“My teacher was kind of overwhelmed, and on the first day I walked in, she was like, ‘Surprise! You’re teaching today!’ The first day! I jumped right in,” says Fewell, now a resource teacher at Ellis Elementary School in Rockford. “I was able to teach every day, and without that, I would definitely not be successful this year.”
Credit, she says, goes to faculty in the Department of Special and Early Education who “did a great job preparing me. Laura Hedin. Toni Van Laarhoven. Lisa Liberty. Jan Hart.”
Being prepared for anything, meanwhile, proved advantageous again last fall when Fewell and all of new colleagues across the Rockford School District confronted a difficult technology outage caused by a ransomware attack.
And yet again this spring with the COVID-19 closure of schools and the sudden shift to distance learning.
Fewell takes it all in stride – and chalks it up being part of life’s constant search for knowledge and of “learning from little failures.”
“Once you graduate, you don’t know everything you’re supposed to know. You’re still learning,” says Fewell, a May 2019 alumna who completed her student-teaching at Genoa-Kingston High School. “Even the teachers that I shadowed have been there 20-plus years, and every day they’re still learning how to better engage with their students.”
That commitment to her profession has impressed NIU Career Services, which chose Fewell as the bronze scholarship recipient of its 2020 Intern of the Year award. She previously was selected as an Intern of the Semester last spring.
She receives a $575 scholarship from sponsoring employers. Those dollars will help pay for the master’s degree program she plans to pursue next year.
“Hanna has sought out engaged learning opportunities above and beyond the requirements of her program throughout her undergraduate career,” says Jennifer Johnson, the NIU College of Education’s director of Teacher Development and Preparation. “We are delighted that her initiative is being recognized with this distinction.”
As Fewell nears the end of a school year unlike any other, she is loving her job.
“My mom is a teacher, and I always new that was what I wanted to do,” Fewell says. “In high school, I started working at therapeutic day camps for the Rockford Park District, and I just fell in love with working with the special needs population. There’s never really been anything else I wanted to do.”