The Teaching Trifecta : Christa Overbeck

Written by: Annie Fields

“I’m not just an English teacher, I also write.”

Christa Ovebeck is not confined to a simple definition of being an English teacher. Walk into her classroom and you will see fairy lights, poetry books and coffee mugs creating a cozy and safe space for students to learn. As a yogi and poet, Overbeck is able to explore teaching with broader perspectives.

As the child of a pastor, Overbeck grew up with an acute awareness of what was “god-pleasing” or “good” in the eyes of her conservative parents. However, many of her parents convictions didn’t align with her own, leading her to stray from the path her parents set, and forcing her to grow into her own person.

Overbeck hopes to, “honor the things that made me even though I probably go in a really different direction.”

While growing up in a conservative home and subsequently leaving into the real world to uncover her own beliefs, Overbeck often found poetry as a sort of “self therapy.” Overbeck has always been passionate about poetry and about four years ago, she decided to explore what it would be like to have a writing practice of her own and commit more of her time to her poetry.

“Creativity is always there but unless you make that appointment with it, it can be kinda fickle.”

Overbeck attributes the shift in her identity to these years of giving herself the freedom to write.

“I’m also a poet, not just someone who writes poetry,” said Overbeck.

In this period of leaning into her poetry Overbeck had to use a lot of discipline to sit down and write everyday, which wasn’t always an easy or immediately fruitful process.

“I had to wade through a lot of my own mental garbage in order to start to locate…a more productive place to begin my writing,” said Overbeck.

However, through time and discipline Overbeck feels she has been able to grow by understanding her voice and purpose as a poet. This newfound stability in her voice allows Overbeck the ability to explore form.

“I’m a little more in control of my craft,” said Overbeck.

Overbeck notes that understanding poetry from the perspective of the poet has been very beneficial when it comes to teaching.

“To be thinking about what I write and what the function of this choice is,” Overbeck said, has been a big advantage when understanding the function of choices that other poets make. Overbeck made the hard decision to come back to full time teaching and give up her time for strictly writing.

 “It was hard to be half the teacher…I felt a little disconnected from the school

and the community,” said Overbeck.

While Overbeck valued the increased connection to her students and community, giving up her time for poetry was hard on her.

“I think I was legit grieving for not having that writing time,” said Overbeck.

Overbeck is also a certified yoga teacher, despite not loving to actually teach yoga classes. Getting her yoga teacher certification held a different purpose to Overbeck.

“It was more because I just wanted to study yoga,” said Overbeck.

Overbeck’s love of both poetry and yoga aren’t all that dissimilar in her mind. 

“Writing a poem feels a lot like dropping into a good meditation,” said Overbeck.

Overbeck feels that the sensations one receives through meditation or yoga is very similar to the sensations she feels while writing poetry, particularly the emphasis on the present and noticing.

“Yoga is a lot about naming sensation, noticing the breath, moving with intention,” said Overbeck.

This naming and noticing of sensation is one of the defining aspects of poetry

for Overbeck.

“Poets are just paying attention to the world in a way that maybe most of us aren’t able to,” said Overbeck.

Overbeck is a teacher who truly cares about her students as people.

“I’ve always valued the community and I’ve always valued students feeling like they have a place,” said Ovebeck.

Addison Bachmann is a student of Overbeck’s who attributes her newfound love of English to her teacher.

“Her classes are more interested in English because of what she has to say,” said Bachmann.

Overbeck has been especially affected by Liberty High School’s struggles with mental health, suicide and more intensly tragic events that have touched the students.

“It’s heartbreaking when I watch kids hurting.”

Overbeck worries about the aftermath of COVID-19 on students’ mental health and to a greater degree their ability to socialize with one another.

“I think we’ve gotten more secretive,” said Overbeck. “The wall of self-protection feels pretty big.”

However, Overbeck has been encouraged by students’ writing and feels it’s been able to demonstrate a lot of strength. Overbeck is a teacher by day, poet and yogi by night who encourages her students to lean into understanding themselves and caring for their mental health.

“There’s poems everywhere,” said Overbeck.