Hannah Sherk

Hosford Middle School, Portland OR

Embark on a journey of Ireland’s natural beauty and historical sites, exploring how place plays a role in what we create and write, to enhance students’ understanding of how landscapes influence and inspire our creative endeavors.

Where I've Been

  • Berlin, Germany
  • Colmberg, Germany
  • Dusseldorf, Germany
  • Nuremburg, Germany
  • Thurnau, Germany
  • Belfast, Ireland
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Galway, Ireland
  • Wexford, Ireland

My Fellowship in Images

Here is Shelbi at the Blarney Castle. We didn't wait in the hour-long line to kiss the Blarney Stone, but we liked to think we made the better choice. Wandering the grounds and seeing the beautiful gardens made history feel alive and changing.
The Lismore Castle seemed like just another stunning bit of scenery to our American eyes. But later, upon talking to a local, he told us of how this castle actually represented some controversial politics around the lingering influence of the English
The relationships between place, people, and animals are strong here. There is still so much land reserved for agriculture and livestock. The very fencing speaks to that history--being made of stone and hedges. I was honored to explore by horse.
Our stay in Connemara was nicknamed "The Teachers' Residence" because it was right nextdoor to this now defunct schoolhouse. We learned how the Irish are using their education system to reinvigorate Gaelic. In this area, it's the first language.
This was taken at the Nuremburg Museum, in a stadium that was being built to hold Nazi rallies. It was incredibly disturbing to stand in a place that’s that Hitler once stood. The entire stadium seemed to be designed to intimidate and terrify.
This was taken on one of my favorite walks, in the little artist town of Thurnau. The streets lent themselves to quiet reflection and journaling. This image is actually pulled from a video where you can hear church bells in the distance.

Igniting Your Personal and Professional Growth

Describe one or two, specific learning experiences from your fellowship. In words, show us this experience and explain why it was powerful.

The Blasket Islands Center commemorates the people of these Islands, off the coast of the Dingle Peninsula. The isolation of those islands led to a very distinct and proud storytelling culture. They were celebrated by outsiders as figures of English resistance, because they spoke beautiful Irish and very few even knew English. Those people became a focus of academics—but I especially loved how they insisted on telling their own stories. Many of the islanders became nationally-known authors.

What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn professionally?

Personally, I learned to ask questions and be curious. When we approached new situations and people with warmth and curiosity, we received the same. I thought of my role on this trip as a story gatherer and keeper. Professionally, I remembered that teaching writing is about creating moments. Some of my favorite, most inspiring memories from this trip were small moments—like when we bought water at a gas station and the cashier talked to us like old friends and shared her favorite candy.

What were some unplanned or unexpected experiences or outcomes of your fellowship? Or, how did the fellowship you crafted differ from the actual learning experience?

I did not expect to be so moved by the German countryside to reflect on the Holocaust. In fact, in the smaller German towns, they seem to draw on a different period of history and ignore the WWII era. But in those places, I kept thinking about the lives that were ruined there. In some ways, it was the very beauty of those places that pushed Germans to feel like they needed protecting. It made me think about how I could get students writing and thinking about beauty in more nuanced ways.

Impacting Your Classroom, School and Community

Outline specific plans you have to implement your fellowship and reach your student goals.

- I want to create journaling exercises that where students track changes around the school or their home over the year. From the natural to the manmade changes. - Our students need to think more critically about how Indigenous people in our area have been pushed out and how education was weaponized against them (this thought was inspired by the British-Irish conflict) - I want students to pick a local place and learn about environmental justice efforts to champion that place.

What is one way you can leverage your fellowship to create one authentic learning experience for students? (e.g. hands-on learning, projects, community engagement)

We learned from one of our Airbnb hosts that in Gaelic, there are 32 words for field. For example, there is a word for the field that sits right outside your window within close watch, where sheep with lambs stay in the spring. This reflects the intense connectivity that the Irish have for their land and animals, and made me think about the things that our students experience with similar complexity or nuance. I want students to think about the many words and ways of think about their expertise.

How, specifically, will your fellowship extend beyond your classroom? (e.g. families, school-at-large, afterschool groups, surrounding community, colleagues, etc.)

This fellowship has renewed my sense of curiosity. I remember how new places can engage the imagination--even if that's just stepping outside the classroom. I would love to think about how after school groups might bring students into nature to experience the quiet inspiration of the outdoors. I would also love to bring students into contact with more local leaders, and to develop an appreciation and openness to languages other than English.