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6/10/2013 6:00:00 AM
Retiring Kingman teacher has seen 45 years of changes
Nixon was in the White House when teacher first set foot in Kingman classroom
Wes Hawkins, who is retiring after 45 years in Kingman classrooms, shows one of his sand paintings.KIM STEELE/Miner
Wes Hawkins, who is retiring after 45 years in Kingman classrooms, shows one of his sand paintings.

Kim Steele
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN -Wes Hawkins has seen a world of change in the 45 years he's been teaching in the Kingman Unified School District.

Hawkins, who retired in May from White Cliffs Middle School, said the biggest change has been dealing with society's growing influence on the educational process. Students, teachers and the district have needed to adapt together over the years to meet the challenges of merging society and education while still attaining required goals.

"In the early days of my career, thinking outside of the box wasn't part of society," said Hawkins, 72. "I had word problems I used that worked when I was teaching eighth grade back then, and I can't use them today because the students don't understand them. So I had to come up with a different type of puzzle that had more humor and was more relative to society. It's all about their world. Students are connected to society and what goes on around them."

Hawkins, who started his career teaching math and science at Kingman Middle School and ended it at White Cliffs Middle School, said that as a new teacher, he came straight off the farm and didn't know what was happening in the world around him. But as the years went by, he noticed that some of his teaching methods weren't working. So he experimented and came up with something new that incorporated humor and was more relative to students who watch irreverent television shows like the Disney Channel's "Jessie" and "Austin & Ally."

Enter Hawkins' work sheets that allow students to team up and match answers to irreverent statements. There's "You might be homeless if..." and responses like "Your _____ has four wheels" (answer: house) and "Your _____ is a cop's flashlight" (answer: night light) and "Your ____ is done every time it rains" (answer: laundry). And there's the worksheet "You might be old if..." with similar responses like "You brush your hair with a ____" (answer: toothbrush) and "You think ____ means no volleyball" (answer: the 'net is down) and "You think a ____ is a board in a wall" (answer: stud).

Hawkins said the worksheets and other changes he's made are the result of society's focus on quick bites of entertainment and information. Hawkins said the rise of the Internet has changed students' lives and how they view the world around them, and not all for the good. For instance, he said, they find it difficult to connect their ultimate career with the steps necessary to get them to it, such as a college education or military service.


"Students today don't pursue excellence," said Hawkins. "They used to seek knowledge about the world, and today they don't pursue it for the sake of knowledge. They believe the Internet is all-encompassing, and they only want an answer to what the question is before them. Not only in the field of education, but in life. They don't connect with where they want to be and how they can get there."

Hawkins, who moved here in 1969 and is originally from Santa Rosa, Calif., also taught math at Black Mountain School in Golden Valley, math and science at Kingman High School and was assistant principal at Palo Christi Elementary School. He graduated from Arizona Western College in Yuma and Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

Also a coach during his teaching career, Hawkins played baseball and football at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and tried out for the Chicago Bears and Oakland Raiders but didn't make the teams.

Hawkins said student discipline has changed over the years, from regimented to unstructured as society has morphed. Hawkins said that many of today's political, business and entertainment leaders, held up as mentors and role models, have ultimately fallen. That has caused society to loosen its expectations of all behavior, leaving students confused about how they should act. Hawkins said teachers and administrators have been forced to adjust to that change to reach their charges.

Loose structure

"Classes aren't structured like they used to be," said Hawkins. "Today's teacher has to be more knowledgeable and capable of dealing with today's students. There's structure, but it's loosely applied. Teachers have the lesson and content in front but they have to work through the student problems as they come along. Teachers today need to have subject knowledge but also flexibility and varied teaching techniques. On any given day, they will be challenged and have to make adjustments for behavior and what is being dictated by the group."

Time for hobbies

As for retirement, Hawkins said he is looking forward to being away from the educational environment with its challenging issues and enjoying some of his hobbies. He plans to work on his piano-playing skills and travel the United States with his wife, Cris, with their travel trailer and Harley-Davidson motorcycle, visiting with their 16 grandchildren and seeing the country.

