Madeira teacher retires after 35-year run

By Regina Villiers.  Originally published November 9, 2005 in The Suburban Life, added May 13, 2015

Long before he retired, Jay Hanson built stone walls by his driveway.

Long before he retired, Jay Hanson built stone walls by his driveway.

When the 2005-2006 school year for Madeira High School opened in late August something important was missing.

Jay Hanson was not there.

He retired in June after a 35-year run of teaching American government.  He just took his 35 years’ worth of accumulated political memorabilia displayed on his classroom walls and he went home.

I always promised Jay I’d write about him when he retired, but it was an idle threat.  I never thought he would, and the years slipped by.

I “just looked around, and he was gone,” like Abraham, Martin and John.

Jay and I go way back.  He’s a local boy who made good.  He grew up on my street, three houses from where I live.

Every day I walk by a tree that he says he brought home from school on Arbor Day when he was in kindergarten.

Jay was a remarkable teacher, and he had a remarkable career.  I’ve been around teachers all my life, and in my opinion he was one of the best ever to stand before a class.

He started out teaching in Philadelphia, but came to Madeira High School in 1970.

He first came there to teach American literature, but after getting his graduate degree in political science at University of Cincinnati he switched to teaching American Government and found his niche for life.

No one else could have ever done it better.

There are teachers who are popular with students, and there are tough teachers.  He was both.

Kids loved Jay Hanson’s classes, his sense of humor, his flair.  But if kids thought they’d lean against the wall in the back row, regale themselves and end up with an easy passing grade they were in for a shock.

Just ask my son.  Kelly grew up to be a successful sportswriter.

He almost didn’t graduate from high school, ‘til he learned he’d have to buckle down and work in American government class.

Today, he has a work ethic.  Today, he’ll tell you his work ethic came from Jay Hanson, and that Mr. Hanson is his all-time favorite teacher.

Most of his former students revere and respect Jay Hanson.  Just listing the names of those who wrote him when he retired would more than fill a column.

Messages poured in from across the country and at least one from Iraq.

He says he doesn’t miss school. Life is full.  This summer, he built a wall, hiked and built hiking trails.  He plans more of that.

He’s an intellectual.  He studies.  He reads.  He might write a book.

He’s surrounded by family activities.  Son Ben is a junior at Madeira High School.  Daughter Claire is a junior at University of Maryland.  Daughter Heather has graduated from college and lives in Dayton.  Wife Sue still works downtown every day.

So on any mid-morning you may find Jay planning dinner, Swiss steak for example.