Hanna Partyka's Students: "Spellbound"
For teacher Hanna Partyka, it has not taken years in the trenches to bring out her A game with students. Relatively newly minted – having completed her master’s degree in 2018 – the Glover School first-grade teacher already is making her mark. “I go in once a week to read with the children or to lend a hand with special projects,” says a classroom volunteer, and “Hanna has a pocketful of fairy dust and her students respond. When she reads a story they are spellbound. They work hard at their seat work so they can have the thrill of showing their work to Ms. Partyka.” The volunteer has been alongside Partyka since Covid lockdown protocols, and continues, “I love going into her classroom and observing her spirit and the connection she makes with each child.”
Originally from a town in Connecticut with fewer than 5,000 residents, Partyka graduated high school with a class of about 120, which included students from two other communities. She loves her small town – where her family still resides – but left for North Carolina to attend college and broaden her horizons. “I knew I wanted to be a teacher from a young age,” she says, noting that recently her own former second-grade teacher friended her on Facebook and said to Partyka, “I always knew you’d be a teacher.”
Partyka credits High Point University – where she obtained both her bachelor and master’s degrees – for running an outstanding program. One aspect in particular that she points to is the fact that the university sends its students into classrooms right out of the gate. “We were sent into the schools as freshmen,” she says, which resulted in many in her class realizing quickly that the practical implications of teaching were different than what they had envisioned. Immediate in-person experiences are critical, Partyka believes, because course correcting as a college junior or senior is much more difficult than as a first-year. The early hands-on work also reinforced that she was in the right field, which inspired her to enroll in a five-year program that would fast track a master’s degree in education.
Partyka’s work at Glover School began in a suboptimal way: during Covid lockdowns with a fully-remote classroom. She was hired initially as a long-term Kindergarten substitute (after having gotten her start in the Newton Public Schools as an assistant teacher), and educating young learners via Zoom was daunting. “How am I going to get this done?” she asked herself. But she did, and in fact looks back on the experience with great joy, pointing to the students, the families, and her fellow teachers as major contributors to the resounding success of the year. “I had the most amazing group of kids…and their families were so supportive.”
Though not being with her class was a relatively unprecedented way to teach, Partyka looked at the bright side. “They were showing me their siblings, their pets, their backyards,” she says, which gave her a window into who each youngster was. But one of the most compelling parts of that experience, she notes, is how the other teachers operated as a team. “Janet Mohler would be reading a book, Tammy Nohelty would be doing an [art] project, Eric Fargo was doing jumping jacks,” she says. “They made the experience authentic for these kids on Zoom.”
It was not until about day 160 of the school year that Partyka and her students all met one another. The classroom went tide pooling, and it was on that excursion that she had the opportunity to witness and be a part of the class’s group dynamic for the first time. “They built sandcastles and took turns sharing,” she says, remembering how rewarding it was to see them interact as normal Kindergarteners.
Partyka is now wrapping up the school year with a first-grade class she adores. And she is excited to share that just last week it was announced that she will be teaching Kindergarten at Glover next year. Before September, however, she will be going back to her roots in New River, Connecticut. The summer camp that she attended as a child has made her its director.