Carmen Hanson’s desire to be a high school Spanish teacher stems from being an avid learner herself.

“My grandmother used to teach [Spanish] because my mother home schooled us initially,”Hanson said. “My dad said, ‘Do what you want, but they have to learn Spanish,’ and so my grandmother learned it so that she could teach us. At that time, I was in elementary school, and I was not the most serious student in the world, and it didn’t make a huge impression on me, but I did it for years, and as time went on, I found out, ‘Oh! I really like this!’ especially learning it in high school and I think that I would like to teach it to other kids some day.”

Hanson, 17, is the daughter of Jerad and Leigh Hanson, and The Herald’s Elite Scholar for Ottawa High School in 2017. While she was taught at home until eighth grade, Hanson then began virtual school until 10th grade, where she then transferred to OHS. The transition, she said, wasn’t too hard, but there was one challenge.

“I wasn’t used to being on a schedule,” Hanson said.

If her dad was working in the evening, they’d do school in the morning so that they’d be finished by the time he came home, or vice versa. Hanson is a part of two youth groups — at Grace Gospel, and Blue Valley Baptist Church in Olathe.

“I’ve obviously grown up in that kind of environment, so a lot of my friends have come from church and youth group,” she said. “Also, especially now that I’m a part of [both], we do a lot of service things together.”

Hanson, who also has a GPA of 3.6, is a member of Scholar’s bowl, a soccer player and also enjoys knitting and embroidery. She also referees soccer and is a babysitter. The College of the Ozarks near Branson, Missouri, is Hanson’s destination in the fall to study secondary Spanish education.

“They have you work for your tuition,” she said. “It’s a full scholarship. They have so many different places to work, it’s really, really amazing. We went and visited there, and you’re getting all kinds of work experience, from everything from landscaping to working in a dairy barn to being a waiter.”

While she said she was worried about going off to a new place for higher education, she felt more at ease after meeting some of the students and residents, who were “the nicest people you’ll ever meet,” she said.

“I’m very excited about it,” Hanson said.

Her biggest accomplishment so far is graduating high school.

“That’s probably a little cliche, but I mean it is the one thing in my life that basically everything leads up to,” Hanson said. “Everyone’s like, ‘You gotta graduate high school so you can go to college and learn what you want to learn so you can do what you want to do.’”

Susan Welte is a Herald staff writer. Email her at