The positive impact a great educator can have on the lives of the students they teach is immeasurable.
Ask anyone who has met her and you'll hear over and over again that Anne Hunt is that kind of educator.
"It's an incredibly important profession," says Hunt of teaching. "I think it's the most important profession in the entire world, obviously.
"But if you don't find joy in it, you shouldn't do it." Sitting in her kindergarten classroom at Park Street Elementary School on the city's north side, she may appear to be perfectly at home surrounded by little chairs and chalkboards, but Hunt says she didn't dream of being a teacher when she was young.
In fact, she started university planning to be a librarian.
She had previous experience working with children through Girl Scouts and in Sunday school, but hadn't thought to translate that into a career.
"The first two years I did a sort of liberal arts, and then you entered education for your last two years," she remembers.
"I guess that's where I decided, the middle of that second year of university, that I would go into education." As the oldest of four children, she was comfortable around kids and was always responsible, she says. "And liked it." Hunt graduated with a bachelor of arts in education from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, in 1962 and began teaching straight away.
"In those days it was pretty easy to do," she says, unlike now where new graduates have to scramble for jobs. "In '62, I had lots of options." She taught Grade 2 that first year, got married at the end of it, then moved with her new husband from Michigan to just outside Chicago, Ill.
She taught Grade 3 for three years while her husband was working on his PhD at Northwestern.
The Hunts came to Fredericton in the late 1960s after Russ Hunt took a teaching position at St. Thomas University.
At the time they had two small children.
"I remember when he came here for the interview - we were in Chicago at the time - he called me on the phone and said, 'I've arrived here safely and the snow has been down here for over a week and it's still white.' " Laughing, she recalls her reaction to this was 'I think we want to live there.' "About a year-and-a-half into our time here we decided we really wanted to stay," says Hunt.
The family bought a house out in Keswick Ridge.
"It's been home ever since," she says.
After the move, Hunt continued her career as an educator.
Aside from teaching, she has a long and impressive list of credentials.
Among her accomplishments is that she was a founding member of The School in the Barn, as well as a principal and teacher with the program, and helped to implement the province's kindergarten program in the 1990s.
As much as she's enjoyed her career, equally important is the busy life Hunt leads outside the classroom.
She's been married to Russ Hunt since 1963, a man she describes as "very supportive." The couple has four children, who are now scattered from coast-to-coast, and two grandchildren.
When her children were growing up, she says, her hope was that they would make a difference in the world.
"I wanted them not to consider doing something for money. I wanted them to try and find something they would be happy doing," she says. "I guess all four of them have done that, which is really nice." With a wide smile, Hunt says she really likes who all her children have become as adults.
As for being a grandmother, she says, it's fun. She and her husband often travel with 16-year-old, Rachel and 13-year-old, Rhiannon Wyatt. The foursome went to Europe together last summer.
She says she has a different relationship with her granddaughters than she had with her own children.
"I find the main change has been watching my daughter as a mother and making sure I bite my tongue when there are things she's doing that I don't think I would have done," she says.
"I've always been glad I've been able to bite my tongue because she's raised two beautiful girls. She just had a very different way of doing it.
That part of the relationship was hard for me at first, but not now." Her family is, without question, the most important thing in her life, she says.
Hunt also makes time to swim, work in her garden and indulge her love of singing when she can. She's a member in a couple of choirs.
"It's sort of like a team sport. You all co-operate together and out comes music." That sense of teamwork is also found in her classroom, as Hunt enjoys working with her student's parents to ensure the children get the most out of their time with her.
"I cherish the work I do with parents. I just love that aspect.
| A few words from those who know her well
"My son Ryan, like most kids, adored his kindergarten teacher. But what made Mrs. Hunt so fabulous was the way she made all 'her' kids feel special. She was very modest and humble about her own accomplishments, but was always willing to sing the praises of her students. In her year-end newsletter to families last June, she ended by saying, 'It has been a privilege to work with you.' I'm sure I speak for any family that has been fortunate enough to have Mrs. Hunt teach their child when I say, the privilege was all ours."
