Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Incredible Seven Decade Teaching Career

This nearly 90-year-old Florida lady has been a classroom teacher for seven decades:
Hazel Haley is retiring after a remarkable teaching career of 69 years. 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.

"I know it's unusual to still be teaching at age 89," she said.

Her official retirement date is June 30, but the school year ends May 23.

She didn't retire after 25, 30 or even 50 or 60 years because she loves her job. She still does.

But Haley, who earns a salary of $50,300, entered the state's deferred retirement program in 1999. The governor signed legislation in 2003 to prolong the careers of teachers who, like Haley, were supposed to retire that year. The legislation allowed DROP teachers to serve for another three years.

Now, the three years are up.

Haley said she's going to leave her classroom as is on her last day, taking only her umbrella, the British Union Jack flag and a bright pink teddy bear.

"The next person who has this room can deal with this stuff," she said.

As a retiree, Haley said she'll concentrate on volunteering and, perhaps, travel a bit.

She won't dwell on her former students or come back to the school, because that's a door that will close, she said.

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. Some years back, the district painted her room pale pink, Haley's favorite color. Most teachers don't get to choose their room color, but Hazel Haley is not just another teacher.

In recognition of her remarkable career, the School District in 1984 named the wing where her room is located the Hazel H. Haley Building. By that time, Haley already had taught at Lakeland High for 44 years -- just the beginning, as it turned out.
There much great reading to be had in the whole piece.

I think that it is highly likely that Ms. Haley is the last working teacher known to have been teaching in pre-World War II America. As such, her retirement will mark the end of an era.

We wish her a happy retirement and hope that she gets to do some of that traveling of which she spoke.

In tribute to her nearly 70 years of service to her students and parents, we humbly offer Ms. Haley our Red Apple Salute.
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