Meet Teaching Artist Cristina Oxtra
Cristina Oxtra is a Filipino American author and educator. Her books include Stephen Hawking: Get to Know the Man Behind the Theory, Stan Lee: Get to Know the Comics Creator, Tae Kwon Do Test, Tara and the Towering Wave: An Indian Ocean Tsunami Survival Story, and a Manga graphic novel featuring Little Red Riding Hood. A US military veteran, Cristina earned a BA in journalism and an MFA in creative writing for children and young adults. She is also a recipient of the Loft’s 2019–2020 Mirrors & Windows Fellowship.
When did you start teaching? What path—career or otherwise—brought you here?
I received the Loft’s 2019–2020 Mirrors & Windows Fellowship for indigenous writers and writers of color. Through the fellowship, I learned a great deal and met many fantastic, supportive, and inspirational people. I want to give back by teaching others through classes at the Loft.
How would you describe your teaching style?
I like to keep students engaged through critical thinking, reflection, and writing activities in a relaxed, welcoming, and fun atmosphere. I also provide resources students can use later to continue their learning.
When it comes to imagining and creating classes, where do your ideas come from? What in particular inspires you?
When it comes to creating a class, I think of what I would have wanted to know when I started writing stories and what would help other writers in their work.
What's the ideal environment for your classroom? What atmosphere are you hoping to establish?
I hope to establish a sense of community wherein all are welcome. I ask students to be kind with one another and to keep an open mind to others’ ideas and points of view. I want to make sure everyone feels comfortable to ask questions and to share their thoughts and what they know. I plan to show them ways they can get help from others and encourage them to help one another in their writing journey.
Regardless of what your class is specifically focusing on, what's the main goal you have for your students?
I have a mug on my desk that says, “I inspire for a living.” That’s my goal. I want to inspire others to write their unique stories. I want to encourage them to continue learning and growing, to keep reaching for their dreams, and to inspire others to reach for their dreams.
What are goals you have for yourself? These could be teaching goals, writing goals, career goals, community goals, etc.
My career goal is to become an editor for a children’s book publishing company or work for a public library while continuing to write children’s books.
What have been some of your own favorite educational experiences?
I’m a graduate of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Hamline University. It is by far the best educational experience I have ever had. Not only did I learn so much, but I have also made lifelong friends. We have a close-knit, positive, and supportive learning community and writer family. That is the kind of environment and feeling I strive to create as an instructor.
To you personally, what is the most important part of the literary arts?
The literary arts has the ability to provide a medium through which writers can reach a worldwide audience to share their thoughts, ideas, and stories. It is a vital part of our world and should be valued, protected, and preserved. It should also be allowed to continually evolve and improve to ensure all voices, especially own voices, are heard and represented.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Writing is a powerful medium. The right words wielded by a writer can make a difference in someone’s life. In 2017, while doing research at a local library, I came across the middle grade novel Black Bird Fly by Filipino author Erin Entrada Kelly. Everything about the book resonated with me, and I thought to myself, “This is me!”
Where had this book been all my life? There were not any books about Filipino American children or teens written by Filipino authors in the libraries when I was growing up. Now here was this book. I could relate to the main character, her family, her story, and for the first time I realized I was not alone. The book also gave me hope that I could be an author and tell my stories. It inspired me to find my voice and gave me the confidence to continue writing. As an instructor, I want to let all students know they are not alone and that their stories are important. I want them to help them develop their writing skills, so they, too, can share their stories and make a difference in someone else’s life.