College of Education
Rookie Teacher of the Year: Anderson University College of Education, professors are ‘top notch’
Hannah O’Hare feels that the Anderson University College of Education prepared her well for her role as a K5 teacher at Calhoun Academy of the Arts in Anderson, South Carolina. It’s not unusual for a first-year teacher to face challenges in preparing kids to succeed academically. Hannah has had her share of challenges, but also joys. In her first year, she was named Rookie Teacher of the Year.
How does it feel to be honored by your school?
It feels really awesome. When it happened, I wasn’t expecting it by any means. There are other first year teachers who are just as good and just as qualified, so it really does feel like an honor. The teacher who put in the request for me to be Rookie Teacher of the Year had been in my class helping out with one of my students, and she had just been so supportive and encouraging to me. I feel like what she wrote about me was just so sweet and is what really sprung it on, but that felt like an honor for sure.
How did you become interested in education?
When I was in second grade, I had a teacher who was incredible. Her name was Mrs. Lyons. I went into the school year a little bit later in second grade. I came in October because we had just moved. I was a very shy student and nervous, and when I came in, she just had a way of being able to connect me with other students where I felt welcomed. She just had such a patient tone with all of her students the whole year, and she made every student feel loved. And I felt that as a second grader.
Even the ones that were harder to love, she did a good job of doing that and I recognized that. I remembered thinking “I want to be that kind of person one day. I want to be able to love on students, each individual kind of child in a way that changes them.
She was able to bring me out of my comfort zone. She was able to give me confidence as a learner, but she was also able to love the ones that were super outgoing and rambunctious, and everywhere in between. And so I decided that I want to be a teacher like that, and that never changed.
How did you discover Anderson University?
I knew when I was in high school that I wanted to go to a Christian college, and I also knew that I wanted to be close to home. My home is Fort Mill, South Carolina. But I didn’t want to be so close...
When I came onto campus at Anderson University and walked around, I had such a peace, and I remember my mom looked over at me and had tears in her eyes and said, “I think this is the place.” I said “I think that too.”
The big thing for me was the financial aspect. I needed to be able to get scholarships to be able to come. I had applied for Teaching Fellows and I was just praying at that point… and I got it through Anderson University, so that was some confirmation of “I think this is where God wants me to be.” I’m really glad it worked out that way because it was the best four years of my life.
What are some ways your Anderson University degree has helped you in your job?
The AU program for education is top notch, truly. As a first year teacher you are getting evaluated. They use the same rubric that the Anderson education program uses, and so, as a first year teacher, I knew exactly what to do with being evaluated. I knew how to write the lesson plans, and I knew how to act when somebody was observing me, what they were looking for. So it really made that whole process as a first year teacher very easy. And going into my second year I don’t feel nervous about people coming in to watch me because again I know what they’re looking for.
The professors at AU are incredible. Dr. Penland was the one that I worked a lot with for Early Childhood and she was so amazing at her job. She used hands-on activities in our classrooms to help show us how we could implement that into our own classrooms. She gave great ideas on what to do with young children and how to teach them using play-based learning. Really, when I got into the classroom I had this wealth of knowledge, different ideas and strategies of things I could try. They prepared me very well.
What are your favorite memories as an Anderson University student?
I was lucky enough to be on the student activities team with Brenna Morris (AU Director of Student Activities). That right there was what shaped my college career. It was incredible. All of my best memories were being able to work under her. I got to plan really fun events on campus. I got to connect with students from the whole campus. I was able to join a team that was close knit, and those friendships have stayed throughout the years. I’m still super close to Brenna and a lot of the other members on the team. That has definitely been the biggest and the best memory from college.
Are there some ‘aha’ moments when you see learning taking place?
In kindergarten it is kind of different because truly I feel like most of the year it is this slow progression of just them trying to know their letters and those letter sounds and the basic things that you don’t really see the “aha” moments because it just happens so gradually. But from March to the end of the year, when I did the end of the year assessment, just looking back at how much each child had grown… one student in particular, when he came to kindergarten, he was very low. He was one of the students that did not know his name. Knew none of his letters, none of his sounds, did not know how to hold a pencil—just very low—at the end of the year he was reading on grade level. There was a moment he picked up a book one day and I was going to read with him, and he just read it by himself. He was doing a read-aloud and reading it to me. I was like “wow, wait a second—you’re doing this!” That was really cool, just the simple fact that I was teaching a child how to read.
At the end of the day, what gives you a feeling of accomplishment?
I teach Title I, which means the students I teach come from backgrounds that can be very, very difficult. So more than anything for me, at the end of the day, when I know that those kids left feeling loved, that makes me want to keep going.
There were so many moments I felt like “That was such a hard day,” “Their behavior was horrible,” “They weren’t listening,” anything. But then thinking “I loved them the best I could. I loved them and they left with a smile on their face and that is enough to keep me going, knowing that their home life may not be the best. That pushed me to be like “I want to make sure that I’m doing the best I can in the classroom to love and support them.”
What is some advice you would give to someone who is thinking of becoming a teacher?
I would say to them, if it is what you feel like God is calling you to, then go for it. This profession is challenging, for sure. There are a lot of things that, even if it is your passion, it’s going to be difficult. But, if this is what God is calling you to do, then go for it because it is also the most rewarding thing you can ever do. Getting to love kids and teach kids is the best thing ever. That doesn’t mean there won’t be times it gets very hard—there are a lot of those—especially in your first year. You’re not going to know what you’re doing. But regardless, those kids are going to love you so much and you’re going to love them so much… And it is so rewarding. With teaching, it has to be where your heart is. It’s a hard profession. If I didn’t love it, and if I wasn’t called to it, I don’t know if I would be able to stay.