HOPE – He intended to stay in teaching for one year… 51 years later, Henry Hale will retire from the Hope Public Schools at the end of the 2021-2022 academic year.
“After that first year, I decided I wanted to teach,” Hale said.
A native of Fulton who attended school through the sixth grade at Fulton Elementary School in the segregated system that did not change until 1969, Hale graduated from Yerger High School, then graduated from Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas, with a degree in animal sciences intending to work in research in Beckville, Md., in 1971.
“The program was phased out,” Hale explained. “They wanted to send me to West Texas.”
Instead, Hale landed in Terra Haute, Indiana, before accepting a position as a science teacher in the Washington Public Schools. Licensed to teach with a principal’s certification, Hale moved to Yerger Middle School to teach Career Development.
Since then, Hale has taught his own children, his granddaughter and any number of Hope and Hempstead County leaders and success stories including Hope Athletics Director Phillip Turner, attorney Blake Montgomery, football standouts Ray Golston and Ronnie Powell, Hope banker Brad Prince, and Yerger Counselor Joyce Smith.
“I had some great students,” Hale quipped. “Phillip Turner, I think of him as family; Blake Montgomery, he was very outstanding; Ray Golston and Joyce Smith, they were some of my first students.”
Hale’s career has been genuinely generational.
“So many have come and gone,” he noted. “I see them and the changes in their lives and I think of the changes they made in me. You see the fruits of your labor.”
Hale has served as mayor of the Town of Fulton for six terms and continues to be active there.
“We have some great projects to finish,” he said.
However, he and his wife, Deborah, anticipate the birth of their first great-grandchild in October; so, traveling is definitely a consideration after retirement for Hale.
“The pandemic had a lot to do with our not being able to do that,” he said.
Hale recognizes his good fortune to have benefitted from change over the years.
“I never dreamed when I walked in that classroom; I was only going to stay one year,” he said. “But, it wasn’t about the pay, I could have made more as a scientist; it was about the things you could do to reach those students.”
Career Development is a course of study that has changed with the times, yet remains true to a fundamental discipline, Hale said… discovering realistic opportunities.
“When I first started, we had to deal with the adjustment to the thinking to show there was more than professional sports, especially for the Black students,” he said. “That wasn’t so much for many of the other students who already had parents or family that were doctors, lawyers, and the like.”
Surprisingly, technology helped to make the point as students became enthralled with video game technology and cell phones.
“It was pulling them away from reality in the same way when they spent most of their time on the phone or playing video games,” Hale said.
Now, many of his students see those technologies as career opportunities, he said.
Hale takes a page from Confucius relative to his career.
“’Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life,’” he notes.
Hale also plans to continue raising livestock, which he calls his “hobby,” once he retires.
“Being active keeps a person going,” he said. “I’m just a hands-on individual. It’s been a great rodeo, but that eight seconds comes to an end.”