “A man after God’s own heart,” and yet he was far from perfect.

The study of Proverbs, written by David’s son Solomon--will be central in Mr. Undseth’s classroom this year. Bringing God-breathed Scripture alongside classic literature makes for enlightening, in-depth discussion about the true nature of man and the things that undo him. Take, for example, this piece from 19th century poet, Stephen Crane:

In the Desert

In the desert

I saw a creature, naked, bestial,

Who, squatting upon the ground,

Held his heart in his hands,

And ate of it.

I said, “Is it good, friend?”

“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;

“But I like it

“Because it is bitter,

“And because it is my heart.”

Analyzing this poem was the students’ first writing assignment of the year. They needed to consider: What does the Bible teach about the heart of man? Is it easier for us to be comfortable with our own bitterness, our own sin--because it is ours? In what ways can bitterness destroy us? Who is the creature in this poem and who is the friend?

Mr. Undseth teaches his students to look at facts and make inferences as they read; to think critically and to draw conclusions they can defend verbally and in writing. In so doing, they will grow in their ability to use God’s gift of language effectively, a skill that will serve them well as they move through and beyond high school.

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