Hannah Hindt had her priorities in order — teaching came first. Everything else came second.
The first-grade teacher at Washburn Elementary in Bloomington died June 12, just a month after learning she had pancreatic cancer. She was 40, with two children of her own and classrooms full of former pupils.
“She loved the kids,” said her husband, Dean Hindt, of Bloomington. “She loved to make sure that everybody was learning.”
Earlier this year, Hannah Hindt began feeling stomach pain, which accelerated around Easter, said her sister Hilary Kirikov, of Madison, Wis. She said doctors initially told Hindt she had a stomach infection. After a month of antibiotics gave no relief, a scan revealed tumors.
“She wanted so badly to finish out the school year, but the symptoms came on so quickly,” said her mother, Bonnie Sherman, of Hopkins.
Not being able to stay and teach crushed Hindt most of all, family members said.
Gina Schroder, a first-grade teacher at Washburn, noted that Hindt died the day after school closed for the summer.
“In my heart of hearts, I do believe she did finish the year,” Schroder said.
Hindt was born on Aug. 27, 1973, in Beach, N.D., and grew up in Minot, N.D. Teaching always came naturally to her — evident when playing games with her three sisters and organizing classrooms at Vacation Bible School. She loved playing school and always wanted to be the teacher, Kirikov said.
College was tougher for Hindt, her sister Heidi Sherman said. She was a single mom while earning her education degree at Mankato State University (now called Minnesota State University, Mankato). After graduation, she struggled to find a teaching job, her mother said.
Hindt jumped at a chance to teach kindergarten in Omaha but still itched to live closer to her family in the Twin Cities. She got the job at Washburn in 2003 and married Dean Hindt the same year.
The Hindt home is just two blocks from Washburn — it was important to Hindt to live in the same neighborhood she taught in — but she would never walk to school. She was always carrying too many supplies for her students, her husband said.
In the classroom, Hindt was patient and understanding, but strong so her students “knew she meant business,” said April Gott-Walker, who teaches English as a Second Language at Washburn and worked frequently with Hindt.
Some of Hindt’s proudest moments were getting her students reading at grade level, her husband said.
“Unlocking that little key in a child’s mind when they learn how to read — she was so good at that,” said her sister Heather Fokken, of northeast Minneapolis.
The Bloomington School District came together upon hearing of Hindt’s diagnosis. A Facebook page titled “Hannah Strong” was filled with photos of Hindt and motivational sayings. On the last day of school, teachers — many of whom Hindt had never met — sported purple, the color supporting pancreatic cancer. About 1,200 attended a memorial walk for Hindt on June 14; profits went to her family.
“Hannah was just extraordinary, because she cared about other people’s children as she cared about her own, which is what I think parents hope for when they send their children to first grade,” Heidi Sherman said.
Two days after she died, the Hindt front yard shined with a large memorial of purple flags planted by walkers, fluttering during the rainy weekend. It was only appropriate, her husband said, because Hindt loved storms.
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