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    • History teacher Gerard Casanova and English teacher Catherine Casanova will be leaving The Hill this June.

    • Catherine and Gerard Casanova in Europe.

    • Gerard Casanova teaching his History students.

Casanovas Depart After Over Two Decades At Hopkins

Evie Doolittle '23 News Editor
After more than two decades of devoted teaching and leadership in the Hopkins community, Gerard and Catherine Casanova are retiring.
Catherine Casanova achieved her B.A. from Guilford College, and a master’s from Radford University before moving to New Haven. In 1999, Catherine first began at Hopkins as Carol Massott’s assistant working in the Admissions Office. A year later, former Director of Admissions Dana Blanchard ’89 and Associate Director of Admissions Angela Wardlaw ’84 encouraged her to apply for a job as an English teacher. Catherine recalls her elation, “After teaching in public schools for 17 years I was excited by the academic freedom to choose the books I wanted to teach.” Catherine hopes that her students continue to “be curious and tolerant of others.” She continues, “As an English teacher I hope that they will continue to read for pleasure.”

Catherine’s students and colleagues admired the way she fostered an inclusive classroom environment. Kaila Spearman ’21 exclaimed that Casanova enjoyed getting to know her students, “Mrs. Casanova loved making us feel welcome in her class-- from the first day all the way to the end. She loved to connect with us on different levels that didn't just include school or the class.” As a result of the community Casanova created in her classes, Spearman explains, “Being in Mrs. Casanova's class allowed me to be creative, as well as be proud of the things I created.”

Ranease Brown ’21 describes the personal environment Catherine Casanova fostered in her classes: “In order to make the classroom feel less awkward and stiff, she offers small pieces of her life story. For example, she would tell us what religion she was raised in and how that affected her beliefs while living in the South.” Brown continues, “She was often able to take a step back and recognize her privilege which allowed her to be such a great and comforting teacher!” History teacher Dan Levy, who taught the Humanities Symposium with Catherine recalls, “My fondest recollection was seeing how joyful she was to share the music of a friend’s daughter- Rhiannon Giddens- and explore how the themes related to the class content. I also enjoyed seeing her willingness to get off-topic in order to let students explore ideas or issues they found important.”

Throughout Catherine’s time at Hopkins, she made an impact on the English department and her students. Catherine’s colleagues recall her willingness to help others and her zeal for teaching. Levy recounts Catherine’s enthusiasm: “I believe that Catherine is genuinely interested in hearing her students’ ideas and opinions, and even after many years of teaching, still gets excited listening to their thoughts and ideas.... I think the English Department will miss a colleague who was very caring about members of her department and was always willing to help others.” Fellow English teacher Alexandra Kelly explains, “Her depth of experience, her passion, and wisdom have always been a big part of the English 10 team, and of the Shakespeare team. I am going to miss her voice in the discussions that we have because I think that her opinions always brought balance and wisdom to our conversations.”

Catherine is also remembered for reminding her colleagues of the traditions and quirks of her southern up-bringing. Wardlaw describes, “Mrs. Casanova tried to convince me that putting mayonnaise on hot dogs was a thing that people
did. I vehemently disagreed, but evidently, it’s something that they do in the south.”

Gerard Casanova earned his License, as well as his Maîtrise from Université de Rouen, and his DEA from Université de Paris. Gerard discovered Hopkins when his daughter showed interest in attending the school: “One of my daughters wanted to come to Hopkins as a student, so I followed her!” He remarks, “She graduated after six years, I stayed much longer.” Besides teaching a variety of history classes from Atlantic Communities to Military History, Gerard also coached the Girls Varsity Soccer team. Assistant Head of School John Roberts describes Gerard’s dedication to the team: “His many decades leading our amazing girls’ soccer program, while also teaching a full load of upper-level History classes, put his talents and stamina on full display. And in addition to working at the highest levels in athletics and in the classroom, he was [un]failingly positive, thoughtful, and supportive of his players, students, and colleagues.”

Gerard’s teaching style inspired his fellow colleagues. History teacher Zoe Resch describes first meet- ing Gerard, “Right from the first time I met him, he has shared very readily his vast historical knowledge, especially of Europe, and his amassed collection of images and maps, documents, and battlefield miniatures that are always accompanied by fascinating, scholarly anecdotes.” Resch concludes, “I am in good company in appreciating Mr. Casanova’s storytelling, wit, candor, and dedication to the open exchange of ideas. He is a beloved colleague.” Roberts explains how Gerard’s unique take on history improved the Military History class: “I remember the excitement in the department for someone with his highly specialized and original take on military history, and the fun we all had when we first ‘played’ with his battle-boards. “ He continues, “What we immediately came to understand was that what we approached as fun and ‘play’ was instantly transformed into astounding and profound learning! By the time I completed the final day at the Battle at Gettysburg, I understood it conceptually more deeply than I had in a lifetime of reading books about it. His technique was the most amazing kind of experiential learning, and all disguised as fun!”

Debra DuBois, a librarian at Hopkins and an old friend of the Casanova’s, explains that he “cares deeply about [his] students and the craft of teaching.” DuBois continues to describe the collegial environment of Gerard’s class, “I got to observe Mr. Casanova’s Military History class play war games with all the little soldiers and armies. Mr. Casanova painted himself and curated for his students to experience different conflicts in history.”

Gerard recalls his years at Hopkins fondly, commenting that his favorite Hopkins tradition was the “Holiday Assembly and Friday morning assemblies with students’ performances.” As he prepares to retire, Gerard hopes that his students will, “Be ambitious, but be kind.” He continues, “As a history teacher, I hope that they will be engaged citizens of the world.” After spending 28 years at Hopkins, Gerard says, “It would be very difficult to summarize our experiences with a few words.” However, Gerard reflects on the way Hopkins has changed, “The school has grown much since we came. In many ways for the better, but with increased numbers also comes distance. That is too bad.”

Head of School Kai Bynum describes the effect that the Casanovas have had on the Hopkins community, “Mr. and Mrs. Casanova always led with a genuine sense of commitment and connection to the people of Hopkins. Their collective impact was profound—whether on the soccer field, in an English classroom, or teaching a History lecture. They both will be truly missed and remembered.”

Gerard and Catherine Casanova agree that their favorite memory of Hopkins is “finding our soulmates.” Indeed, they met each other on campus. Catherine continues, “And of course there is no ‘least favorite memory’ whatsoever!” Gerard adds, “I have enjoyed my History colleagues at Hopkins. It has been fun to work with most of them over the years, to build courses together to ex- change ideas. I will miss their camaraderie and their good humor.”
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