September Alumni Spotlight: Tina Cho—Children’s Author and Teacher in South Korea
In 2008, Tina (Wheatcraft ’93) Cho made a life-changing decision. As an elementary teacher, she realized that one of her favorite parts of her job was reading children’s books to students every day. Tina enjoyed it so much, she wanted to write her own, so she joined a Christian writing group where she lived in California to learn the craft of writing for kids.
Ten years later, she has written over 200 guided reading books, lesson plans for educational publishers, and two picture books, with two more on the way in the summer of 2020.
In her books, Tina uses cultural nonfiction settings to relay the message of Jesus’ love. My Breakfast with Jesus: Worshipping God Around the World talks about the disciples’ breakfast in John 21 in contrast to the breakfasts of children around the world. She hopes to communicate the importance of physically sharing, as well as sharing the gospel of Jesus.
Tina was adopted from South Korea and grew up in Newton, Iowa. She studied Elementary Education at Faith Baptist Bible College before pursuing her masters in teaching, learning, and leadership at Drake University. While at Faith, she enjoyed dorm life and traveling on music teams.
“The friends you make at Faith are for life,” she said.
Tina was a pianist for the chorale under the direction of Mr. Fleming and had the opportunity to travel on summer ministry teams as a pianist. She believes the elementary education program at Faith prepared her to teach in both a Christian and secular school environment. In this program, she learned how to make good lesson plans and integrate the Bible into her lessons. She loved the kind professors that relentlessly helped her along the way.
Tina met her husband, Jaekeun, at Campus Baptist Church in Ames (now called Crossroads). As the pianist, she had seen him for the first time in the congregation. Jaekeun (also known as Jackey) came from South Korea and had been studying at Iowa State University. Their mutual love for Christ and ministry brought them together and they both attended the international ministry led by George Hatfield. On July 15, 2000, they married.
The Cho family now lives in South Korea where her husband works in real estate and finance in his family business. Tina, Jaekeun, and their two kids, Anna and Isaac, attend Faith Christian Fellowship Church. Both Anna and Isaac are students at International Christian School Pyeongtaek, where Tina is a teacher.
Currently in her sixteenth year of traditional teaching, (twenty-first counting homeschooling) Tina will be teaching kindergarten at an international Christian school in South Korea. She is the elementary lead teacher and is in charge of chapels, leading devotions with the elementary team, training teachers in professional development, and teaching kids about God.
“Faith Baptist Bible College grounded me in doctrine and taught me so much about the Bible and how to work in children’s ministry,” said Tina.
You can read more about Tina’s books below or purchase them at Amazon.com.
Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Korea teaches children about empathy and kindness along with issues in North Korea. I’ve helped a North Korean refugee church send rice in balloons over the border to North Korea upon which this book is based. It was a joy to present the published book to the North Korean pastor. I also heard about a Korean immigrant girl in California who didn’t speak much English and was given this book by a classmate. International schools in Korea will be reading Rice from Heaven this year as it is a contender for the Morning Calm Medal. I love doing school visits and storytime to share about this neglected group—children of North Korea.
Korean Celebrations: Festivals, Holidays, and Traditions, comes out August 13. I anticipate it to sell well, especially to families interested in Korea.
My third book, My Breakfast with Jesus: Worshipping God Around the World publishes with Harvest House next summer. This nonfiction book showcases Jesus serving his disciples breakfast in John 21 along with children from around the world and their different breakfasts and how they share Jesus. I hope kids see how they can share their food and talk about Jesus.
My fourth book, The Ocean Calls: A Mermaid Haenyeo Story, is about the granny divers (haenyeo) off the island of Jeju in South Korea. They dive with no breathing equipment and sell their catch for a living. In this story, a little girl wants to be a haenyeo like her grandmother. My prayer for this book is that intergenerational ties are strengthened.