By: Charlotte Foulger — Correspondent
Due to the global pandemic, many teachers took leaves of absence or resigned from Sharon High School this year. Their positions have been filled by a host of new faces. Ms. Catherine Harding was hired as the new history teacher and the new theatre teacher.
Harding is a former student at SHS. She says being back has been surreal. “It has given me time to reflect on what I have learned, where I have been, and the people I have met since I graduated in 2014,” she added.
Harding says she has more respect now for her past teachers and all the work they do to try to make their classes and the community inspiring and meaningful. She says she is honored to be a part of the community now and is especially excited to be teaching in her mother’s homeroom.
Harding’s philosophy as a history teacher is to engage her students. “As a history teacher, I am dedicated to making history interesting and relevant for all learners, and to making social studies classrooms a productive place for important conversations about social justice and more,” she said.
Harding majored in history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and received both of her undergraduate and graduate degrees there. It was also at UMass where she discovered opportunities of being a history major. “It was a way for me to map out my knowledge of the world and my place in it,” she said.
“I have always been drawn to the magnificence and horrors of antiquity,” she said. Harding says she is inspired by people who have stood up against injustice and who created revolutionary arts and advancements in history.
“My favorite time period is the entirety of the 20th century, specifically the progressive era and civil rights movement,” Harding said. She says she is fascinated by how people bonded together and created something so much greater than themselves. But, she says that our work as a society is not done and that we should use the lessons from those periods to help us solve these issues today. “Classes like Since JFK and Humanities introduced me to these ideas, so thank you Mr. Fazzio and Mr. Banno!” said Harding.
History has always been Harding’s favorite subject in school, especially as she got further into high school. She has been the family historian and photo collector for as long as she can remember, and her fondest memories include watching the history channel with her dad.
She is also teaching theatre classes at SHS. Hardings says she loves theatre and has been exposed to it by her extended family. She says she “jumped at the opportunity” to teach theatre because she knew she would enjoy trying to find creative ways to run the class online. “We need to be thinking of ways to bring the arts to our community right now, as it gives us a space to gather and unite under common interests and emotions during such crazy times,” she added.
Besides being a teacher in Sharon, Harding also has hobbies of her own. Her “quarantine hobby” has been creating personalized cards for family and friends. She says that the activity is a rewarding way to spend her time, as well as a way to be creative. Harding also loves traveling, hiking, exploring museums, and spending time with family and friends.
She has also experienced challenges this year. “I definitely agree with other teachers that I gain my energy from being with students in the classroom, so being all split up is hard for me,” said Harding.
The biggest hurdle for her is ensuring that students in every cohort “feel welcomed and a part of the classroom community.” Harding says she wants students who are having difficulty right now to know they aren’t alone. “I know I would be struggling with this as a high school student, so I am trying to keep this in mind in how I approach my classroom,” she said.
History Coordinator Mr. Chuck Fazzio hired Harding and cites her civic work at the Kennedy Library and how that’s an important theme of this year’s history classes. He also says she interviewed well. “Her love for the theatre and arts makes her an ideal candidate for teaching humanities and social studies is a field in humanities,” he said.
“It’s a very low-stress class, and she is a fun and enthusiastic teacher,” said sophomore Valerie Chung, a student in Harding’s honors theatre production class.
Senior Hannah Cohen says Harding is organized and always up-to-date, and also wants the class to be fun. For example, Harding plays many improvisation games with her students and always takes their preferences into consideration. “What I love about Ms. Harding’s class is how flexible she has been to find ways to make theatre work due to COVID-19,” she said.
Cohen says she also does not give out too much work because she knows school is stressful in the pandemic. She says she has felt very included in her class and has made new friends, despite her quiet tendencies. “Overall, her class is amazing and I’m so excited that I’ll be stage managing (virtually) and playing a few extra roles in the production we put on!” said Cohen.