When Jim Hackwith enrolled as a freshman at the University of Idaho, he planned on becoming an Engineer. But then, his old High School coach at Troy High, Lee Brocke, asked him to substitute for him while he was gone, and the rest of the story is history (or math, drama, and sports in this case). Working with the kids resonated with him and left him wishing he had pursued a degree in teaching. That’s when he switched majors and decided to become a teacher. It took him an extra two years at the University byt the community of Warrenton will forever be grateful.
It couldn’t have been easy to juggle the responsibilities of teaching, coaching sports, 33 years of marriage (and still counting), and raising two kids, but Jim Hackwith managed it all with grace and dedication. Aside from teaching mathematics and drama, he coached basketball, football, volleyball, and even golf. He is a man of many talents with a big heart to match.
Mr. Hackwith saw a lot of changes in schools over the years, and not all were positive. He noticed a lot more single-parent or no-parent households, which impacts the family dynamic and how kids behave in the classroom. At some point, parents began to complain that they couldn’t afford supplies, so it became common to come up with them himself. It may have just been a calculator here or some costumes there, but those items must have added up to a big chunk of change over the years.
He also had to deal with administration changes like a new Principal. Sometimes the changes were good, sometimes he wanted to quit, but he kept at it for the kids. Getting to know the kids one-on-one outside of the classroom was his favorite part of being a teacher. Whether it was his four years of coaching varsity volleyball when they went to State or directing drama productions like The Adams Family or Thoroughly Modern Millie, it was the afterschool activities that brought him the most joy.
Jim believes strongly that hands-on activities are essential for the mental and social health of children. He saw first hand how a student might feel lost in the classroom, but put them in charge of helping with homecoming decorations and their face lights up with confidence. He saw friendships develop, and values learned. It takes a lot more than just showing up to class to be a good teacher. It takes compassion and commitment, traits that are a prominent part of his character.
When asked what advice he might give a new teacher just starting in their career, Jim said, “Be yourself. Don’t try to be the student’s friend. Be their mentor and coach and teach them values. Teach them right and wrong. Be someone they can look up to and confide in.” It obviously worked for him, because his students, parents, and coworkers all adored him and are sorry to see him retire, although we all wish him well.
Jim will now spend his time doing yard work, DIY projects around the home, traveling and volunteering. He said he’s already getting calls about helping out in local theater. He also plays guitar in a local band called Ship of Fools. If you get a chance, track them down and catch a gig.
It’s a shame that due to COVID, Jim Hackwith didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to so many students and colleagues that will miss him. He didn’t particularly enjoy teaching remote classes at the end of the school year. He missed the smiles and eye contact, the personal interaction that goes with being together in person in a classroom. You can’t replicate that kind of energy.
Mr. Hackwith is glad he had already planned to retire at the end of the 2020 school year, but he wishes he could have enjoyed those final hugs and handshakes. Hopefully, as things begin to reopen after the pandemic, you may see him at local youth sports games. If you would like to send your congratulations or let Mr. Hackwith know how much you appreciate all that he did for the students and parents at Warrenton High, you can send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. From all of us at Clatsop News and the entire community of Warrenton, we thank Jim Hackwith for his 34 years of outstanding dedication and teaching at Warrenton High.