After 45 years of teaching at Science Hill School, Hanna Young has left a part of herself with generations of students.
Now, her very name will be a part of the building — in perhaps the most appropriate place possible.
The new name of the school’s auditorium was unveiled Thursday, honoring Young as she prepares to entire retirement for the second time.
Now christened the “Hanna Young Auditorium,” the 450-seat venue built in 2007 also has a plaque next to the door, which states, “We appreciate (Young’s) unrelenting guidance and encouragement that has helped all who have come through our doors to become the best version of themselves.”
The reveal came as a true surprise to Young, who wiped tears from her eyes as Science Hill Superintendent Jimmy Dyehouse stood behind her, supporting her with his hands on his her shoulders.
“It’s wonderful,” Young told the Commonwealth Journal after Thursday’s retirement celebration. “I’ve worked all these years and loved every moment of it, but I like being part of the school.
“Someone asked me, ‘Did you go to Science Hill as an elementary (student)?’ and I said, ‘No, they hired me, and it became my school,'” she added.
While Young — who has been a fixture in the school’s Drama program for decades, the auditorium filled with memories of her creative efforts with students — is still thriving as a teacher, she decided it was time to call it a career so as to explore other things that life has to offer.
“I got up one day and said, ‘I am 67 years old, and I have things I want to do, but if I work the way I want to work, I don’t have time to do anything but work here,'” said Young. “You don’t get younger, you get older. So I want to get those things done.”
Immediately after the new name was revealed, the emotional Young, seated next to husband Jerry, told those present that she was “honored” and “overwhelmed” by the dedication of the theater.
“I could start talking and you’d never be able to leave, with all the things that have happened with the people in this room,” she said with a laugh. “I thank you all from the deepest part of my heart, and I will be back next year to watch programs and watch ballgames.”
Dyehouse noted that support from the school board for the auditorium’s name change was “overwhelmingly” favorable.
“We had been trying to think of something that we could do to honor Mrs. Young in a very unique and special way,” said Dyehouse. “Being a teacher for 45 years in itself is just incredible … almost unheard of. She’s had such a big part in all the plays and al the programs that have gone on here, all the way back to the old school (building in downtown Science Hill). We thought, what better way to recognize that and honor her than naming the auditorium after her?”
After the unveiling, a number of Young’s colleagues shared their feelings about Young’s impact on them, some as friends and fellow teachers, others as former students of Young themselves. Mitzi Denney read a poem about Young written for the occasion, and Young was presented with a musical clock as a parting gift as well as a retirement-themed shirt.
“She didn’t teach anywhere else, so she’s taught a lot of these teachers (when they were students),” said Dyehouse. “The footprint that she has left with these educators and the community and the students that she’s taught, she’s affected so many lives that they’re uncountable. We don’t know how many thousands of children that she has touched over these years.”
Young was one of three familiar faces at Science Hill whose retirement was recognized at a special meeting for faculty and staff on Thursday at the school. School Resource Officer Gary Pence and Kathern Hendricks, a teacher’s assistant for 21 years, also got to say their goodbyes, but Young’s was saved for last because of the special presentation.
Coming out of Eastern Kentucky University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, Young started at Science Hill in 1977. Then-Superintendent Charles Hall told her that if she could get for a grant to pay for her salary and supplies, he would give her a job. Young researched and filled out the numerous forms and waited, and was thrilled when told she would be hired for one year, though her rehiring would depend on the quality of her teaching and money available to the school.
Needless to say, Young returned — and kept coming back, year after year after year, teaching Art and Social Studies classes primarily (though a little bit of everything in reality), guiding the Drama program and working with Gifted and Talented students. She initially retired in 2010, but returned shortly thereafter as Gifted and Talented Coordinator and a part-time teacher.
“For the next 12 years I did all my favorite things: Art, social studies, drama, and working with the students at Science Hill,” she noted in a previous interview with the Commonwealth Journal.
On Thursday, Dyehouse noted that when Young decided to return part-time, that wasn’t a truly accurate description of her commitment to the job.
“A lot of times retired people come back and call me and say, ‘I’d like to have a job, maybe do it half-time or if you have something two days a week,'” said Dyehouse. “Well, that’s what she signed up for. … She signed up for half-time, but we all know that she’s full-time, and then some. I’ve never seen anyone who’s got the work ethic she’s got. There’s no telling how many thousands and thousands of dollars that she’s spent … out of her own pocket for these babies. That’s why she did it, for these babies.”
Young was born in Germany, adopted by the “wonderful” Morris and Anna Wesley. “My mother and I were from Czechoslovakia and could speak no English,” she said. “We studied and became Naturalized citizens together. Our family moved often in the first years. The term used with great love is ‘army brat.'”
Traveling to countries like Germany and Italy as a child, Young was exposed to much great art in those European cultural hubs. Young said that art is present in her earliest memories, in fact.
“I have always doodled on anything that had an open place to draw. I am guilty of this to this day,” she said. “My Granny Wesley was the one that announced that I was an artist while I was drawing a picture at her feet. I think I was in the second grade. I had already decided I was going to be a teacher and at that moment, it became Art Teacher.”
Her family returned to Pulaski County after her her father retired from the U.S. Army in 1965, and Young found herself using her recess time to indulge her artistic side. Young attended Pulaski County High School and took an art class her senior year from a new teacher. She then decided to go to on to college to be an art teacher herself, to her parents’ delight.
As a teacher, he first art room at Science Hill was on the stage in the gym with P.E. in the gym next to her. Her room was moved three times her second year there, and every time Young was placed in a room, she had to paint it herself.
“Mr. Hall used army surplus paint to save money,” she said. “By the third room, I asked if he was trying to paint the whole school.”
Though she is retiring — this time, presumably, for good — it’s not because Young is truly tired of teaching, she noted. She does know she’ll miss it tremendously, and also intends to keep busy; among her plans is writing and illustrating a book for students about the communities of Pulaski County.
“I feel I am the most blessed person,” she said. “I have taught under great leadership, been allowed to use the gifts and talents I have, and had the job that was not work but (one of the best) experiences of my life. I intend to keep in touch with Science Hill School.”