Cincinnati’s first Poet Laureate was a whiz-bang student from eastern Kentucky who left high school early to enroll at Antioch College’s campus in Beckley, W. Va., at age 16.
By the time Pauletta Hansel came to Xavier to study Montessori teaching, she was already writing poetry with the Southern Appalachian Writer’s Cooperative and working at a Montessori preschool in Beckley.
“I came to Xavier because I wanted to get a master’s degree, and many of the Montessori programs at the time were certificate only. Xavier was one of a few offering a degree,” she says.
Though her career as a Montessori classroom teacher ended after seven years, she found her Montessori knowledge and experience grounded her in her self-made career as teacher-poet. It meshed with her view of the world and the role of the teacher as a facilitator, helping others discover their own hidden talents and gifts.
“I am still a Montessori teacher in a lot of ways,” she says.
Since earning her Master of Education in Montessori in 1980, Hansel has been the Writer-in-Residence at Thomas More College and at WordPlay in Cincinnati, and has worked as co-director of the Grailville Retreat Center’s creative writing programs and with Women Writing for a Change. She worked with the Urban Appalachian Council until it folded, and she helped create its replacement, the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition.
She’s authored six collections of poetry, and her work has been featured in multiple journals. She is also an editor of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, the literary publication of the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative.
But she’s still a teacher at heart and has always taught creative writing and poetry out of her home or in community centers, offering workshops and retreats.
Since being named the city’s top poet in April 2016, she’s been given even greater opportunity to share her gifts for poetry and creative writing with Cincinnati’s residents. She calls herself a “community poet” and enjoys the opportunity to make poetry and writing more accessible to everyone through the Poet Laureate website and facebook page, readings, community writing workshops and special events like the Cincinnati Walking Sonnet to celebrate the city.
Through it all, Hansel is girded by the Montessori foundation she found at Xavier. “It was a very powerful experience,” she says.
“In many ways I had the best that Xavier had to offer. With (program founder) Hilda Rothschild, it was very much about the philosophy, and she provided a living connection to Maria Montessori, and then (former director) Beth Bronsil was about the practical application, and between the two I got a very strong and profound grounding in the work.
“That is just so much a part of how I approach my work with students, that it is teacher as a guide to the inner teacher within each of us and the whole philosophy of education as a tool for creating wholeness not just within the individual but also within society and the world. It really was a foundational experience, and I am very grateful that even though I only taught Montessori for seven years, it formed the basis for all of my work.”
Learn more about Xavier's graduate Montessori education program.