Honoring Barbara Hatton – Teacher Extraordinaire


Painted by Joice Wang and Monica Lee in 2009, this portrait of Mrs. Hatton is proudly displayed in the Media Center above “The Hatton Study”.

Erica Martinucci, Writer

It’s not often that we get the chance to thank the teachers who have meant so much to us, even when we’re teachers ourselves, and so this Saturday was a wonderful opportunity to give thanks for the inspiration who was Mrs. Hatton.

Barbara Hatton taught English at Emerson Jr. Sr. High School for over 47 years, and gave her heart and soul to this building and the people in it.  For decades, she shared her love of Steinbeck and her impeccable grammar with generations of Emersonians.  If you didn’t have her (and your family is local), chances are your parents, uncles, aunts, and/or someone near and dear to you had the legendary Mrs. Hatton.

Barbara was an absolute paragon of fortitude.  Despite personal difficulties and health issues, Barbara Hatton always gave her best to her students and colleagues every day.  She was about results, not excuses, and process as well as product.  She made you want to do your best, because you knew she would accept nothing less.

On a more personal note, she would call me at home back during the times of the “Snow Day Phone Chain”, and in my classroom when she needed someone to carry books or retrieve something from the office for her.  I always snapped to attention when I heard her voice.

“Thank you, Barbara.”

“Yes, Barbara.”

Was it okay to call her Barbara?  I wondered.

Something about Mrs. Hatton simply commanded respect.  She wasn’t rude, she was regal.  I was thankful to be part of her court, in any way I could.  So yes, I may have curtsied from time to time, too.

Barbara retired in 2009, but still kept in touch with her former coworkers and forever friends, offering sage advice, teaching materials, and her wry wit and insight.  She’d send emails with holiday greetings before you realized the holiday was even upon you.  She was very thoughtful in that way.  In many ways, really.

I found out she had passed away recently when a good friend and former colleague actually phoned me.  Phone calls rarely mean good news these days.

We agreed it was the end of an era.  Everyone said so.

She needed to be honored with a memorial service.

On Saturday afternoon, we had the chance to remember her fondly through speeches, anecdotes, and music.  Friends spoke about her stubborn nature and marvelous resilience.  They revealed stories that made the “younger” teachers laugh out loud.  (Did that really happen?) Some of us admitted to being a bit fearful of the formidable flagel fanatic, but – ultimately – we knew we had been fortunate to know her.

She was a teacher’s teacher, and I am glad to have been in the building while she was.  I’m gladder still that I was able to meet her, spend a little time with her outside of these walls, and see the gentler side that was beneath her gruff exterior.

Last week was Teachers’ Appreciation Week, and it seemed fitting that Barbara Hatton’s memorial service took place at its close.

Thank you, Barbara, for showing that firmness and fairness can be balanced just as effortlessly as obstinacy and compassion.

Thank you, Mrs. Hatton.