Home School Teacher feature: New faces in the BHS English department

Teacher feature: New faces in the BHS English department

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This school year Burlington High School (BHS) has two new English teachers: Ms Hanf, who teaches ninth grade English and creative writing, and Mr Chichester, who also teaches ninth grade English. The Register sat down with both of these teachers to get to know them better.

What surprised you most about teaching at BHS?

Ms. Hanf

¨I think the thing that surprised me the most was just getting used to the different structures of the school [such as] the grading system and all that. [Also] just thinking about a lot of issues of race and equity in a school like Burlington that’s so diverse and has a lot of students from a lot of different backgrounds. So I think that was something that’s been really exciting for me but definitely something I have been thinking about a lot.”

Mr Chichester 

“The excitement. Teachers at BHS are excited about their content and what they teach!  Students have fascinating perspectives and engage with the information. I was happy to be met with such an enriching learning environment.”

Who was your favorite high school English teacher?  Why?  

Ms. Hanf

“So I would say my favorite high school English teacher was my tenth grade English teacher named Mr. Finch. And what I appreciated about him a lot was he definitely was challenging in terms of how he graded things and his expectations for writing but he also made the class really engaging, he’d  put in competitions here and there and just really sort of brought the books to life which made it a lot of fun. But also held those high expectations so that was a good class.”

Mr. Chichester

“I had several English teachers in high school that I looked up to and who made me want to become an English teacher myself. Mr. McFadden, Ms. Sheehey, and Ms. Bohmann are all teachers at South Burlington High School, where I went to school. Each one of them encouraged me to look deeply at life and motivated me to be a better, more thoughtful version of myself.”

What are you currently reading?  For pleasure or work?

Ms. Hanf

“So I’m reading a book by Zadie Smith called Swing Dance. It’s really neat. It’s about these two girls who grow up in England and they’re both women of color and it talks about their experience and dance and the arts and sort of where journeys take them throughout the world. And how that relationship sort of stands the distance of time through the book.”

Mr. Chichester

“I read all the books my students do of course. On my own I am reading 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami.”

What’s your favorite book of all time? 

Ms. Hanf

“I’d have to say my favorite would probably be Jane Eyre just because it’s a coming of age story and it deals with a lot of aspects of growing up and kind of figuring out who you are.”

Mr. Chichester

“I do not think I can answer that, but I will say I finished a book this past year by Danish author Henrik Pontoppidan called A Fortunate Man. This book has stuck with me.”

If you could teach any book (that you currently do not) what would it be? 

Ms. Hanf

“I would say I really like teaching books that have to do with dystopia. Any sort of book like Brave New World or the book We. It would be really interesting to look at those alternative realities or alternative societies and also kind of compare them to where we are now and I think some aspects are similar and it’s really scary to see where it can go.”

Mr. Chichester

“Ah, so many, A book that is close to my heart is The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. This book, as with many, calls to attention the experience of a character who is thrust into an impossible situation. I like teaching books that deal with realistic tragedy. I believe identifying with characters in those books helps us develop our compassion.”

What’s your favorite film adaptation of a book?

Ms. Hanf

“I’d have to say probably the movie Freedom Riders because its based on a true story and based on a book that was written by in 1999 by a group of students at a school in California who had to deal with a lot of similar issues of diversity and race and inclusion.”

Mr. Chichester

“I remember quite liking the 2011 version of Jane Eyre when I saw it around that time. Also 1996 Romeo + Juliet; who can knock Leo Dicaprio and Claire Danes?”

Music or no music when you read?

Ms. Hanf

“I typically don’t listen to music when I read, I listen to music when I write. But when I read I feel like need to have more focus.”

Mr. Chichester

“No music, although I have been known to enjoy a quiet piano piece.”

If you got stuck on an island what three things would you have with you?

Ms. Hanf

“I’d probably bring paper and a pencil. I know that sounds pretty cliche for an English teacher. Then I’d probably bring some sort of a pet with me just to have a little company. “

Mr. Chichester

“An avocado, a bar of chocolate, and a notebook.”

What’s an interesting hobby you have that students would not expect?

Ms. Hanf

“I really love skiing and I grew up ski racing. I also really like to hike and I grew up sailing too which is fun.”

Mr. Chichester

“I am a keen dancer.”

If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?

Ms. Hanf

“New Zealand has been a place on my bucket list just because of all of the outdoors things that you can do there. I’ve also been really interested in traveling to like Vietnam or some of those southeast Asian countries.”

Mr. Chichester

“I would travel to either the Netherlands or Suriname, South America. Both places where I have family and ancestral heritage.”

What’s your favorite weird food combo?

Ms. Hanf

“I feel like I’m pretty boring with food.  I guess this isn’t too weird but dipping apples in peanut butter.”

Mr. Chichester

“Guava jelly and cheese.”

Summer or Winter?

Ms. Hanf

“I like winter.”

Mr. Chichester

“Too hard to choose. Both apt scenes for a poem.”

Cats or dogs?

Ms. Hanf

Dogs.”

Mr. Chichester

“Cats, however I have met more and more dogs as I have gone through life that I approve of.”

Morning or evening?

Ms. Hanf

“Morning.” 

Mr. Chichester

“Ahh, both fine times of day. I used to be an all-evening type of fellow but now I hold to the sanctity of the predawn morning.”

Small town or big city?

Ms. Hanf

“Small town.” 

Mr. Chichester

“I am a small town lad in my heart but my cultural identity has me calling out for the diversity that only a large city holds.”

Lakes or oceans?

Ms. Hanf

“Lakes.” 

Mr. Chichester

“I am more lake than ocean, growing up in Vermont, but who can deny the ocean’s majesty?”

Sweet or savory?

Ms. Hanf

“Savory.” 

Mr. Chichester

“I could survive off chocolate.”

1920 or 2120?

Ms. Hanf

“I think it would be cool to see what 1920 was like.”  

Mr. Chichester

“World War I and the 1920s are the most fascinating time period in history for me. I wonder where we will be in 2120!”

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