Beloved Grade 4 teacher Jane Hillegas-Stommel is retiring this June. We had the opportunity to interview her.
How long have you been teaching at Hamlin? What has changed and what has remained constant in terms of our program?
21 years. Coreen Hester hired me. Judy Ching and I started the same year!
Our commitment to excellence has remained constant. When I started, a published scope and sequence did not exist. I am proud to have been a part of that work. In the Lower School, we adopted a language arts and a math curriculum. The teaching of reading and writing is now standardized across grade levels. All grades utilize the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project materials. Math continues to get stronger and stronger. K-4 uses the Bridges in Math program. Most recently, we have been integrating the work of Jo Boaler and Cathy Fosnot into the Bridges curriculum. We also adopted a social and emotional curriculum called “ToolBox.” I am glad that we send girls better equipped socially and emotionally to navigate the challenges of Middle School.
Share a favorite memory from your earlier days working at Hamlin.
I have fond memories of all the National Maritime Marine Association “Age of Sail” overnight field trips on the C.A. Thayer and Balclutha ships at the Hyde Street Pier. I remember waking up before dawn and watching the sun rise over the City, as I stood on board the Thayer. On another trip, the girls were remarkably resilient, doing the work of their respective crews in drenching rain!
What have you most enjoyed during your time teaching at Hamlin?
I am proud that there are girls who can say, “I have been changed for the better.” Differentiating instruction to meet the needs of all kinds of learners has given me great satisfaction. I have loved providing appropriate levels of challenge, as well as accommodating and supporting a variety of learning styles.
What advice to you have for a newer teacher arriving to Hamlin?
Life at Hamlin goes at a fast pace. Don’t get so caught up in the pace that you forget the things that really matter. Build authentic connections with your colleagues and the girls. Take care of your own wellness. Advocate for change that helps Hamlin just get better and better.
How would you define a Hamlin girl?
Having put my own daughters, who are now 23 and 24, through Hamlin, I can speak personally about the definition of a Hamlin girl. Hamlin girls are smart and think critically. They are good public speakers and know how to advocate for themselves. Hamlin girls start high school ahead. They are organized and know how to study. Hamlin girls see themselves as global citizens and care about social justice.
What are your plans for next year and beyond?
I am working right now with a career counselor, identifying skills I have honed at Hamlin. I plan to use these skills in a new sphere, possibly doing nonprofit or public policy work. I am going to mix things up for the last few years of my work life.
My favorite teacher ever! I still remember reading Strawberry Girl and making polygons with rubber bands 😉