The youngest graduate at MSU Denver’s fall Commencement started planning for her career at age 11.
Hannah Baty admits she felt a bit of culture shock when she enrolled at Metropolitan State University of Denver at age 16.
She realized when she was 11 that she wanted to become a music-education teacher, and her parents — both musicians — encouraged her to pursue her dreams. At 20 years old, she’ll be the youngest graduate in MSU Denver’s December Commencement ceremony. Her youth, she said, is an advantage because she has more in common with the students she teaches than other educators do.
“It’s exciting to be graduating, and although I’m young, I feel ready and capable for the career I’ve chosen,” Baty said. “I’ve been student-teaching for about six months now and really connect with elementary-school-age students.”
Baty moved to Colorado from South Africa with her family when she was 7. Because of the difference in school structures, she was ahead of her grade. She started practicing violin when she was 9 and performed with her fellow students. During that time, she joined Young Voices of Colorado, a choir that educates youth through the study of global music.
“I got into (Young Voices of Colorado’s) concert choir when I was 11 and into their top choir when I was 13,” Baty said. “I started helping with the younger students when I was 11 and continued working with them for four years.”
She knew as soon as she started working with younger kids that she wanted to teach music education to elementary-school students.
Baty received her high school diploma from Colorado Early College in Parker, a tuition-free public charter school that offers concurrent-enrollment opportunities. She took full advantage of the program, which meant that when she started at MSU Denver, she had 25 transfer credits toward her degree.
RELATED: Teen with a dream
Baty first student-taught at Gudy Gaskill Elementary and now does so at Euclid Middle School. Her students don’t know her age, she said, because she doesn’t want their perspective of her to change.
“Even the other teachers don’t know my age, which gets awkward when they ask if I want to go grab a beer after school,” Baty said. “I don’t advertise my age, because I don’t want people to treat or see me differently.”
Even though they don’t know her age, her students notice that Baty knows the same slang and memes that they do, she said. Understanding what they find cool or funny helps her build connections, she added.
“One of the most important parts of teaching is building relationships, not just with the students but with the parents, other teachers and administrators,” Baty said. “It shows people I care, which makes teaching, and life, so much more fun and easier to do.”
Baty hopes to substitute-teach in the spring and find a full-time job when the new school year starts in the fall. She also hopes to one day pursue a master’s degree and perhaps perform again once she gets into the swing of things.
“I have time,” Baty said.
That, she certainly does.