February 22, 2006

Hazel will retire this year

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. [....]

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)
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."
"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.

Other articles . . .

Update: April 30, 2006 Ledger special . . .


MadMustard said...

This is a wonderful story about a very remarkable woman. The accounts of the respect from her students warm the heart. Surely, it is a case of mutual admiration.

I wish that I could have had a teacher like Hazel.

Wish her a happy retirement and tell her thanks, for the children’s sake.

aikane said...

She is definitely one of a kind. I think it's her attitude toward life and the goodness within her heart that keep her from dwelling on whatever issues confront her. Age is not an issue because her mind is still young and her heart remains optimistic.

Hazel has seen the world, but in recent years returns to England every summer, rooming within walking distance of the London theatres.

Many of her winter holidays are spent cruising the Hawaiian Islands. I share her love of Hawai'i, and have saved all the scenic calendars she brings me. One of them is hanging on the wall behind the computer desk now -- a gorgeous Lanakai sunrise. That's the thoughtfulness of Hazel.

As you may have noticed, my blog name is Aikane Leo, roughly interpreted, voice of a friend.

Anonymous said...

Aikane Leo, what a beautiful site you have for such a precious human being--Hazel Haley. Hazel taught my husband--he is 76--& claims he was always her "favorite." Please keep spreading the word for THE VOTE--it ends Monday, 4/17 at 2:00 pm.
An HHH Admirer

aikane said...

Dear Anonymous, thank you for the kind words about the blog. My regards to you and your husband. I have emailed lots of friends and family to vote for Hazel. The world is a better place because of her.

bgreg said...

('71) In one of Hazel's memorable lectures she stated she loved her work and asserted that whe would work until they "rolled her out of the school". I rolled my eyes, smirked and my mental reation was...yeh right!

Looking back, that moment was just slightly over half her career life. As for myself and my class peers, most of us are just now planning for our retirements from one, or more, careers within the next decade.

Not knowing the full details of her retirement perhaps she was quite right and was "rolled out of there". Regardless, I am hearted that she gets the last laugh and it is clear she followed her heart and followed thru with her joyous committment. Only if we all had what it takes to do that.

aikane said...

bgreg, I agree with you. I just hope to be alive and healthy at 90! Retiring young will remain my "joyous commitment," though. :-)

I believe there's something planned for her next Sunday afternoon (just think of all those thank-you notes!). If you're in Lakeland, maybe I'll see you there.