Teacher Feature: RHS’s Corinne Nutt helps students see the world through language

By April Clark Honaker

Corinne Leyden Nutt teaches German at Ruston High School. With over 20 years of experience, she is also the district supervisor for the world language program and immersion program. 

Nutt had her first taste of teaching while coaching gymnastics in high school, but she originally studied international business along with German in college and imagined herself teaching only after retirement. When she was about to begin graduate school for business, Nutt’s dad sat her down and said, “”This isn’t what you want to do.” He was right. 

Nutt then went on to work for a nonprofit in Cologne, Germany, at age 21 and earned a master’s of foreign language education from the University of Georgia, which also gave her the opportunity to complete some of her graduate work in Rostock, Germany, at the University of Rostock. 

After teaching high school German in Texas, Georgia, and Arkansas, Nutt began teaching at Ruston High School and is now in year 17. 

In learning a foreign language, people inevitably find themselves in situations that require them to accomplish a goal with whatever knowledge they have, no matter how little, according to Nutt. These types of situations drive creative thinking. 

Knowing how to speak a foreign language is certainly a valuable skill in itself, but Nutt said, “This other language teaches them to think outside the box, and language helps them problem solve.” 

At the same time, she acknowledged that the process is not always easy. “Language is so personal,” she said, “and to speak in a different language is hard.” Feelings of embarrassment can hinder learning sometimes, buNutt wants to see them succeed. “They can do this,” she said. Nutt also has her students work together, which helps. “I make them work with their peers,” she said, “and they see that everyone is kinda in the same boat.”

She lets them know, too, that it’s really whether they can communicate the idea that counts, which she said takes a bit of the pressure off. 

Nutt typically has her students for two years and occasionally three. By the end of that period, they can read, write, and hold a conversation in German. They have the basic skills needed to get a job and make friends. “The growth and progress is so tangible,” she said. “If we dropped them off in Germany, they could survive.” 

According to Nutt, some of them do go to Germany. Some study abroad in Germany while in college, and at least one former student has earned a degree in German. Nutt said she’s also had her students tell her that having experience with German has helped them stand out in the job market, especially with international companies, which is a nice bonus.