Friday, August 28, 2015

R.I.P. Avis Hanson "Teacher for Life"

One of the greatest teachers I have ever met passed yesterday evening. Her name was Avis Hansen and for more than 30 years, she was a teacher, English chair and advisor to the student newspaper at two Bronx high schools, Morris and Taft. . Among the many great students she mentored was Dr Clara Rodriguez, Professor of Sociology at Fordham University and an internationally known pioneer in Latino Studies. Avis Hanson's interview with the Bronx African American History Project, one of the most eloquent we ever conducted, will be in the book of the BAAHP's oral histories Fordham Press will be publishing. In it, she described how her West Indian family, looking for better educational opportunities for their children,found their way to a predominantly Jewish section of the Bronx during the Depression years when landlords began advertising vacant apartments to "select colored families." The neighborhood her family moved to, Morrisania, not only became her home for more than 20 years, it was the site of the high school where she got her first teaching position, Morris High School, which was a short walk from where she lived. As someone who knew poverty as a child, who knew discrimination, Avis Hanson welcomed students of all backgrounds who entered her classroom at Morris, provided they showed the same passion for learning that she did. She burned with a fire for knowledge and a passion for justice that lit up the lives of those fortunate to know her. Never married, Avis Hanson survived into her early 90's, still in touch with her favorite students and those she mentored.
RIP Avis Hanson. You embodied what it means to be "a teacher for life.