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English teacher Nancy Hunt receives Sister Carlotta Award

Santa Catalina School English teacher Nancy Hunt has received the 2023 Sister Carlotta Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor a faculty or staff member can receive from the school.

The award is presented each year to those whose work, either inside or outside the classroom, has epitomized the school's mission and enriched the hearts and minds of students at Santa Catalina. Recipients are nominated by their peers.

Dr. Hunt has taught at Santa Catalina for 26 years. Whether teaching The Odyssey to freshmen or Shakespeare to seniors, she is known for her warmth, humor, encouragement, engaging lessons—and, of course, tea.

How did it feel to win the Sister Carlotta Award?
It was really an out-of-body experience. It was so nice and it's so kind, but I’ve worked here long enough to know most of the people in the audience deserve that award.

And then to find out the next day that the yearbook was dedicated to you. It’s the year of Nancy.
[Laughs] Oh yeah. I’ve been telling people if I don’t get a standing ovation when I walk in, I’m leaving.

You’ve been teaching at Catalina for 26 years and you’re still finding new things to do with your students. What’s your secret?
It’s really important as a teacher to be flexible. A lot of teaching is about relationships between you and the text, you and the kids, and the kids and the text. There are lots of ways to supplement and enrich that, and a lot of the time the students know best what those will be.

What is your favorite thing about teaching English?
Teaching English is fun—I mean, it’s really fun. But I also think it’s important. Storytelling isn't just entertaining; it's how we teach people to be good, how we teach people to think about their identity, think about the past and the future, how communities work, what we could do better, how we can imagine greatness and compassion. … It’s one of the best ways to think about how to be. We talk about characters, but we also talk about character, who you are.

Who are your favorite authors?
I really like A.S. Byatt—Possession is probably my favorite novel. I like Gabriel García Márquez and magical realism a lot. I love Shakespeare. If you only taught Shakespeare, I think you could teach all of the humanities; he’s a gateway to discussion of philosophy, government, religion, human nature, psychology.

Why do you make tea part of your classroom culture, especially for seniors?
There's a level of relaxation in the class that I’m after. I want them to calm down, sit down, take a deep breath, and be with these people in this space right now to talk about this play. It’s kind of a huge deal to me to just slow them down to a stop. … If they can learn to do that themselves in their lives, that would be really good.

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