Enthusiasm for teaching rewarded

Published: August 9, 2006 | 4575th good news item since 2003

Granby Junior-Senior High School eighth-grade English teacher Joan Vohl Hamilton, who will start her 27th year of teaching this fall, has worked in seven different schools.

“I’ve taught in a lot of different places and that has made me a stronger teacher,” the 53-year-old Vohl Hamilton said during a recent interview at her Hadley Street home.

Apparently, the state Department of Education agrees. She was one of six semifinalists for its 2007 Teacher of the Year Award, and the only semifinalist from Western Massachusetts. The state Teacher of the Year is Jessie Auger, a first-grade bilingual education teacher in Boston.

And this is not the first time Vohl Hamilton has been recognized for her work in the class- TeacherHP18HP1room. In 1997, she was the recipient of a $25,000 teaching award from the Milken Family Foundation.

Locally, she has also taught at Fairview Veterans Memorial and Bellamy middle schools in Chicopee, Rebecca M. Johnson School and Chestnut Middle School in Springfield and Federal Street Schools in Greenfield. She also taught sixth grade at White Township Consolidated School in Belvidere, N.J.

“If I made a change, it was because I was looking for a different type of leadership and I’m really glad I’ve made all the changes I’ve made,” Vohl Hamilton said.

The teacher said she found that type of leadership in Mary A. McDowell, who this year stepped down as principal at Granby Junior-Senior High School.

“She supported excellence in the classroom,” Vohl Hamilton said. “She was supportive of whatever was right for students.”

Vohl Hamilton, who grew up on a chicken farm in New Jersey, came to the area in the early 1980s to work in public relations at Milton Bradley Co. in Springfield after teaching awhile in her home state.

She recalled that she was always rushing to the defense of teachers when they would be bashed and after about two years, decided to return to the field.

“I thought, ‘you know, anybody can do this,’ but not everybody is a teacher, so I went back,” Vohl Hamilton said.

As for her decision, Vohl Hamilton said, “I love teaching. I love it. I love that you’ve got to play so many roles.”

She said being a teacher is like being the consummate actor because you must always be able to convey a sense of enthusiasm about your subject no matter what kind of day or personal problem you might be having.

Vohl Hamilton said she keeps her students writing as much as possible, so wherever she goes, she always has lots of papers to grade. She estimated she puts in an additional four hours of work beyond the school day, a practice she said she believes is common among conscientious teachers.

Vohl Hamilton stated that it was not until she married in 1987 that she could stop moonlighting to make ends meet on a teacher’s salary. Her husband is Walter A. Hamilton, a copy editor at The Republican.

As for the future, Vohl Hamilton said she is happy where she is now but that there may be one more move in teaching for her.

“I’ve never taught in Holyoke,” she said.

Published in Teachers
See also: www.masslive.com
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