These profiles of new Unalaska City School District teachers were written by high school students in Rainier Marquez's photojournalism class. They have not been edited by KUCB staff.
The joy of the Unalaska High School Spanish classroom spills out the door and into the hallway where bulletin boards are covered in educational comics, decorative pictures, and tongue twisters. Inside is no different. Even though Hannah Vowell has been teaching in Unalaska for less than a quarter, the walls are covered in projects made by her students. Nearly every moment of the day, her classroom is filled with laughing students studying Spanish. The source of this sunny epidemic? Patient Zero is, without a doubt, Ms. Vowell herself. “My mentality is just to find the joy in whatever I'm doing,” she said.
Ever since first grade, Ms. Vowell knew she wanted to be a teacher. In a fort in her childhood backyard, she taught neighborhood kids states and their capitals. In middle school and high school, she tutored math to other students. “I’ve pretty much been a teacher all my life,” she said, laughing.
In college, Ms. Vowell majored in science and minored in Spanish. The highlight of her years was being a part of her college’s Chamber Choir. “Because I was majoring in science and minoring in Spanish, that was my outlet for all the stress that the Biology and Spanish majors brought up.” She has traveled to China, and New York, where she even got to sing in Carnegie Hall. “I'm really enthusiastic about starting a choir club here because I think music is so important to have in everyone's life,” said Ms. Vowell. She hopes to start UCSD’s choir club up in October.
In addition to singing, Ms. Vowell has many hobbies, including writing and photography. You can often see her squatting by the side of the road taking photographs of Unalaska’s wildlife, another life-long passion of hers. “I got my first camera when I was ten, and then my first digital camera, well my first good digital camera, in 2007. And then from there, I've just taken exponentially more pictures each year and just really enjoyed it.” She is also currently working on a novel and a vegan cookbook.
Though Ms. Vowell has worked at five different schools and likes to “meander around the world,” Unalaska had a special pull that brought her here. “My parents and my aunts and uncles and my cousins all lived in Unalaska 40 years ago, when there was nothing here. And so [Unalaska] has always been in my mind”. So far, she says it is living up to her expectations.
There are other factors that compelled her to move to Unalaska. “I’ve always kind of gravitated towards smaller places, just because I do enjoy that community-feel that tends to come with small schools, small towns,’ says Ms. Vowell, “And I’d do just anything to avoid terrible traffic.” She adds with a laugh.