Passing the Torch: Mrs. Hawk

Mrs. Hawk and Dr. Redmond.

By Dr. Redmond

In September, I had the distinct privilege of being chosen as the latest recipient of the torch. Of course, what made this honor so meaningful for me was the fact that I was nominated by Ms. Pankow. Words cannot express the depth of my appreciation for Ms. Pankow as a teacher, colleague, and human being. I am truly inspired by her passion for teaching and her commitment to her students. There have been countless times where I have thought to myself, “I wish I could be half the teacher Sarah is.” I am in awe of Ms. Pankow’s intellect and her uncanny ability to always find the perfect literary reference or quote for any given situation (it truly is an astounding talent that reflects how well-read she is, as well as the power of her memory and the sharpness of her wit). To have earned the respect of someone whom I respect so much is truly a blessing.

As October begins, it is time to pass the torch to another exceptional colleague, Ms. Tracy Hawk. Ms. Hawk embodies everything that the TORCH represents. Tracy always Tries her best. She has put in countless hours of effort — including hours well beyond the regular school day — helping our students. And this goes well beyond staying after school to proctor or provide additional instruction. For example, Ms. Hawk traveled to Cambodia and spent time visiting various sites associated with the Cambodian genocide. She did so because she is a lifelong learner dedicated to deepening her understanding of the content that she teaches. In addition, she found time in her already busy schedule to come speak to my Human Rights and Genocide studies class about her experience. It was a presentation that neither I nor the students will ever forget. She is dedicated to her profession and is continually trying to be the best educator she can be.

Through her thoughts and actions, Ms. Hawk also shows that Others are important. She chaperones every dance, attends innumerable sporting events, was an advisor for Link Crew, and spearheads the effort to secure gifts for East families during the holiday season. As Ms. Vastola notes, Ms. Hawk “listens to students, helps them manage their workload, sneaks them snacks (because ‘hungry kids can’t learn!’), and takes an interest in what students care about (especially if its College football!)” Ms. Hawk’s compassion and concern for others is embedded in every fiber of her being and knows no bounds.

Ms. Hawk similarly shows Respect for others, or what Ms. Fey-Daly lovingly calls the “Hawk Honey.” She is patiently willing to answer questions about CSE meetings, IEPs, and special education law, no matter how many times we ask. And she always does so with a smile.
Ms. Hawk also Cares for others. As Ms. Fey-Daly has said, “[Ms. Hawk] has taught me how to be a better cheerleader for students who need it … and she makes everyone with whom she teaches better for having done it.” According to Ms. Vastola, “the best thing [Ms. Hawk] ever told me was that our students are ‘someone’s babies’ and … deserve to be treated with the same kindness and respect that you would want your own children to be treated.” No one cares for, or advocates more for, our students than Tracy Hawk.

Finally, Ms. Hawk goes about all that she does with refreshing Honesty. She’s not afraid to admit that she has a weird and unwarranted fear of dental floss. I mean, who would dare to admit such a peculiar phobia? Or there was that time when we took our students to a dinner theater performance of High School Musical during a field trip to Washington, D.C. (yes, it was as legendary, memorable, and terrible as it sounds). When we first arrived, a woman ensconced from head to toe in velvet came on the bus and — without cause or provocation —proceeded to scold our students while screaming about the buffet and the curious absence of straws (I told you it was a weird night). Ms. Hawk confronted this woman (who I was terrified of, and took to calling Cruella DeVelvet), and told her in no uncertain terms that our students were wonderful people who should be addressed in a respectful manner. She did this, of course, with her disarming southern charm (‘Bless Cruella DeVelvet’s heart’).

For all of these reasons, and for so many more, please join me in congratulating the October 2022 Torch Nominee, Ms. Tracy Hawk. Thank you, Ms. Hawk, for making East High such a wonderful place to be as a student and colleague.