By Steve Hanf
Most people who enjoy trips to the beach share a common lament, something along the lines of, “The hardest thing about going to the beach is leaving the beach.” Just when you’ve gotten used to the sunrises and sunsets and crashing waves and salt air, it’s time to start seeing how much sand you can avoid bringing home on your chairs and towels and clothes and how quickly you can adapt to “normal” life.
But what if you never had to leave?
That is the question my wife and I have pondered in the two weeks since job openings on the Outer Banks fell out of the sky and landed in our laps. And as challenging as it will be to relocate our family and jump to new schools in August, we could not resist the allure of living someplace we’ve visited and talked about retiring to in the nearly 17 years we’ve been married.
The biggest negative associated with becoming the newspaper adviser, yearbook adviser and journalism teacher at First Flight High School is leaving Reynolds. In the five years I taught here, I developed great friendships among the faculty and community. And the students – wow. The bonds we developed working together from freshman year to senior year in crazy publications classes were awesome. In case you missed it, I poured out my heart in June about how much I was going to miss the Class of 2015 in a guest column that appeared in the Journal. And the classes of 2016 and 2017 and 2018 are full of students who will be greatly missed as well.
The good news is that RJR had a great journalism program before I got here, and that tradition of excellence will continue to grow. The incoming editors possess incredible talent and vision. And just as the adviser at First Flight was hoping to find an experienced journalism teacher to move in before her sudden retirement, I also don’t want to leave Pine Whispers and Black and Gold in a lurch. To that end, there is an experienced adviser who lives five minutes from RJR but works in Guilford County who has told me for several years how much she wants my job. I have offered her name to Principal Leslie Alexander and hope that she will be hired. Finding people who actually want to teach journalism all day and advise publications isn’t as easy as one might assume.
Even as I write this note, it is hard to believe the words that are appearing. Last fall when I was making a presentation at the Winston-Salem Foundation grants dinner, I mentioned that I wanted to be the RJR adviser for the next 20 years, which led then-Principal Pat Olsen to enthusiastically interject, “Deal!” I have enjoyed seeing the new energy in the building brought by Alexander, whose boundless enthusiasm should have RJR soaring to greater heights immediately. I spent several hours this summer working on a new partnership between Pine Whispers and WFDD 88.5 that would have our students producing stories both for the school and the Triad’s national public radio affiliate. Heck, three weeks ago we spent about $200 on khaki, black, white, dark gray and light gray clothes for our son in anticipation of another year of SMOD at Wiley Middle. The beach, however, is a little too laid back for Standard Mode of Dress.
Despite the incredibly challenging timetable of making all this happen, too many other pieces have fallen into place for this move to not have a “meant to be” feel. A journalism job for me. A science job for my wife. A pet-friendly apartment run by Dare County Schools that can offer us low rent and an immediate place to live while we sell this house and look for a new one. Our interview with the principal at First Flight lasted nearly four hours and we were awestruck with the possibilities ahead of us.
The price of starting over, of course, is bidding farewell to someplace else. I hope colleagues and some of my recent graduates will look me up on their summer trips so we can catch up. I’ll still be on Twitter @MisterHanf and will be keeping tabs on my former students and teaching friends and publications on their Twitter feeds. RJR will be greatly missed as my family takes flight to the birthplace of modern aviation … and the sunrises and sunsets and sand and surf.