Park Street Elementary School parent
a very caring individual. (She) loves to teach and went the extra mile
in every way for children. She's a real noble individual, a real class
act and an exemplary teacher all through her career. People like that you
just can't replace very easily."
her special?) I think it's her willingness to listen to children, her long
experience with children and her deep understanding of good early childhood
practices. . . . She's excellent."
There are so many times when I learn from the families I'm working with and watch them start to grow as a community within the school." Hunt points out that while her experience has allowed her to get to know five-year-olds generally, parents know their five-year-olds specifically.
"It's a kind of blend of knowledge. It's a different knowledge that we bring together.
"It's not that my knowledge is more or less important than theirs, it's that it somehow allows us to work together." Looking back, she sees that being a parent helped her grow as an educator.
"One of the things that really deepened my experience of being a teacher was being a mother myself and having four children and knowing how it felt to send them off to school," she says.
"One of the reasons I like being in the entrance class is that it's the place where, more than any level in school, there is that mesh between home and school if it's going to be successful for everybody." As great as the parents she deals with at Park Street Elementary School are, the best part of the job for her is still the children, she says.
"They're always new, always fresh, always different.
"And particularly the young ones, are just so confident about what they know. I just love that. They can answer any question.
It's just great. It doesn't matter whether it's right or not." During her time as a teacher, Hunt says she's seen the education system change a lot, with different educational theories coming to the fore.
Not all of it has agreed with her own philosophies on teaching.
Lately, for example, she's found that the system has moved away from the idea of teaching children.
"We're teaching outcomes now in a way that we weren't before. And so there is a bar or standard and we pull on each child to try and get them up to that standard," she explains.
"I guess I'm always concerned about a reasonable developmental sequence for children, that they do have to go through stages. That's kind of a change for me in terms of philosophy." As with any career, teaching has its downside.
"I think it has to do with an overabundance of paperwork," says Hunt.
"We know that we are working with a wide range of children without a lot of other professional support. I may have children with behavioural or physical problems of one kind or another and my training is not in special needs, but there are quite a few." She adds, "I think theoretically inclusion is a fabulous idea, but in actual fact there is not enough money to support it." "You saw 97 per cent of us voted to strike because we felt we really needed to say to the government that something needs to be done. I really consider my colleagues all to be heroes, when you think about what we have to do every day." Despite the challenges, Hunt says she always had fun teaching, so she just kept on doing it.
Sadly, after what feels like a lifetime of moulding young minds, Hunt is retiring from the classroom. Her last day is Thursday, June 30.
"The reason for stopping now is I don't know if I'd know when to stop, if I aged and started not to notice that I was aging. That wouldn't be so good.
I'm 65 in August and it seems to make sense to go now." That doesn't mean her time as an educator is over.
"I don't know what I'm going to do next year yet, but it will probably involve education in some way," she says.
She's had such a rewarding career that she is hard-pressed to imagine her life without teaching in one capacity or another.
"It's kept me learning," she says.
In German, the word for teacher is the same as that for learner. Hunt says she's certainly learned something new from her students daily.
"I don't see why there aren't more people who think (teaching) is great." The children who have passed through her classroom have been such an inspiration throughout her life.
"I wish more young people wanted to be teachers. What makes it most distressing is that when you ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, nobody says teacher anymore." She's afraid young people no longer see it as an exciting profession.
"I feel my colleagues are heroes, but I don't think the kids see that." As Hunt prepares to embark on a new stage in her life, she does so with a positive attitude, something she says she's inherited from her own parents.
"I really do look at how full rather than how empty." She believes she's lucky with the path her life has taken.
"And I don't think you know that when you make your decision either," she admits, whether you're choosing a career or the person to spend the rest of your life with.
"You think you know you're doing the right thing and in our case it
just happened that we did."
THE DAILY GLEANER/STEPHEN MACGILLIVRAY PHOTOS
Category: Society and Trends
Uniform subject(s): Education
Length: Long, 1329 words
© 2005 The Daily Gleaner - Fredericton. All rights reserved.
Doc. : news·20050618·FG·50616053