Mentor never lost her passion for teaching

Nov. 23, 2012 at 5:23 a.m.

Philip Collins

Philip Collins

As the Victoria Advocate continues its education campaign, it's important to remember the valuable teachers who influenced all of us.

Every day, we hear about the dangers of our schools and the failures of our school system, so it's easy to get the idea that the great teachers have left. This is completely untrue. There was one teacher who helped me and many others to not only master the problems of a high school English class but also to prepare for the more difficult issues of growing up.

I first met her while at elementary school at Faith Academy. My Mom often had to work late, and there was no one to watch me until the high school English teacher offered to help. Her name was Judy Hahn, and she was famous for being the toughest teacher at school.

On the days when my parents were working late, she would let me stay in her classroom and loaned me her private copies of books. I fell in love with reading sitting in that classroom. As I went through all the everyday difficulties of being a nerdy kid, it always helped to know that, of all people, Mrs. Hahn had faith in me.

In high school, I came back to Faith Academy as a student. Things had changed, not only for me and my classmates, but also for Mrs. Hahn. When I was a kid, things were simple. I took the lunch my Mom packed me, went to class and hoped I could get through with good grades and a good time. By the time I came back, that world was gone.

The classes I had were just as filled with hopeful students, but now they had the pressures of adulthood staring them down. Not only were my classmates and I trying to master the problems of grammar and literature, but we also had to face problems like drug addiction and coping with broken homes.

As if teaching a class of students as messy as mine wasn't difficult enough, Mrs. Hahn had also been diagnosed with severe macular degeneration. The teacher who had spent every day reading to her students was now going blind. Remarkably, this did not even slow her down. As her eyesight weakened, her character and love for her students was strengthened. Hardly a day went by that she did not spend part of the class praying for her students or encouraging them with good advice. She was the backbone of our entire class, and the one person we knew we could always talk to, no matter what.

High school has been over for years now, and I've had to experience what happens in the "real world." Things have been more difficult and more exciting than I'd expected. My classmates from Faith Academy have all scattered, and we're all living wildly different lives than any of us could have imagined. I don't know where we will be in the future, and I can't guess. I do know one thing: Wherever we are, we have gotten there with the help of a very special woman who did far more than teach us English.

Philip Collins is a Victoria native and a senior at UHV. After graduation, he plans to work as a freelance writer.



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