‘Everyone deserves a chance’

Madonna Hanna’s “Dare Not To Swear” program continues to impact students at Bremerton High School. - Photo by Wesley Remmer
Madonna Hanna’s “Dare Not To Swear” program continues to impact students at Bremerton High School.
— image credit: Photo by Wesley Remmer


Staff writer

Great teachers crack the code that is adolescence — they counter tasteless jokes with affirming compliments, embrace positive change by challenging the status quo and are able to create a united classroom community from 30 separate souls — all to better the lives of their students. Madonna Hanna, career and technical education teacher at Bremerton High School, is one of them.

Hanna, who joined the Bremerton School District 11 years ago and teaches fashion marketing classes, strives to eliminate discrimination in the classroom. She teaches students the importance of self-worth, and as a firm believer that everybody deserves a chance, works to boost the self-esteem of her students.

“I use fashion as a way to build self-esteem,” Hanna said of her approach to teaching.

Raised in Stoughton, Mass., Hanna spent the majority of her childhood education as an African-American in predominantly white schools.

“The elementary school I went to had only five black students,” she said, “and there were four black females and four black males in my high school graduating class.”

Hanna said the bullying and teasing she endured as a child inspired her to work toward eliminating discrimination in the schools, and she has spearheaded numerous programs throughout her career to do just that.

“I want to provide lessons in civic responsibility to change the lives and lifestyle of students, to change the culture in schools,” Hanna said.

And her ability to innovate fashion into a teaching tool, to bring positive change to the classroom, is prevalent everywhere she goes.

“My goal is to motivate and excite students with imaginative group projects that will challenge them to be more creative, passionate thinkers and doers,” Hanna said.

Hanna has earned more than 30 teaching awards since 1980, including the Washington Vocation Association Program Award for Excellence which she earned for the “Bates Buddy Program,” a program she organized to give less-popular students an opportunity to be in the spotlight by modeling clothes.

“The most profound impact of this program was that children transitioned really well into middle school because they didn’t have self-esteem issues,” Hanna said of the elementary school students who modeled.

“They were able to communicate better, focus on their work better and with the self-esteem they developed, they became leaders.”

In 1998, Hanna organized “Flight for Fancy,” a program that brought regular education and special education students together through the production of a fashion show. The students worked alongside each other to plan and executed the show, which the special education students were the models.

“You give people a chance,” Hanna said of the program’s underlying message. “The way to do that is to bring them (the students) together in a project.”

Hanna said all the students involved, regular education and special education, learned something about their peers.

“It was so magical,” she added.

Her most recent work, ‘Dare Not to Swear’, which debuted in 2006 at BHS, encourages students to avoid using foul language in and around the classroom. And the students’ reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We didn’t know it was going to be this effective,” Hanna said.”It has turned into a much larger, profound learning opportunity. It’s an incredible phenomenon.”

Hanna hopes her impressions on students are long-lasting and influential.

“I see myself as an educational role model and educational leader, she said.

But despite impacting so many lives, she chooses to view her own work in the same light as everybody else’s.

“I’m only doing what I do,” Hanna said.

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