As a kindergarten teacher at Peterstown Elementary School, John “Darrel” Hazelwood said he is always amazed at the new and creative ideas teachers bring to the students of West Virginia to help them succeed.
“We have innovative professionals who are thinking outside the box on the best ways to meet the needs of our students,” Hazelwood said. “The faculty and staff in our state show how much they care and value our students. The most obvious example was making sure that our students were fed during the pandemic. I’ve seen many teachers and service personnel go out of their way to make sure that not only are academic needs being met, but also social and emotional needs.”
Since fall 2009, Mr. Hazelwood has been a part of the Monroe County education community, where he says he has always been surrounded by incredible teachers. When choosing to pursue a career in education, he said he looked to his family tree, which is rich with former educators.
“I chose to teach because I was surrounded by amazing teachers throughout the school that instilled in me a love for learning. In middle school, I was a part of an afterschool tutoring group. I realized I was meant to be a teacher as I enjoyed watching any student that I tutored begin to understand whatever they were working on for that day. I would also say that it is genetic. My great grandmother, Flossie Clark Hazelwood, and my mother, Mary Alice Atkins Hazelwood, were both teachers. My grandmother, Lucy Blanche Dent Atkins, also taught her younger brother to read.”
When asked about memories that stick out during his time as a teacher, Mr. Hazelwood said there is one memory in particular that reminds him he’s chosen the right profession.
“As part of a technology project, fourth-grade students would be asked to type a letter to a favorite teacher. I have received several letters throughout the years from former students who would talk about some of the things we did and that they enjoyed being in my classroom. I keep these letters in a file and pull them out now and then as a reminder of the difference that we, as teachers, can make in the daily lives of our students.”
An advocate for literacy and laughter in the classroom, Mr. Hazelwood said his favorite aspect of his job is when he can see his students growing and learning.
“I love to see the progression from the beginning of the year to the end of the year, especially when it comes to being able to read. I also really enjoy any time that I can get my students to laugh. One thing that always sets off a ton of giggles is ‘The Book With No Pictures’ by B.J. Novak. Primary teachers, if you haven’t read this book, go get a copy today!”
When Mr. Hazelwood isn’t busy in the classroom, his favorite hobbies include swimming, tennis, reading, and acting on stage.