Hazel Haley, a dear friend of mine for many years, will retire from her 69-year teaching career at the end of this school year.
Nearing her ninetieth birthday, Miss Haley prefers to be called Hazel by adults, even those who, like me, are decades her junior. Beyond her teaching skills, Hazel understands and connects with teenage students -- her "children," as she calls them -- on every level except their music.
Hazel Haley has been teaching in the same room, No. 106, since 1952. That year, Lakeland High moved to what Haley still calls "the new campus" on Hollingsworth Road. [....]During her career, the school has moved, teachers and principals have come and gone, teaching styles have changed. But there are constants in the hopes and insecurities and dreams of the students she calls "my children."
Haley didn't set out to become Florida's oldest and longest-serving teacher. She's probably the nation's oldest, too, but the federal Department of Education doesn't keep track of that record.
Haley taught through World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, segregation and integration, typewriters and word processors to the emergence of the internet. (Lakeland Ledger)
"I've seen a million changes, but as far as young people are concerned, deep down inside they haven't changed," she said. "The things that were special about them when I first started are still special." (CNN, 2002)Among her friends, Hazel still refers to herself as "the resident liberal" on the Lakeland High School campus. When she closes the door to Room 6 for the last time this year, may she continue to do all those "liberal" things that bring her happiness, keep her young, and make her an inspiration.
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Update: April 30, 2006 Ledger special . . .