Hanah Singer graduated from Concordia University Texas in 2020. Finishing her first year of teaching first grade, the Lutheran Education Association (LEA) honored her as the 2021 Outstanding New Lutheran Early Childhood Teacher.
Singer's faith in Christ shines in her speech, actions and teaching style. Through her life-changing work as a first-grade teacher, she ignites faith and a love of learning in her students.
Singer grew up in California. Her father is a pastor in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), and her mother, now a life coach, served as a children's ministry director. Because her parents served the Church throughout her childhood, Singer was exposed to a variety of ministries.
"I'm so thankful for my upbringing and the experiences that came along with it," she said. "It's definitely why I'm a teacher today."
Additionally, her paternal grandmother was a Lutheran teacher and had a significant impact on Singer's choice to become a teacher. She even has one of her grandmother's classroom chairs in her classroom.
Choosing Concordia University Texas
When she was in high school, the LCMS called Singer's father to pastor Trinity Klein Lutheran Church, so the family moved to the Houston, Texas, area.
She first learned about Concordia University Texas when she went with one of her good friends to the Missional Youth Retreat. The annual event, hosted by CTX, encourages high school students to discover their unique callings and focus on their passions as they fellowship with other Lutheran high schoolers and serve the Austin community.
This is when Singer fell in love with CTX and its beautiful campus.
With interests in both teaching and musical worship, Singer began her higher education journey as a Worship Arts major at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. While she enjoyed the Biblical study and learning more about worship, she decided that her foremost passion was to teach.
She knew that CTX had a great teaching program, so she decided to change majors and universities.
Joining Concordia in 2016, Singer immediately got involved. She was on the Concordia volleyball team as a freshman, sophomore and junior. During her sophomore, junior and senior years, Singer worked for Student Activities, forming great friendships and connections.
She also got involved with the Refuge, Concordia's student-led worship ministry. She began as a singer (no pun intended) and eventually became a co-leader of the group.
Becoming a "Yes" Person at Concordia
Although Singer is usually the type of person who doesn't like to jump into things right away, she did at Concordia. "I enjoyed saying 'yes' to a lot of things," she said. In addition to caving at Whirlpool Cave, Singer joined an overnight camping trip to Enchanted Rock.
She also went on a canoeing trip. Although the weather was bitterly cold, she enjoyed the experience. "I never would have done that unless I became a 'yes' person at Concordia," she said.
On the dean's list all four years at CTX, Singer was committed to earning a strong GPA. While she achieved this goal, she learned that after college, a GPA doesn't have much, if any, impact on your vocation. While she stressed the importance of working toward a good GPA and excelling in courses, she cautioned students from sacrificing all of their time for activities and events.
"Finding the balance between these two things is important," she said. "Don't get caught up in things that won't matter after college."
Preparing for the Classroom
Earning a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and the Lutheran Teacher Diploma, Singer developed valuable knowledge and skills for the classroom. Two professors — Dr. Joanne Antrim and Dr. Cari Chittick — made significant contributions to her education.
"Dr. Antrim was pivotal to my journey," Singer said. "She helped pave the way to my success in the real world." Antrim is an associate professor in the College of Education.
Chittick, who now teaches at Concordia University Irvine, made a tremendous impact on Singer while at Concordia. "My favorite experiences were with Dr. Chittick in my Education courses," she explained. "She made every day different. I absorbed so much of what she taught, and I'm grateful for her."
She also enjoyed serving as a liaison for a Life & Leadership class that Pat Fick, the director of Can-Do Missions and Student Ministry & Missions, taught. "Watching her lead and teach in the classroom setting was inspiring," Singer said.
For students considering the vocation of educating children, Singer believes that successful teachers need two important characteristics.
"The biggest skill you need in addition to your love for Jesus is a passion for children," she said. "You're teaching kids that Jesus loves them and the things they need to know to be successful."
She developed experience working with children by volunteering at summer camps. This summer, Singer will serve as a leader at Camp Lonestar in LaGrange, Texas.
Joy in Teaching
Upon graduation, Singer joined Salem Lutheran School in Tomball, Texas, beginning her first year in the fall of 2020.
At first, Singer felt pressure to know everything right away, but God gave her peace. "The moment I took a breath and remembered that God equipped me for this, I found joy in teaching," she said. "Falling into His arms and His embrace was so freeing. That's how I found joy in teaching — letting go of the pressures."
Beginning her call to teach during a pandemic posed unique challenges. The school remained open throughout the year, something for which Singer is thankful. She said:
I have to brag about the leadership team at Salem Lutheran School. The principal and COVID team have been absolutely wonderful and have done everything to ensure that the kids and staff are safe. We surround the campus in prayer and follow the protocols. The fact that we are in person is important to the kids and us as staff members.
We were created to have human connection. I keep thinking about Genesis, where God says that it's not good for man to be alone. It breaks my heart to think that students elsewhere haven't had connection, and my love and prayers go out to them. I know that God has His hand over the whole situation and that He is sovereign.
Although she prefers teaching her students through hands-on lessons, the school has shifted to a worksheet-based curriculum to comply with protocols. "It's hard because, as a teacher, I want students to discover and embark on their learning journey through tactile activities as I shepherd and guide them."
The biggest challenge Singer has faced during her first year of teaching is finding enough time to teach her students everything she wants them to learn.
"I'm most passionate about Bible study and social-emotional learning," she said. "Finding enough time in the day to incorporate these lessons with other elements of their education has been challenging."
Amid all of the challenges, Singer delights in her vocation.
"It's such a blessing to see my students' faith and wonder," she said. "While six and seven-year-olds know so much more than you would expect them to, there are many things they don't know, which I am humbled to have the pleasure of teaching them."
Shining for Christ in the Classroom
Nominated by a colleague for the Outstanding New Lutheran Early Childhood Teacher award, Singer applied for the honor.
One of her references, a colleague and parent of a student in her class, said: "I can't even put into words what an incredible blessing Hanah has been in her first year of teaching. It is evident every day that Christ's light shines through her as she witnesses and teaches."
The executive director of LEA, Dr. Jonathan Laabs, called to tell her that she was selected as the 2021 Outstanding New Lutheran Early Childhood Education. She didn't believe it at first, but Singer was incredibly honored to receive the recognition.
Recorded in the press release, Singer said, "My greatest joy is watching students discover who God has created them to be each day."
Her personal mission statement is based on Matthew 5:14-16, in which Jesus said:
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Her email signature says "Keep shining," which is a reference to the Scripture and the beginning of her personal mission: "To shine the light of Christ to all whom I encounter."
We congratulate Hanah Singer on her award for shining the light of Christ in her classroom!
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