Introduction: We are excited to start our Educator Spotlight series, which regularly will bring you inside the classroom of one of our exceptional educators. In doing so, the series will offer you a glimpse of how Gibbons educators care for and engage students, preparing them for college and beyond while forming them as men and women of faith, service, and leadership in church and community. We launch the series by spotlighting English Educator Maria Hill.
On a recent Monday afternoon, English Educator Maria Hill stands outside Room 106, welcoming her students to their English 12 Honors Class, which focuses on understanding the world through the humanities and exploring life’s essential questions. As they file into the room Maria, who has been teaching at Gibbons for six years, engages as many students as possible. In the background music is softly playing.
Even before the class begins Maria has set the tone – welcoming, energetic, and informative. Today’s lesson asks the questions: What does it mean to be human, to be part of beauty? Maria dives into the topics head first - guiding the 16 seniors she calls her peeps but knows each by name - to answer the questions. There is no toe-dipping here. The students are prepared and jump in with her.
Maria glides, yes glides, around the room stopping at times in front of the class, other times at the back, and in between standing behind a podium or next to a student for some one-on-one conversation. At every move she continues, in staccato fashion, to ask questions, connecting the humanities to life, and to learning. “This class,” she said, “prepares students to make sense of the world outside of Gibbons and teaches them empathy.”
To that end, Maria connects the lesson to art, pointing to a poster of Rodin’s The Thinker on a wall, and later to Bruegel the Elder’s Census at Bethlehem; to literature, referring to Shakespeare’s Hamlet and then to the “Myth of Icarus” in Greek Mythology; and to music, playing “Carry on My Wayward Son” by the band Kansas.
The students respond, calling out answers and nodding their heads in agreement. When Maria is satisfied they understand the connections she moves from one topic to the next, keeping the pace lively. When she references allusions in the “Myth of Icarus,” she races to the back of the room where students’ depictions of the myth line the wall. There, she asks the question: Why? One after another of the responses catch her ear. She stops and starts snapping her fingers, the new clapping, to affirm the students. They love it.