Humanities TeacherUniversity of California, Davis, Ph.DBard College, MFABard College, BA
email: kerry.hanlon [at] sonomaacademy.org
phone: (707) 545-1770 x3408
We are all trying to keep up with Kerry. When she’s not on campus, you can find her dangling from a rock wall, riding the waves in Bolinas, or running the shady trails of Sonoma County. Her boundless energy is evident in the classroom, where she challenges her Humanities students with creative projects like the Philosophers’ Roundtable. In this role-playing exam, students must impersonate a philosopher, debating ideas from that historical figure’s point of view. Kerry particularly loves getting to know her students during Intersession trips. “It can be incredibly eye-opening to see students in a different context, using different kinds of intelligence and skill,” she says.
Kerry grew up in Brookfield, Connecticut. When she was in high school, she was in a Humanities class where students acted as philosophers. All these years later, she still remembers how fun and interesting that experience was, so she uses that assignment in her classes at Sonoma Academy.
After graduating from Bard College in New York, Kerry moved to former East Germany, an exciting place to be shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Her first teaching job was teaching former Russian teachers to become English teachers. After returning to the U.S., she taught writing and literature at UC Davis, where she was pursuing her Ph.D.
Kerry first heard about Sonoma Academy from Jamie Murray, her husband, who was the first hire for the SA Humanities department. A few years later, while she was still teaching at Davis, Kerry was awarded a dissertation fellowship. Her dissertation was mostly completed, so she had a lot of free time that year. To keep busy, Kerry became a writing tutor at SA. She would go surfing every morning and then come to school in the afternoon to the tutor. Eventually, Kerry decided to leave Davis to become a Humanities teacher at SA, attracted by the job stability and the freedom to develop her own curriculum. “At SA, I can teach material that I'm actually excited about, rather than having to manufacture excitement,” she says.
Some of Kerry’s favorite memories from her time at SA involve Intersession trips. “A few years ago, I was trapped with a group of students out at sea in Baja. The tide got so low that we ran adrift and couldn't find the channel,” she says. “We spent six hours in the dark with an 18-year-old captain who was very excited about lighting flares. He lit them all, one after the other. The flares caused the people on shore to worry, but we were safe—although very cold and hungry. The captain invited us to climb into a 3x5 wooden storage box to keep warm—I was not the only one who was afraid to get in the box!”
Kerry is an avid rock climber, and she loves teaching people to rock climb, too. She laughs, “I have almost no practical know-how: I'm not good at plumbing, leveling floors, fixing appliances, or installing light fixtures —so it gives me immense satisfaction to be able to teach another person how to tie a multi-step knot.”
From philosopher role-playing to thought experiments and practicing spy signals, there is never a dull moment in Kerry’s classroom. She loves to teach Humanities II because sophomores are her favorite age. “They are energetic, but not too spazzy,” she says. “Once in a while, there's a moment when the whole class is laughing together. Nothing can beat that!”