Religion Department Chair Religion Teacher Research Program Advisor Senior Class Moderator At FSHA Since 2013
Kristina Ortega knew about Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy long before she accepted the position as upper level religion teacher at the school. Raised in Hollywood, Ortega attended Immaculate Heart High School but had many friends that went to FSHA. “I knew that FSHA was a nurturing, warm environment that was all about empowering young women,” she says.
What are you focusing in your religion classes now?
Right now we are talking about world-view and getting the students to understand that where they come from uniquely affects how they see the world, even different from their best friends. Everyone has a unique world-view based on their past experiences, their culture, socio-economic, married, divorced, big or small family. Everyone sees the world in a different way. It’s kind of a new concept especially when they don’t have much to compare it to. They haven’t been outside of their normal. So the first step is seeing outside your little bubble. Next semester, we’ll talk about the unique contributions women make to spiritual life and how we approach matters of faith differently than men based on our unique experiences.
What role do you think Catholic all-girls schools have in developing strong leaders within the church?
When Sr. Celeste Botello, FSHA's principal, interviewed me for the position of twelfth grade religion teacher, she asked me why I wanted to teach at a Catholic all-girls school. I told her that, as a product of a Catholic all girls high school, I believed in the mission of girls’ schools forming confident leaders who know themselves and are sure of their own voices. The six years I spent as a student in an all-girls school were foundational to who I am today and the way I see the world and interact with those around me. Read more from Kristina Ortega on FSHA's blog.
What do you hope your students will take from their experience in your religion classes?
I hope that they take with them tools to approach their faith critically, and academically. Know that it’s not just believe A, B, and C because you’re supposed to. Know there’s a why, or they can find that why. Appreciation for being a woman and start to understand how women have been treated in history and turn that around and become positive role models for other girls, younger than they are.
What value do you feel girls get from single-sex education?
I think, definitely for girls, there’s just this authenticity that girls in a co-ed environment are afraid of. They are afraid to be themselves, or come to school without makeup, but on a deeper level they are afraid to be goofy or to let boys know that they are smart. I know that there are strong girls in co-ed schools, but in general I have found that it’s a safer environment for girls figuring out who they are and still being formed and I want to be part of that.
What unique value do your international students bring to class discussions?
My international students have been really great to have for discussions of world view. Unlike our day students, they have had the opportunity to live in their home countries and also see the American world-view. So they actually have a little bit more to contribute to that discussion than the day students. I think they have been waiting to say “You all think this is normal, but this is not how we do it in other parts of the world.” I am grateful for them to feel confident enough to speak up about their cultures. But the whole point of that lesson was that you have to meet people from other parts of the world to understand, appreciate and even address the problems of your own culture. They really added to that.
What do you do outside of your teaching at FSHA?
I do a lot of work with the Los Angeles Archdiocese and am really involved in the Religious Education Congress. I’m on the Liturgy Planning Team for Youth Day. I get to take three of our students to be part of that committee meetings to help design the liturgy. And I can take 10 of our dancers to dance at the liturgy in front of 10,000 people at the Anaheim Convention Center. I've also been dancing during the weekend long convention since I was three.
Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy is an all girls' Catholic, Dominican, independent, college-preparatory day and boarding high school in the hills of La Cañada Flintridge. Overlooking Pasadena, FSHA educates girls from Los Angeles, Southern California and around the world for a life of faith, integrity and truth.
Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy
440 St. Katherine Drive La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011 High School Office: 626-685-8300 Admissions: 626-685-8521