March/April 2018 Life Changer

March/April 2018 Life Changer: Debbie Hahn

Many people describe their career choice as a calling. North Junior High social studies teacher Debbie Hahn certainly does. Hahn was in a psychology Ph.D. program at the University of Minnesota while working in the nonprofit sector serving teens and young adults. But while studying, Hahn discovered an even deeper passion.

“I decided I could make a bigger difference with kids and in the world by being a teacher,” she said. “So I changed my graduate program to secondary social studies.”

After student teaching, Hahn was hired in 2000 at North Junior High. Her social studies department colleagues describe her in a number of ways — creative, kind, tenacious, practical, and resilient. Her innovative ideas have helped integrate technology into the classroom and bridge the gap between generations, giving her U.S. history students a front-row seat to well known historical events. 

“If you’re lucky, you may come across a couple of people that touch your life in a way that truly makes you a better person. Debbie Hahn is one of those people,” said K-12 social studies curriculum coordinator and fellow North staffer Allegra Smisek. “Her passion and integrity are embedded in everything she does in the social studies curriculum.” 

Together with her colleagues, Hahn serves on North’s IB (International Baccalaureate) ninth-grade community project team and guides students through the IB requirement of developing a service- learning capstone project. And while her coordinator role on the team is new this year, Hahn is excited to help implement new ways for students to learn.

Background: Hahn has been part of the Hopkins Public Schools community since 2000. After student teaching at Hopkins High School, she was hired full time at North Junior High. Over the years, she has accumulated roles within the school, namely the titles of District learning coach and coordinator for the IB ninth-grade community project. As part of the social studies department, Hahn teaches seventh-grade U.S. history.

What do you love most about working at Hopkins Public Schools? I love the people — all of the students, teachers, and families. Being part of a team of teachers is incredible because Hopkins has phenomenal teachers. I also love that we — kids and adults — are constantly learning in Hopkins and that we value real learning for everyone.

Proudest moment? My favorite times are classroom moments when I see students perk up and really engage with each other and with me.  e moments where I see students connecting and problem-solving and noticing that the world is bigger than they think it is, and that by engaging they can make it better. 

Teaching philosophy? I tell students, and myself, all the time: everyone has a story. I try to pause and help students pause and have empathy. Most things and most people are more complicated than they seem, and a great first step is always to take time to talk and listen to each other.

Stats:  BA in psychology from Morningside College; and an MA in educational psychology from the U of M. Hahn has been teaching seventh-grade social studies for the last 18 years. Her roles have also included peer coach and, most recently, digital learning coach and IB capstone/community project coordinator.