Past Complements the Present: Minkyu Kim

English teacher Minkyu Kim on lessons from his past and his hopes for the future.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Minkyu Kim has been an English teacher at Stuyvesant for almost a decade, inspiring students to push their creative boundaries and to strive to become the best possible versions of themselves. But before embarking on his career as an English teacher, Kim made his mark on a very different industry: modeling.

Kim has modeled for popular retail brands such as J. Crew, but the journey to booking these successful campaigns was somewhat unconventional. “I was not a ‘model-model.’ I didn’t have representation or anything like that. I was approached at a concert and I just kept getting asked back,” Kim said.

Kim emphasized the power of a respectful attitude in any type of work, regardless of the level of experience one has going into it. “Part of the reason [I kept booking jobs] was because I showed up on time, I was professional, [and] I was respectful to everybody there. Crack a joke every once in a while, make people smile, and listen to them when they speak to you. I think all of those things, no matter what you do, are really important,” Kim explained.

This modeling stint gave Kim a new appreciation for the work that goes on behind the scenes of any complex project. “There are a lot of people who work really hard to put the shoots together, and there are a lot of people who work really hard to make the school run,” Kim explained. “In any professional setting, [there is] a very intricate network of people who rely on each other, and you have to hold up your end of the bargain, no matter what you do.” 

Kim has carried this mindset with him since his first day teaching at Stuyvesant and continues to recognize his role in a system that aims to help students succeed. “If I don’t hold up my end of the bargain, [I’m] letting a lot of people down, not to mention that I have responsibility to my students,” Kim said. 

For years, Kim has taught Freshman Composition to incoming Stuyvesant students. He explained that his experience teaching English has allowed him to explore several of his distinct interests. “I love reading. I love talking about books. I love formulating ideas, hearing other people’s ideas, and sharing them, building them,” Kim explained. “When I thought of [my time in] school and what I was good at, it was always that.” 

Kim also appreciates the opportunity to interact with high school students, even when they’re just joking around and being themselves. “I love working with kids, and I think, weirdly, my sense of humor lines up with the sense of humor of my students even more than some of my peers,” Kim said. As many of his students are just beginning their high school journeys, Kim has had the unique opportunity of helping them navigate the huge adjustments in their academic and personal lives.

The chance to learn in Kim’s classroom will no longer be limited to only freshmen. This fall, juniors will also be able to experience his teaching. Kim will take on the Defining American Voices sections of AP English Language and Composition, a college-level course whose literary canon focuses on diverse perspectives throughout American history. Kim acknowledged that his upcoming position as an AP English Language teacher was the result of several large movements within the English department. “It was really fortuitous for me. I’ve been here now for almost 10 years,” Kim said. “I still feel like the new kid in a lot of ways,” he added. Kim is enthusiastic about the diversification of his curricula and the classes he will teach. “I couldn’t turn down the opportunity; it was very exciting,” he shared.

Kim will continue to teach several sections of Freshman Composition while beginning his tenure as an AP English Language and Composition teacher. He expressed his commitment to recognizing the individual passions of students, even in a faster-paced setting, and adjusting his approach as needed. At the same time, Kim made it clear that he will strive to make every student a confident essay writer come May. “There’s an exam that students have their eye toward preparing for, so I’ll be conscious of that. The theory behind AP courses is that they’re supposed to [be] commensurate with college-level coursework, so I’ll keep that in mind as well and try to design a course that honors both of those responsibilities,” Kim said. 

As with many other aspects of being a teacher at Stuyvesant, Kim’s new position will require a delicate balance of both rigorous and flexible teaching styles. Rising juniors who are preparing to take Defining American Voices in the fall should rest assured in Kim’s promise to consider not only his role in the Stuyvesant community, but also his responsibility for fostering their love of the subject.