Legendary teacher retires from South Summit
May 20, 2014
On Chip Hayes’ first day as a teacher, he took the time to write his name neatly on the chalkboard. A student named Tim Nirenberger walked into the classroom, looked him in the eyes and said, "You’re not going to teach me a thing this year, so don’t every try."
Hayes survived his "initiation" and went on to teach for 11 years in the Weber School District and 27 more years in the South Summit School District. His first career plan, however, did not include teaching.
During his senior year of undergraduate studies at Brigham Young University, Hayes took the Law School Aptitude Test and was accepted into BYU’s new law school. A friend offered Hayes a free breakfast if he joined him for his early morning educational studies class.
"You might call it dumb luck, but I call it blessings from heaven," Hayes said. "I just love the kids, and I love what I do. Thirty-eight years of this has been a true blessing for me."
The two professors of the educational studies class allowed Hayes to participate in the "Provo Project," which means he taught at a local junior high school for a semester and received 21 hours of class credit toward becoming a teacher. Hayes then received a master’s degree from a Utah State University, Weber State University and University of Denver joint program.
He started as a junior high teacher in the Weber School District, took three years off to help his parents in his home state of Idaho and returned to Utah to a job at the high school in the South Summit School District. Now he teaches eighth-grade U.S. History and Life Skills classes.
Hayes said he has the most fun teaching the slavery unit of his U.S. History class, making his students watch the film "Gettysburg" and then run up and down the hall with a real iron ball and chain around their ankles.
He also has a Civil War bayonet, bullets soldiers bit on while suffering a limb amputation during the war and a blood-letting device like the one President George Washington used to try to cure his pneumonia.
Although Hayes uses several relics of days past to teach his students, South Summit Middle School Principal Wade Woolstenhulme said he also embraces the future by using cutting-edge technology.
"Three years ago, he asked me for a Smart Board," Woolstenhulme said. "It was surprising, because you don’t see a lot of people who have taught as long as he has that embrace the new technology. He wants to do whatever it takes to teach the kids."
Hayes admitted he shared a common fear with most teachers of the introduction of technology in the classroom over the last decade, but it wouldn’t be possible for his students to learn how to write well-developed research papers without access to the Internet in class. At the end of the year, Woolstenhulme said Hayes awards the student with the best research paper with $100 out of his own pocket.
"He doesn’t ask for a stipend from the district to pay for that; it is his own money," Woolstenhulme said. "He does that all the time, rewards his students for a right answer in class with a $10 bill, and it’s always his money. He just loves what he does."
Hayes said every year he hopes not only to teach his students a love of what the country has gone through to give them what they have now but also the discipline and will to work. Most importantly, he said, he strives to teach his students they are all good people in their own special ways.
"I share with the students in my life skills class that when I was a fifth-grader, I was the Goodyear blimp with legs, so I have heard every fat joke in the book. I just want them to know how to cope with life and with bullies and that they can make it through," Hayes said. "I mean, we’ve had suicides in this district, and it just tears me up that a kid would become that dark and gloomy that he feels that is the only option."
Hayes said he does his best to make sure every child in his class feels loved and happy and doesn’t fall behind. While he is sad to leave his kids, though, he said he will be leaving them in good hands. Tressa Stevens was a BYU student teacher who taught with him for four months. She won over Hayes and Wooolstenhulme as well as the students and will take over Hayes’ role.
"I’m happy for [Hayes], because he is ending his career on a good note, but he will be missed," Woolstenhulme said. "I’m just sad for the students who won’t get to have him as a teacher."
Hayes said he will join his wife in retirement and is glad to have been able to work in a district like South Summit.
"It’s been amazing and wonderful," Hayes said. "I could not have asked for a better district to teach in anywhere else in the world than here."