March 12th, 2020
Meet Heidi Colonna, featured in our March 2020 Teachers’ Humane Education Newsletter as our “Teacher Feature.” Heidi is a contributing writer for Kind News magazine and a full-time teacher.
1. What’s your professional background? How did you get into teaching?
When I directed student outreach for The Humane Society of the United States, I interacted with a lot of teachers who were bringing humane education into their classrooms. My college background was animal science and public policy, but I remember telling one of our National KIND Teacher of the Year award winners that she made me want to be a teacher. After my first son, Kevin was born, I decided the travel involved with working for a national organization was too much—I hated being away from him for too long! I decided that classroom teaching was the next best career. Over the next 8 years, I got my Massachusetts teaching licenses in Middle School Science and Humanities, started substitute teaching, and volunteered at my son’s preschool through grade 12 Catholic school. I was offered the 6th-grade homeroom/6-8th grade social studies and religion position the year he came into 6th grade!
2. What do you enjoy most about teaching?
Unlike national outreach work, being in the classroom lets me get to know individual students over the years and see their progress. I can use the critical thinking piece from my humane education work in talking about broader social issues. I particularly enjoy talking with kids about faith.
Any time I can bring animals into the curriculum, I’m thrilled. My favorite annual project is a study on Pope Francis’ 2015 Encyclical letter to bishops on care for the environment and animals. We sculpt animals out of clay, and students write about how Pope Francis would want them to protect their animal of choice.
3. How did you get involved with writing for Kind News magazine? What do you most enjoy about writing for Kind News?
Kind News and I go way back! I first held it in my hands in 1998 on a visit to The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) youth division in Connecticut, where it was first published. I was a graduate student and came to speak about humane-themed children’s literature. I remember being so excited that there was a publication just for kids all about kindness and respect for animals. I wanted so badly to work with The HSUS. Several years later, I got a communications job promoting Kind News, but I always wanted to write for it. My job involved writing for other publications, which led to side-jobs as a freelancer. When my second son was born, I gave up freelancing, but it gave me the writing experience I needed. A few years later, the magazine moved to RedRover. Twenty years after “meeting” Kind News, I finally got to help create this great little magazine with a big heart.
The hero and rescue stories I started out with always left me full of positivity and excitement. I’d finish them and want to tell the whole world about them. Now, my focus has shifted to feature stories that involve more research. I get to keep learning and talk with people in all corners of the world who are making a difference for animals. I even got to interview an NFL player! They’ve all had profound messages about kindness that young people need to hear, and it’s an honor to help communicate them to our readers.
4. What’s one interesting thing you’d like people to know about you?
When it comes to helping an animal, I don’t discriminate. My rescues have included a dehydrated bat, a large Black Snake who was very badly tangled in garden netting, and a million insects. I started saving bugs from my friend’s pool when I was 10. Last summer I had a bug drying off on each finger. Even an entomologist told me that’s an unusual thing to do, but watching them fly away gives me the best feeling.