CHILDS, Md. — Teri Hanby has been on a few journeys in her lifetime. Her physical journey includes living in an estimated 18 different places, and professionally she has moved from corporate America to a Catholic school classroom.
Five years ago, Hanby and her husband, Mike, moved from central New Jersey to Middletown, Del., and she brought her teaching experience to Mount Aviat Academy, where she instructs middle-school students in math and also leads the Future City program. In the classroom, she is able to draw on her experience as an engineer, her career for 16 years.
One of the family’s frequent job-related moves played a role in her decision to leave corporate America, and that led to her second career as a teacher.
“We moved to Kentucky,” she said last week at Mount Aviat. “I just decided to stay home with the boys to make sure they were transitioning OK. They were little at that time. They were second and fourth grade. I stayed at home with them and volunteered in the schools, and two years later we moved to New Jersey. I volunteered there for about a year and then I was hired as an aide in the lower grades to help with their math centers.”
Hanby decided to get certified as a teacher and went to work at a Catholic school in the Garden State. It’s a decision she does not regret.
“I was never as fulfilled as I’ve been as a teacher. I just really, really enjoy making math easy for kids, reducing their math anxiety. I really enjoy watching them gain that confidence before they go off to high school,” she said.
One of her students at Mount Aviat, eighth-grader Erin Donohue, appreciates what Hanby brings to the classroom. Hanby has taught Erin the past three years, and Erin is also involved in Future City, a science, technology, engineering and mathematics competition in which students design a city 150 years from now and account for different issues that city might encounter, including power and food production, and serving an aging population, for example.
According to Erin, Hanby deserves recognition for her willingness to work with students until they understand a mathematics concept, and for introducing Future City to Mount Aviat, which helps students who want to go into a STEM career.
“Finding the right high school is a hard task, and taking the entrance exams is extremely stressful,” Erin wrote in her nomination letter. “However, they’re a lot easier when you have Mrs. Hanby to help you prepare. She will not only give you assignments in the practice book, but she will assign you practice online. If you’re weak in one part of math rather than the other, she will give you more practice in those specific areas.”
Hanby said she was “very touched” to find out Erin had these things to say about her. When children are in younger grades, they tend to view their teachers much more fondly.
“When they get to middle school, they question authority a little bit more, and they aren’t as sure you know everything anymore. They’re kind of a tough crowd,” Hanby said.
She’s been everywhere
Hanby was born in Wyoming and lived in Idaho before graduating from a high school in Alaska. She did her undergraduate work at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., before earning a graduate fellowship at the University of Virginia, which brought her east.
Her father was an engineer, but Hanby was not always sure she would follow in that path.
“I was not as talented in math as Erin is when I was in middle school,” she said. “I really developed more of an interest in science and then kind of gained the interest in math as I got a little older.”
She said she rarely noticed that she was one of the few females in her field when she was in that field, and that her transition to such a woman-dominated profession has been smooth.
Erin wants to follow her teacher into the engineering field. She wants to become a biomedical engineer and to design prosthetics.
“I just want to help people and do what I like,” she said.
Hanby and her husband, who are parishioners at St. Joseph in Middletown, like to travel, go to the beach and cook. They have two sons, one of whom lives in Charlotte, N.C., and one who is a University of Delaware senior. Her husband likes to help out at the school and also assists the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales if they need work done at their convent.