By Taylor Shillam
Cherri Hanson, First Grade Atlas Elementary School
“Teaching is an intense, challenging endeavor, and yet one of the most rewarding things I have ever experienced,” shared Cherri Hanson, first grade teacher at Atlas Elementary.
Cherri spent 12 years teaching in Billings, Montana, before the 13 years she has spent in the Coeur d’Alene School District. The joy she has experienced while teaching is clear as she reflects on her career.
“There are so many rewards from teaching, but by far the best is teaching the kids to read,” she said. “I love seeing kids’ minds open up to the world of reading and giving them this gift they’ll have for the rest of their lives. The joy kids have when they realize they are reading is precious and priceless.”
Alongside the rewarding moments are the inevitable challenging times, particularly for teachers who faced the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“An experience that stands out the most to me as a teacher was March 13, 2020—the day of the COVID-19 shutdown,” Cherri recalled. “I never imagined that when I dismissed and hugged my students goodbye for the weekend that we would never see each other in person for the rest of the 2020 school year.”
Cherri said the experience taught her how quickly your entire life can change in an instant.
“Teachers had to adapt to unexpected conditions, teaching in unprecedented ways, while also being challenged to establish connections with students, families and colleagues,” she said. “The pandemic caused me to reflect in both my personal and professional life—so instead of passively taking what you have for granted, be grateful for it, and do whatever good you can with it.”
Cherri continues to apply what she’s learned and experienced in the classroom. “In my classroom, I strive to teach children that making mistakes is a part of life and nobody is perfect,” she shared. “Never be afraid to make a mistake, because it’s the best learning experience. It grows your brain that much more—a reason to celebrate! Don’t we all want our brains to grow?”
Cherri encourages students to own the mistakes made by their actions, take responsibility to fix them, and learn from them.
Reflecting on her time as a teacher, Cherri says she’s laughed, cried, and worked harder than she ever thought she could.
“Some days, you're trying to change the world, and some days you are really just trying to make it through the day,” she said. “Your heart is full, and your mind is packed with memories of kids who have changed your life. It's just another day in the classroom!”