Hingham Extraordinary Teacher: Heather Sullivan
A closer look at the Hingham Middle School teacher Heather Sullivan.
Who: Heather Sullivan
What: 7th/8th grade English
Where: HMS for last 17 years
Did you always want to be a teacher? I did! I have three younger brothers, and I used to sit them down and give them spelling quizzes and teach class to them. I always knew I’d be a teacher. My mom was a translator and had a great love of language, passion for language. When I was young we were always surrounded by books – literally, in every room. Books were like air, always around us. I was an English major as an undergraduate, and after graduation I interviewed at publishing companies. I loved to read, was good at editing but spending my days in a cubicle and not interacting with others didn’t appeal to me. So I went back to Boston College for my master’s in education because it was just where I needed to be.
On teaching in Hingham: The community is so supportive! I can’t say enough about the PTO and Hingham Education Foundation. I just feel so valued.
What is your favorite part of the job? I love my job! I love the kids and I love the magic that happens in the classroom. I love teaching English because I think you get to know kids better, through the writing and sharing, especially because we write and read a lot of poetry. The kids are so thoughtful and insightful and sensitive.
Are you a writer? I am. Poetry mostly, but since my children were born I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like to. Poetry is my passion. But I’ve always been writing in one form or another, and I share my work with my students. It’s good for them to see adults working through the process, too.
Do you have any children? I have a nine-year-old daughter in fourth grade and a four-year-old son.
Do you have any hobbies? I play tennis in a South Shore women’s league once a week during the summer in Pembroke, where I live. I belong to a book club year round. I love to read and talk about books! When I’m not teaching or correcting, I just like to spend time with my family.
What’s your favorite book? “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is my all-time favorite. One excellent new book for kids is “Alice Bliss” by Laura Harrington, about a girl whose dad is a soldier in the Middle East. It’s a very important topic for military families.
What’s your favorite food? I love to bake – my chocolate chip cookies are famous in my neighborhood. I have a legendary sweet tooth. I always have a bag of Werther’s candy in my classroom.
How would you describe your middle school self? Self-conscious, loud, very chatty. I’m sure teachers had to tell me to be quiet all the time!
If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be? Probably something relating to kids. A lawyer who advocates for children, maybe. If I could, I’d make a career out of promoting books and giving my book talks, or even being one of these writers who consults with schools.
How would students describe you? Goofy, probably! I like to call my kids “goobers” – one of my kids brought me a box of goobers the other day. And they say it back to me: “Oh, Mrs. Sullivan, don’t be a goober!” I think they’d also say that I try to be fair and respectful and create an atmosphere they feel comfortable in.
Ideal snow day? Ideally I’d like to tell you I’d be curling up with a cup of hot cocoa and a great book, but the reality is that snow days usually mean catching up on correcting, doing laundry, and picking up my son’s Transformers from the floor.
Final thoughts? Teachers and librarians are my all-time favorite people. I think that so much of what they do goes unrecognized, and it’s a shame. There’s so much going on in the schools that’s so amazing and people don’t know about. I’m inspired by my students all the time – they give me a lot of energy and keep me young. I feel like this year I’ve dedicated to my mother – she was my first teacher, and she had a love of language. She died in June of breast cancer. She was 69. I feel like trying to be the best teacher that I can be for these kids and to be the best parent I can be -- to carry on that legacy for my mom. Moms are so special. My mom was always my inspiration. And, you know, every day you have to hug your kids and your spouse and tell them you love them – because you just never know. You have to live each day as your last.