Broadening HorizonsSep 19, 2022 11:25AM ● By Bethany Good
Aidan Hahn is a dedicated, enthusiastic teacher who takes pride in his chosen profession. At Oakland Mills Middle School, Mr. Hahn teaches French and Mathematics. For him, diversity in the classroom is one of the most important aspects of what he does. “Learning about other cultures opens your mind. It takes you out of your comfort zone. I think it’s important for everyone to be open to learning about other cultures and how they do things.”
A Korean immigrant, he started as an exchange student in small-town Pottstown, PA. After discovering his passion for French in high school, he continued his studies at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, before going on to graduate school. Besides Korean, French, and English, Mr. Hahn also speaks Japanese, which he says was easier to pick up because of its structural similarities to Korean. Outside the classroom, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Jihee Hahn, and his two-year-old son, Joon. He has also played and coached soccer.
As a French teacher, he relishes the opportunity to explore French food and culture. At school, he organized a project in which students could experience French breakfast foods and learn more about the language at the same time. Students and teachers alike participated in the event. “Food is the number one gateway to experiencing the culture. It’s a common denominator for people.”
Mr. Hahn is serious about respect in the classroom. “I take a strict approach to teaching. I think discipline is very important to learning,” he says. Each day he expects his students to begin the class with a moment of silent reflection. An activity he learned from his experience as a student in South Korea, where teachers expect the full attention of their students. “When I was in elementary school in Korea, we had to line up outside the classroom and then come in to greet the teacher. I have my kids do that as well.”
Mr. Hahn has found some new challenges in teaching post-pandemic. Many students have struggled with their emotional or social learning, and there have been some setbacks in the classroom. To help his students connect, he created an “empathy project.” Mr. Hahn gave his students blank notecards where they were to write their names, ages, and birthdays. They also had to write three insecurities and three strengths. The students then broke into small groups and shared their vulnerabilities with classmates.
“The goal of it was to encourage empathy with each student and their peers. I wanted to allow the students to feel comfortable pouring their hearts out in front of others. And what ended up happening was that they could relate to each other’s insecurities and find some commonality. They were able to get to know each other better and say to themselves, hey, this is a new person that I can make a connection with.”
Mr. Hahn is encouraged by the diverse population of Howard County. There is a lot of room for empathy, and learning languages gives you an entry point into seeing the humanity of people from different backgrounds. He explains it this way, “I get to learn from my students that come from different backgrounds and cultures; that is a beautiful learning environment to be in.”