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Outdoor Education Center teacher retiring

May 26, 2008|By JANET HEIM

CLEAR SPRING - Ed Hazlett is more comfortable blending in with the setting of his school than he is being in the limelight. As head teacher of Fairview Outdoor Education Center for the past six years, he said he has thrived in the outdoor setting even more than the students.

Hazlett, 63, will be retiring at the end of May, leaving the school in the hands of new head teacher Tim Abe. Hazlett taught in Montgomery County schools before retiring after 35 years, with 20 years in the classroom and 15 years in outdoor education.

Following his first retirement, Hazlett, who lives with his wife Susan in Frederick, said he had planned to go into real estate and had even sold his first house. Then he read in a newspaper how Fairview was eliminating the principal's position and bringing in a fourth teacher as head teacher.

"I thought,'What a cool job.' I bluffed my way through some interviews and got the job," Hazlett said, with his usual self-deprecating humor.

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Hazlett is a strong believer in the power of outdoor education and said there are test scores to back it up. All Washington County fifth-graders - about 1,500 students - spend close to a week of instructional time at Fairview, staying overnight while there.

The first year the science portion of the Maryland State Assessments were given, two-thirds of Washington County fifth-graders had completed their instructional time at Fairview, while one-third had not. The students who had been to Fairview scored 20 percent higher on the MSA than those who had not yet been there.

Hazlett said the greatest reward of outdoor education for him is seeing "the light bulb go on" almost daily, where in a classroom setting, he saw it only occasionally.

"You get to watch the joy of learning," said Hazlett, who has two adult sons.

During the school year, student groups other than fifth-graders also go to Fairview for instructional time. In the summer, Fairview is one of 16 sites for the Maryland Summer Center, a program for gifted and talented students. Three years ago, it joined with the county's summer school program to allow Title 1 students one week at Fairview during the five-week program.

He said he's comfortable retiring because the outdoor school has a strong staff and the program is solid. He feels it's probably the best program in the state, in large part because it is valued by the Washington County Board of Education and county residents.

As one of four teachers, with three custodians, a secretary, a nurse and a cook, Hazlett said the staff feels like family, and it will be hard to leave.

"I'm a very small piece of the pie. Fairview's been open 30 years. All those years, all those people and the time they've invested it's true of every school is a product of the people who have been there since," Hazlett said.

Hazlett, who grew up near Pittsburgh, is an avid Steelers and Penguins fan. He enjoys cycling, kayaking and collecting antique artwork at auctions.

"This isn't really work. This is fun," Hazlett said. "I've been blessed. I really have. For 45 years, I've had the best job in the world."

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