For the last 50 years, Annette Hansard has taught Cobb County students during some of the most exciting and turbulent times in our country’s history.
From the civil rights movement to the election of Barack Obama as America’s first black president and from the end of the Vietnam War to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the social studies teacher has spent the last half-century helping Cobb students understand some of these life-changing events.
Hansard, who began teaching in 1969 at what was known as Osborne Junior High School, recently celebrated 50 years of service to Cobb County students. She was recognized in August by Cobb’s school board and Superintendent Chris Ragsdale.
Hansard, 71, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she knew what she wanted to teach by the time she entered ninth grade at South Cobb High School.
“I had already decided that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” she said. “When I made that decision, that’s all I could think about.”
The last 50 years have not only brought a change in how Americans live, but also in how educators teach children. Hansard’s tenure began without computers, cellphones and strict state and federal academic standards. While she welcomes the change in technology, Hansard said the most frustrating part is her students’ over-reliance on their mobile devices.
“I tell them, ‘you can live without this for 90 minutes’,” she said.
Hansard believe she’s taught about 15,000 students over the last 50 years. Many of her pupils have gone on to become doctors, surgeons and even teachers in Cobb County schools. One former student, who joined the U.S. Navy right out of high school, kept in touch with Hansard over the years. They exchanged letters during Operation Desert Storm, and he even invited her to a ceremony when he was named a commander in the Navy. He was so touched by Hansard’s influence on his life that he even thanked her in his speech.
“That was the most impressive ceremony I’ve ever been to,” she said. “Naturally, I cried.” Hansard said the former student, who is now stationed in Naples, will visit her during Christmas.
Like any profession, Hansard said her job as a teacher has trying moments. She often gets frustrated when her students get in trouble and receive in-school suspension because “I think they are better than that.” In one tragic moment about 30 years ago a student was shot and killed behind a building. Despite those challenges, Hansard said she stayed in education because she wanted her students to make something of themselves.
“It’s about coming to school and working with kids, and trying to get them to see their potential in life,” she said.
Osborne Principal Joshua Morreale said Hansard was instrumental in helping him understand the school’s history and culture when he became lead administrator nine years ago. Hansard also had a role in helping the school increase its graduation rate from 37 percent to about 71 percent, he said.
Morreale said Osborne teachers and staff members will join the school system in celebrating Hansard’s milestone with smaller gatherings throughout the year. Her legacy has already been enshrined at Osborne, as the school about 12 years ago named one of its buildings after her, Morreale said.
“She’s a true team player, and she loves everyone as much as they love her,” he said.
After graduating from South Cobb High School, Hansard attended Georgia State University and graduated in 1969. She began student teaching at Osborne and was brought on full time in August 1969.
Hansard told the AJC she has no plans to retire. As long as she’s physically able to teach, she will continue showing up for her students, some of whom come to her when they have a problem or think of her as ‘grandma’ because they don’t have a parental support system at home.
While there are days when educators may want to walk away from teaching, Hansard said teachers have the power to transform a student’s life for the better. A former student who won the Gates Scholarship and went on to obtain his doctorate from Georgia Tech now provides scholarship money each year to a deserving Osborne High School senior. Seeing that happen makes those nearly impossible days worth it.
“This is why I teach,” she said. “This is why I stay in it.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.