Hawkins also plans to pursue his artwork, which consists of Native American sand painting on canvas instead of wood. Hawkins, who has been creating them for 15 years, uses geometric designs and varying colors to produce art that resembles Native American rugs and has been displayed in various locations.

"The last couple years of teaching for me have been a little challenging for me," said Hawkins. "I have adjusted as society has changed. But we all have a basic premise of who we are and what we're about. There are some things I won't change because it's not in the best interest of the students. I have maintained who I am and the students have respected that. Now it's time for me to move on to something else."

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Article comment by: A K

I am glad to see that he is finally retiring. It is well deserved. He was my favorite math teacher and I grew up to love math because of him. So many students to come will miss out on his humor and math expertise.

Posted: Monday, July 1, 2013
Article comment by: Sharon (Wood/Harms) Meisch

Just have to say that Mr. Hawkins was one of my best Teachers. He also taught my boys at Black Mountain!! Enjoy your retirement!!

Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2013
Article comment by: issue a warrant for his arrest .....

don't let him out of town. strap him into the mayor's chair and advise him that it would be in his best interests to take the plea bargain - run this city the way it's supposed to be run. Ho, ho.

Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2013
Article comment by: Ryan Talley

Mr. Hawkins was my 7th grade wood shop teacher, and he was great! Saw him a few times in detention, too!

Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2013
Article comment by: Warren AO

Now here is a man who can - and jolly well should - write a book.

(Yep, another former student.)

Posted: Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Article comment by: Lena Margita

Mr. Hawkins was my 8th grade pre-Alg teacher and that was a while ago. He was a fabulous teacher, made learning fun. and always came into class with enthusiasm. Now - that doesn't mean he wasn't hard. He demanded discipline. But in return - what you gained was so much more. Hope you have a fabulous retirement Mr. Hawkins!

Posted: Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Article comment by: A friend & former collegue

Congrads to you Mr. Hawkins for the many years of teaching! 45 years that is amazing! You truly brought something great to your classroom. Agreed that kids these days, to focused on thier social networks, facebook, twitter, instagram, etc, cell phones, IPODs and the like to even consider putting that down & seek knowledge in learning, in doing the research, studying, reading and being an active participant in life. I remember coming home from school in the 70's, getting homework done, pre computers, sometimes it took all night, the feeling of satisfaction came with the knowing I worked hard, read & researched for answers. The proof was in the grades. If I was lucky to be done before dark I could then go outside & play. We used our imaginations. Made forts, igloos in the winter, put on shows for the neighborhood, circus acts. It was fun. I too am a parent of children hooked to their electronics & it scares me. The dumbing down of our children! Wes, you and Cris enjoy your many travels! God bless!

Posted: Monday, June 10, 2013
Article comment by: Allan Gleason

As every grandparent has said to their children and grandchildren for hundreds of years... "this new generation with their ways will never amount to anything" is probably true yet again! Fortunately, there are always a few survivor children who will move our civilization a few yards more toward our society's goals. As always, most of our children will live out their lives in not too painful mediocrity. Fortunately society does not require 100% participation for survival.

Congratulations for surviving and probably enjoying teaching young critters for 45 years! You did your job... and it sounds like you performed it with realistic resilience.

Posted: Monday, June 10, 2013
Article comment by: tina w

This was one of the best teachers I had during my school days. Congrats on your retirement.. Super awesome teacher! wish there were more teachers like him around!!

Posted: Monday, June 10, 2013
Article comment by: Randy Christman

One of the really good teachers that I had for sure. Also, one of the hardest swats I got from a teacher back when discipline was allowed in school. I can honestly say I deserved it and am better off for it. I'm also better off for having Mr. Hawkins as a teacher. Enjoy your retirement!

Posted: Monday, June 10, 2013
Article comment by: Oprah Winfrey

This guy was my freshman math teacher. He did 50 push-ups one handed, just because someone said he couldn't.

Congratulations on retirement.

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