Pocahontas County High School history and social studies teacher Wanda Hrabina was selected February Teacher of the Month.
Hrabina didn’t initially set out to be a teacher – her love of history and working with teenagers led her to the career.
“I always knew I wanted to work with teenagers,” she said. “I used to work with juvenile delinquents. That’s the kind of job where you can get burnt out pretty quickly. After I left that position and I went on to do a couple other things, I thought, ‘I really liked working with teenagers. Maybe I’ll work with a non-delinquent population.’ That’s what got me to teach.”
Hrabina began teaching in Pocahontas County eight years ago. She was at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School and Marlinton Elementary School before she was able to work with her preferred age group at PCHS.
Once she knew that teaching at the high school was her goal, finding a subject was easy.
“I’ve always loved history,” she said. “I grew up right outside of Philadelphia so there’s a lot of history. My dad was a huge history buff. I had cousins who live in Washington’s Crossing, Pennsylvania, so we were down there. They lived right across the street from where [George] Washington crossed the Delaware, so history is just something that was always around. We would go on family picnics to Valley Forge.”
Hrabina was born in Quakertown, Pennsylvania – a town where the Liberty Bell spent the night on its way to Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Her students enjoy hearing stories from her hometown because of the rich history in the buildings and area.
“You walk past these buildings that are pre-Revolutionary buildings and I didn’t think anything of it until I moved here and the kids were so amazed by things like that,” Hrabina said. “They would be, ‘wow, you’ve been to Valley Forge.’”
It is sometimes hard to get students to appreciate what they are studying, and Hrabina understands those struggles. She always tries to find a way to make the subject interesting and tie it to the present day.
“I like to try to make the kids realize it didn’t just happen two or three hundred years ago, it’s affecting what is going on today, so I try to make those connections,” she said. “We usually spend time talking about current events at the beginning of class. This has been an interesting time because it’s political season, so it’s been really easy to connect what’s going on now to other political time periods and other races.”
With it being election season, Hrabina said she compares the current presidential race to those of the past to show the students how elections have evolved, and yet, are the same.
“We’ve compared this presidential race to Theodore Roosevelt and the Bull Moose Party, and how he came in, split the party, allowing Woodrow Wilson to come in and win,” she said. “I think when kids realize that what happened is still happening, they can connect those periods in history. I think they get a little more interested.”
She may never know for certain if her students are truly changed by her class and passion for history, but Hrabina said she simply tries her best to pass on some of her enthusiasm.
“You’ve got to draw them in,” she said. “I try to tell really good stories. I love the subject so I hope my enthusiasm at least gets them interested in class while they’re here. Whether they care when they walk out the door, I can’t make them, but if they pay attention in class and get something out of that, then, hopefully, I’ve done my job.”
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org