From English to Guidance: Ms. Kristin Hannings returns to NP


Peyton Stagliano

Ms. Kristin Hannings excited to be back at North Penn High School as a guidance counselor.

Her days of correcting students’ punctuation and grammar are now a chapter of the past. The English teacher inside of her has been tucked away and Ms. Kristin Hannings is now holding out her hand for students to grasp as she guides them through not only school and grades, but also the theatrical world of high school and teenage drama. 

With the importance of mental health on the rise, Hannings decided to step away from her position as an English teacher and take a new approach to working with students. Becoming a guidance counselor was never part of the plan, but her eyes have been opened to the constantly growing number of students struggling. 

“Working with students in an English class made me realize that so many students were struggling with stress and anxiety,” Hannings explained. “Even though I am passionate about teaching and literature, I feel students really need more support when it comes to their mental health and navigating their emotions. I just felt like after seeing how much students struggled, counseling was something I was being called to do”. 

Hannings initially started her journey at Hatboro Horsham as an English teacher and eventually moved to only working as an English teacher part time so she could spend more time learning from internships. She eventually found her way into the SAP program, which is a program that helps identify any issues that could be interfering with students learning such as drug abuse or mental health issues. Hannings was also a part of the SAP program at Lansdale Catholic and Souderton High School. At the end of last year, Hannings found herself in the counselor position for the first time at Radnor High School. With these new experiences, she found pleasure in being able to discuss more than school and connect with students on a different level. 

“I do miss seeing kids every day and sometimes this job is challenging because you only get to see kids on their sad days. Although, this job is rewarding because you get to build relationships in a different way,” she remarked. 

While Hannings never expected to be a guidance counselor, she also never expected to be back at North Penn. Hannings spent all four of her high school years at North Penn and feels that her experiences in such a large school with a wide range of student backgrounds helped her to accomplish numerous things in her professional career. 

I feel like North Penn truly gave me a head start. When I went on to college I felt that I was way more prepared than most

— Ms. Kristin Hannings

“I feel like North Penn truly gave me a head start. When I went on to college I felt that I was way more prepared than most,” she said. 

“When you are in a big school like North Penn you also have exposure to so many different types of people and it gives you room to grow. Since North Penn is so big there was also a competitive aspect that I feel really pushed me to achieve things that I may have never achieved if I was at a smaller school.” Hannings clarified that the competitiveness she felt during her high school years was more positive and was used to help students grow and find themselves. “The pressure of the positive competitiveness also encouraged me to find my passions and build on them”.  

Although she enjoyed every moment of her high school experience, when she applied for jobs as an English teacher post-college, Hannings applied to 40 different schools and North Penn did not make the cut. 

“I think I chose not to apply to North Penn because I wanted to find myself professionally. I wasn’t sure that going back to such a familiar place would be the best place to go,” she explained. 

Now that she has circled back to the place of her teenage years, Hannings finds herself getting deja vu while walking through the halls. 

“It feels weird to be back because everything looks the same. Even the color of the walls are the same,” joked Hannings. “Sometimes I get little flashbacks in certain places in the school that I remember something significant that happened to me when I was a student. It is also incredibly weird because now I am teaching with some of my old teachers and I still feel like a child and I forget I can call them by their first names,” she said with a laugh.  

And when students come into Hannings’ office, she often finds that it is easiest to help them find coping mechanisms centered around some of their own interests and hobbies. She also feels that it is important to help connect students with other people around the building whether it be peers or teachers that they feel they can build a connection with.

I like to know what hobbies or activities my students enjoy because oftentimes they don’t realize that they already have coping mechanisms within them from things they enjoy

— Ms. Kristin Hannings


“I like to know what hobbies or activities my students enjoy because oftentimes they don’t realize that they already have coping mechanisms within them from things they enjoy, ” Hannings explained when discussing how she helps students who are undergoing a bad day or situation. “I also try to connect students with a club or another teacher in the building so they feel as if they have other people in the building who care about them”. 

Hannings occasionally takes the same approach of finding hobbies she enjoys in order to cope with her mental health. For her, this includes activities such as yoga, running, and getting fresh air. Practicing mindfulness and achieving a calm state of mind keeps her in check and channels her stress into energy that allows her to feel strong. 

“When I am having a rough day I think the most important thing for me is to get outside and be physically active. By doing certain activities like running and yoga I am reminded that there is more in my life than just work,” Hannings said. 

Running has become so good for her mental health that she has become more than just a casual runner. This year Hannings participated in a half marathon and the Broad Street 10 mile race. 

“Running has been super helpful also in building my confidence. It has also shown me that I truly can do whatever I put my mind to,” she added.  

Starting her career as one of North Penn’s guidance counselors hasn’t been the only major change in Hannings’ life. She also recently got married in October and afterward, she decided to keep her last name, Hannings, for two reasons. The first reason is that her husband’s last name, Papadopoulos, is incredibly difficult to say. The second reason is that she feels the name Hannings represents her professional identity. Because she earned all of her degrees under the name Hannings, she feels that it is important to her to keep the name because it is something important to her and that she wishes to keep as she continues to grow in her professional journey.   

While her professional career has taken her on a rollercoaster of a journey, she feels that becoming a guidance counselor was really meant for her. The biggest takeaway she wants her students to understand is that they should be focusing on what makes them happy. 

“At the end of the day, what makes you as a student happy? What are your life goals and how can we get you there?” Hannings concluded.

She hopes that every student she helps can walk out of her office with a little more pep in their step. She wants every kid in the school to know she is there to listen and offer support. 

“Just know that my door is always open”.