Meet Michigan Teacher of the Year Nanette Hanson

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August 16, 2022

What is your teaching experience?

I have taught a variety of age groups from Alternative High School down to first grade, where I have been a teacher in the Escanaba Area Public Schools for the last 16 years. Each of these experiences were rewarding in their own way; however, teaching first grade and getting the opportunity to establish meaningful relationships, and igniting a child’s love of learning, is the most important goal for me. I know the importance it carries for a child’s continued success and happiness going forward in their school career.

What is your mission or platform as Michigan Teacher of the Year?

Creating strong relationships with students, their families and the community at large is the cornerstone of education. The intentional building of safe, strong, supportive relationships that allow for students to flourish and grow while embracing each child’s needs and individuality provides educators with a unique opportunity to build the whole child while encouraging them to love learning and continue to grow. Encouraging and providing a safe, positive, inclusive school culture for all stakeholders will allow for strengthening of connections and ultimately allow our students, their families, all staff members and the community at large to work together to ensure success for all.

What is the biggest change in your classroom from when you first started teaching?

Wow, teaching has changed in so many ways over the years. One of the biggest changes is that we now have so much more technology available to both students and teachers in classrooms today! We used to have the old overhead projectors in our rooms, whereas now we have document cameras, InFocus machines, interactive whiteboards, iPads and Chromebooks for each student!

I see that trend of more technology in the classroom changing teaching in a positive way. Students are more engaged with the subject matter they are learning, and often project-based learning ideas are so much easier to create, and this allows students to become active learners in their education.

What are the most important things that your students have taught you?

My first-graders have shown me the true meaning of kindness and empathy. The way they are accepting of others and tuned in to their classmates' emotions is something to behold. Watching them invite someone to play, giving each other encouragement, peer mentoring and offering a helping hand are just some of the effortless ways my students have shown me how to be a kind, accepting and loving human!
What is your favorite story/event from teaching?

Wow! There are so many amazing stories that I’ve gathered through the years. One that stands out to me is that recently I went into the doctor’s office for some routine blood work and my phlebotomist was a former first-grade student! She was on her last day of an internship before she was starting her job at the local hospital. She told me that I was still her favorite teacher and that she had such fond memories of first grade. As I watched her do her job, my heart swelled with pride and gratitude knowing that I had the privilege of knowing her at the beginning of her journey. Such a wonderful moment.

Who would play you in the Oscar-bait inspirational movie about your class, and what would the movie be called?

Reese Witherspoon would make an excellent choice to play a teacher in a powerful but energetic and hopeful movie about life as a teacher, and how she teaches modern day students. It would be named “Trust in Tomorrow.” The movie is full of energy, frustration, anxiety, fear, humor, laughter and learning. It’s a movie about connectedness, relationships, safety and how the teacher endeavors to make meaningful, safe and secure relationships with each of her students. Striving to embrace and understand each child’s diverse background, culture and homelife. The teacher has the best intentions to figure out the optimum way to help each student succeed and become their best authentic selves! Not without roadblocks, mind you, she has to cater to the diverse needs and backgrounds of each student while squarely facing any shortcomings she may have. She needs to lean on her school community and her community at large to ensure the success of her young scholars.

What are your words of advice for teachers (rookies or veterans)?

If you’re anything like me, you remember that spark that led you to become a teacher. It is this spark that will help and guide you when teaching gets hard.

Here are a few bullet points that I think are so important when you are an educator.
  • Build relationships! They are, in my opinion, the most important thing you can invest your time in. Build meaningful, safe relationships with each of your students and their families. Build relationships with your colleagues, administrators, the secretary, the janitor, the lunch people and your community at large.
  • Try and build a positive school culture for all, not only within your classroom but within your building.
  • Surround yourself with positive people who energize, encourage and teach you to be your best self.
  • Use mentors as building blocks, ask for help, take their lesson plans or materials, observe other teachers, and continue to grow as an educator.
  • Find ways to include students in their learning process, and allow them to take ownership
  • Remember to stay positive because you have SO MUCH influence on your students and they need you as a positive force in their lives.
  • Bring your passion every day! Your students will feel it and become very energized by it!