Esther Cunningham, Class of 2012: Grad returns to teach Latin at alma mater

September 2017

MHA Latin teacher Esther Cunningham (Class of 2012) walks the halls she once traversed as a student.

"I have had many nostalgic flashbacks watching my students use the same lockers, sit in the same rooms, and even learn from the same teachers I did years ago," recalled the Wheaton College theater graduate. “It's been an interesting transition from being a peer with the students to being a peer to those whom I respected as authority.”

Miss Cunningham – who also is the high school drama club teacher and acting coach for the school's three plays – shares more about her experience as a student and teacher.

Q: What is one of your favorite MHA memories?

A: I remember vividly a conversation with Dr. Jero about a grade I thought was incredibly low (it was a B). He calmly answered my impertinent demands for a higher grade by reminding me that, first of all, a B is not actually that low, and that he gave me a B because he had seen the work I had done in class and recognized that this project was not up to my own A work. Dr. Jero's B was the kindest thing he could have done for me. It caused me to realize that I could do ok academically by putting in a minimal amount of effort. But if I really wanted to push myself, I would have to learn how to apply myself. Dr. Jero saw what I was doing and called me to a higher standard. And I'm forever grateful for that.

Q: What was the senior thesis experience like?

A: My junior year Mrs. Beth Kenniv directed a production of a Midsummer Night's Dream and brought in actors from the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company to aid us in our understanding of Shakespeare's text. That play and the enthusiasm that the actors showed for their work led me to discover just how much I loved his plays as well. So for my senior thesis I knew I wanted to write about Shakespeare's text. For me, the senior thesis was a wonderful opportunity to explore something I was passionate about and present it to the school body and try to convince them that Shakespeare's words are beautiful and full of direction for the actors.

Q: How did your classical Christian education prepare you for life beyond MHA? 

A: As Christians, we cannot be passive consumers of our culture, but rather we are called to be active participants in it.  Mars Hill prepared me for this by teaching me to carefully evaluate what the culture around us teaches before I simply accept it as truth. Through logic classes teaching us valid syllogisms, through Latin and Greek classes teaching us how to humble ourselves to the text to see what the words are actually saying, through all the high school humanities classes requiring us to carefully read and faithfully extract the implicit assumptions hiding beneath pretty words and a captivating story, my education at Mars Hill taught me to think critically about the world. 

Q: How did it shape the way you view learning?  

A: Mars Hill taught me to delight in my studies. I was surrounded by teachers who treasured what they taught and saw their work as a joyful service to God and to us as students. It is a great gift to learn what we study here and my time as a student taught me to value even the subjects that didn't come easily. 

Q: Your parents are also teachers at the school. What is it like teaching alongside them?

A: I have the unique opportunity of my parents being my peers this year. I love being able to watch my mother and father work as they were called to work. It's caused me to see them as not just my parents who love and care for me, but as workers in the Kingdom leading their students to love God through their learning in the classroom. I'm grateful that other children get to experience just how wonderful my parents are.

Q: Do you have a favorite passage of Scripture?

A: I love Psalm 116.

Q: What are some of your hobbies?

A: I enjoy theater, reading, and exploring Cincinnati.