We’re spending 2022 highlighting local teachers, and this month we spoke to Bill Hazy, a biology teacher at Kent Island High School. We got to learn a little bit more about why Bill became a teacher, his involvement in Plastic Free QAC and more.
What is your educational background?
I grew up about 45 minutes north of Pittsburgh in a town called Beaver. I graduated from there, then went on to study for my BS at the University of Pittsburgh where I majored in Biology and minored in Theater. I took a few gap years where I managed the Urban Outfitters in Pittsburgh, but then decided I missed education and went back to the University of Pittsburgh where I got my Master of Arts in Teaching with a specialty in high school science education.
What drew you to teaching biology?
My senior year AP Biology teacher, Mrs. Madden. She was absolutely amazing and taught me so many things that I still use today. Eighteen years later, I can still remember her jokes, explanations, and how she always was able to keep everything so upbeat and exciting… even the most boring topics. Other than that, I’d always been fascinated by evolution and took as many classes as I could in college about it and have some really great memories about the things we learned at Pitt in the upper level bio classes.
I understand you were recently involved in Plastic Free QAC’s Rethink the Straw campaign; could you tell me a little bit about the campaign and your involvement?
The campaign itself is something that I feel strongly about. There’s a lot of single-use plastic items that aren’t as necessary as we like to think they are. Considering that most of these plastic items take hundreds of years to degrade and we only use them for a few minutes, I think it’s a good starting point. My involvement has been a lot less than you may be giving me credit for. I have been working with Jenny Vedrani and Sara Shelley who are on the board for Plastic Free QAC, and they mentioned how much they’d like to get high school students involved. Being that I teach AP Environmental Science and am one of the NHS co-advisers, I told them that I’m sure I have some kids who would be passionate about helping them. This is where Reese Delp and Kelsie Hart came into the picture. They volunteered to help out with the project and really helped it to become, what I think, is a huge success. I’m really excited to see where the partnership with Plastic Free QAC goes in the future as I think there’s a growing push from the kids to do more and be more involved in the sustainability of the local ecosystem.
What are some aspects of teaching you find difficult? What about aspects you find rewarding?
I’ll start with what I consider to be the most rewarding. It’s simple… getting to work with the kids every day and helping them develop into the leaders and people they become. Nothing makes me happier than hearing about their successes or when I hear back from my kids after graduating and finding out all the amazing things they’ve done or are doing now. I know some of them think I’m just blowing smoke, but I tell them all the time that I can’t wait to see what they do in the future. As far as the most difficult… it’s just finding the time to get everything done. There’s always something more I can do, and it’s difficult to find where to draw the line. My wife and I have a five year old, and he, of course, always wants as much attention as we can give him, so it’s really hard sometimes to try to balance family life with things I need to do, things I’d like to do, coaching ice hockey, and working with the National Honor Society and Debate Club.
Was there a teacher you had in school that left a big impact on you?
I had a bunch! I think I can remember every teacher I ever had going back to kindergarten, but the ones who I will say shaped me the most are: my 7th and 8th grade social studies teacher, Mr. Steele; my 10th-12th grade journalism teacher; my 11th grade AP English teacher Mr. Kissick; my 12th grade AP Biology teacher; and, the aforementioned Mrs. Madden. Mr. Steele was the first really fun teacher I had. He was sarcastic and silly, but was really into history and teaching his students about history. I looked forward to going into his room every day for two school years. He was the first one who made me consider teaching as a future career. Mr. Kissick was the first teacher who I felt I really connected with on a personal level. He liked the same kind of music that I did, and we frequently talked about music, exchanged CDs (yah, it was that long ago!), and even played music together a few times. He also did a lot of really cool in-class stuff that I use with my students today. Finally, Mrs. Madden is who gave me the passion for biology. I love how much effort she put into everything that she did and really appreciate her instilling that passion in me.
When you’re not teaching, how do you spend your time?
There’s so many things… my wife always says I’m interested in everything. I spend a lot of time with my wife, Sara and son Kaiden. We also have our own personal zoo at home; two dogs, two cats, and two rats. So… there’s always animal and child-related things going on in our house. In particular, we like to go down to the beach and go for walks. Kaiden’s become quite an explorer and likes to ask all sorts of questions about nature and what’s going on outside, so I of course love that. We go to a lot of zoos, museums, parks, etc. Anything to get us talking and learn more about what’s happening around us. When I’m alone, I watch sports all the time. Being from Pittsburgh, I love football, especially the Steelers. My biggest sport passion, though, is ice hockey. I’m an assistant coach for the Kent Island team, and have been a Penguins fan since I was five years old. I love hockey. When I have the time, I like to read and play video games as well. I’m pretty easy to keep entertained!