Staff Spotlight: Karen Hannan-DeWalt
This month’s Staff Spotlight features Hershey Montessori School Children’s House Guide, Karen Hannan-DeWalt. Karen first joined the Hershey family in 1993 as a parent before obtaining her Montessori diploma and starting work at the school in 1998. As a Children’s House guide, Karen’s job is to observe the children’s interests, needs, social interactions, and readiness for lessons. Using these observations, she seeks out the most effective ways to connect children to work that offers just the right amount of challenge to engage their bodies and minds. She wants her students to work toward success and to feel like their presence in, and contributions to, the community are meaningful. She enjoys supporting the development of good citizens and thoughtful leaders.
Having been trained in biology, she offers a unique perspective to Hershey students. “I love to connect the children to nature, and I revel in their discoveries,” says Karen. Her favorite part about working at Hershey is the connections she makes with her students. She loves working with the same children for 3 or 4 years as it gives her the opportunity to know each student deeply. Karen views it as a privilege to witness her students’ successes and growth over this span of time and to watch them become leaders in the community.
Before coming to Hershey, Karen was a stay-at-home mom with her children for several years. Prior to that, she worked as a cytogenetics technologist, a college biology teaching assistant, and an environmental planner. Karen grew up in Wickliffe, Ohio, and currently resides in Hambden Township near Chardon. She is married and has three grown sons who all went to Hershey from the age of one all the way through middle school. She also has one granddaughter who participated in Hershey’s Parent-Infant program.
Below is our full interview with Karen:
What brought you to Hershey?
I was introduced to Hershey by the founder of its precursor, Western Reserve Montessori, who recommended the school for my oldest son. After one visit, I was hooked. The children seemed happy, engaged, and peaceful. After many observations of my own children at work in their environments, I felt compelled to become trained as a guide.
What draws you to Montessori?
Children are respected as individuals and the whole child is nurtured. Mixed age groups in one community creates a family-like atmosphere where older children generously share their skills with younger children. Maria Montessori was ahead of her time, and her observations and ideas have now been confirmed by modern neuroscience. I get very excited talking about it!
Favorite Hershey memory?
Seeing my sons happily working in their classrooms when they were younger.
Favorite place to go?
Any creek or river. That is my happy place.
Favorite thing to do?
The most peaceful thing I have ever done is snorkel in the Cayman Islands. I also like to kayak and work in my yard.
Little known fact about you?
I love hardware stores and tools.
How would your friends and family describe you?
Loving, likes to laugh, and good listener.
How would you describe yourself?
An observer of human nature, an introvert, someone who likes to connect one on one.
What has been your happiest moment?
Seeing my sons grow to be good humans.
What is a big life lesson you would like to share with others?
If you live true to yourself with integrity, you won’t have any regrets.
We cannot thank Karen enough for her contributions to our school community. She is a friend, mentor, and role model to all of her fellow staff and students, and it is an honor to have her as a member of our Hershey family.