Q + A with local teacher Amy Hanna

This week the Chronicle caught up with teacher and budding photographer, Amy Hanna.

You are often seen out and about with your camera at community events. We have published some incredible images in the Chronicle thanks to you. How did you become interested in photography?

My mum is a keen amateur photographer and I grew up constantly having my photo taken, and with shelf loads of albums! She was very creative with photos (back then all on film) and I guess that inspired me, and my sister, Sarah, who also loves her photography and lives here in Raglan. I loved looking back on all the memories Mum had captured with her camera and wanted to do that, too.

We’re a widely creative family, on both sides; aunties and cousins with a variety of creative talents and both my nanas are talented with paint and pastel, so creativity is in the blood, I guess!

What do you most enjoy shooting?

I shoot mainly people and sometimes animals. I love capturing people, and children especially are so free with their emotions so they are definitely my favourite. My own kids just take selfies now or pull faces if I want to take their photo! I generally love photographing anything that catches my eye and I find that photographing tiny things, like bugs or baby mussels on rocks, makes you appreciate the world in a different way. Perspective is often refreshed!

I really enjoy being able to share my photos with other people.

Have you done any courses in photography?

I actually did a course recently with Mark Hamilton, here in Raglan, and learnt some valuable things, especially about my camera – the course was offered by the Old School Art Centre. We’re pretty lucky to be surrounded by creative people offering opportunities like that. Other than that I’m self-taught – I often say ‘I’ve got the gear but no idea’, or maybe I’ve just got ‘the knack’, like Hec says in Hunt for the Wilderpeople!

Tell us about your photography Facebook page?

I started it because I attend a lot of community or school events my kids are at and I know so many kids from my role as a teacher. I would always think ‘that would make a great photo’ or ‘her mum would love a photo of her up there’. Because I know the kids, they’re often really relaxed with me, which helps when you’re behind the camera. I used to try and distribute to individuals and used to make discs for kids in my class to take home, but it was too hard to get to everyone. Then driving home one day I thought a closed Facebook page might work. The response has been really positive and I truly feel so privileged to be able to take the photos. It’s never been about being a business for me and I’m certainly not professional, I just love people having beautiful photos of their whanau, and this is an easy way to do it. If I’m at an event and can capture images that make people happy, then that makes me happy.

You are a very well known and respected teacher in the community, Amy. How did teaching begin for you?

I went straight from college at Te Kauwhata to the University of Waikato and did my teaching degree. I only really did teaching because someone said it was a great degree to show you could get along with people, so I did it not sure if I’d ever be a teacher! I also considered studying forensic science. When I finished, I worked at Fairfield Primary in Hamilton for 10 years in a challenging and extremely rewarding job before deciding I wanted to teach in my own community. It was the best move I’ve made and I’ve been able to work in a way that suits my family and gives me a life outside the classroom.

What do you enjoy about teaching?

I just love the kids and being able to guide them in their own learning journey. I thoroughly enjoy building a relationship that creates passion in learning and watching someone realise their potential and see their confidence build. I enjoy the challenges and the variety – there’s never a dull moment in a classroom! Knowing you’ve had a hand in the success of a student who’s struggled is pretty awesome.

What do you find challenging?

In the past, finding a balance between school and home has been challenging. I think this is something most teachers struggle with – most teachers operate at full throttle for their school kids and are constantly seeking that balance between home and school. My husband has a full-on job and at times I felt my children were getting a raw deal, with an exhausted mum who’d given everything to her school kids and they got the Grinch at the end of the day! Then you feel guilty and it becomes a vicious cycle of trying to be super mum and super teacher! Thankfully my current work at local schools gives me far more balance and we are a happier family because of it.

The kids always love your funky hairstyles and colour changes. Will this ever change?

I hope not! I’m sure one day I’ll look in the mirror and say I’m too old for this pink hair or undercut – but it hasn’t happened yet! I live by ‘choose not a life of imitation’ so I can’t see my randomness disappearing anytime soon. It’s a form of self-expression and I ask the kids to be themselves so I should really be myself, too.

What other stuff makes you tick?

My family is the most important thing to me. Our son, Cayden, was still born in 2004 and that really gave me a wakeup call to what is important in life. My girls, Cassidy and Taylor, and my husband, Blair, who’s been by my side since I was 17, are my number-one priority, as well as my extended family.

Learning is so essential to my life. I just like to learn new things, give new things a go; try something different. If it’s not going to cause harm to you or someone else, why not give it a go?

Art and creative avenues are my happy place, and although I don’t have a musical bone in my body, my love of a variety of musicians and genres have seen me through any tough times. I certainly didn’t get any sporting genes but I’ll always give things a go and have a laugh at myself, which proves useful as a teacher!

What’s happening in 2017 for Amy Hanna?

Lots of learning!

I possibly have some part-time work coming up at one of the local schools, which I’m looking forward to – it is always great to be part of a team of likeminded people in a learning environment. I’ve also always been keen to learn to speak Maori so I’m looking into that for next year as well.

I’ll also continue with my photography around our beautiful part of the world and hopefully continue to hone my skills and get a few more Chronicle covers!