Special from The Rowland Hall Gazette
By Sam Galvez, Class of 2016
Rain poured from the sky above the Lincoln Street Campus on September 16, 2015, the day Rowland Hall students heard that Mr. Hayes had died of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, the disease that ended his teaching career in February 2013. Having gotten the news from Emotional Support Counselor Diane Guido, friends in the halls, or the flood of Facebook messages on Peter Hayes’s wall, our seniors expressed silent mourning in his memory. From biology teacher to renowned Rowland Hall figure, Peter Hayes left a legacy in our community and among his students dispersed throughout the world.
Time had passed too quickly for members of the Class of 2016, as it was just yesterday when Mr. Hayes was enthusiastically teaching each of them, as freshmen, to memorize his famous Desert Dozen. “Big Sage! Artemesia tridentata. Sand Sage! Artemesia filifolia,” echoed throughout his classroom on the first day of high school when he prepared students for his iconic ninth grade trip. “That trip was a great experience that helped bond the freshman class in a way it hadn’t bonded before,” commented senior Tyler Macintyre. A memorable experience for many freshmen, the trip punctuated the beginning of high school for our students, not only in their exploration of the natural world of biology, but also in creating and strengthening new friendships.
When he heard of Mr. Hayes’s death while on the trip this year, freshman English teacher Joel Long expressed his appreciation for Mr. Hayes’s legacy: “I heard the news while I was at Camp Roger, and I thought about him the whole time, how he lived his life, how he taught, how dedicated he was to his students.”
Further elucidating Peter Hayes’s legacy, Mr. Long gave a vivid analogy of Mr. Hayes’s teaching career: “At the mouth of the river, the delta goes into the ocean. There is so much power, force, and water behind the river as it goes into the ocean that it spreads out and makes the ocean.” He explained how many of Mr. Hayes’s former students are currently in the “delta,” having gone through college using some of the effective study habits and techniques he taught them. “If you think about it, just at this school with 18 years of students going through, all of his students have gone into the world and used some of the momentum he gave them when they were 14 to 15 years old,” commented Mr. Long. Senior Alessandra Miranda expressed a similar opinion, “A lot of people don't respect the profession of teaching, but Mr. Hayes was a perfect example of how teaching can be a passionate career in caring for the well-being of others.”
Dedication ran through Mr. Hayes’s veins. He taught 1,340 students, graded 100,000 assessments, including 4,000 final exams and 8,000 ERPs (Exam Review Products), and took 1,300 students on his ninth grade trip to Kanab. Today in our main library stands a physical representation of his legacy in a work of art he created that was bought and donated by a school parent in 2013, the year Mr. Hayes left Rowland Hall. The painting shows hundreds of graded works, including exams, re-written notes, and ERPs collaged on canvas with sketched representations of students working in his lab, observing microscopic cells, dissecting animals, and taking notes, all which occurred on a daily basis. Bold letters spelling out “Learning is Work” accentuate the meaning of his artwork.
Posting a picture of his artwork a year ago, Mr. Hayes left a comment on his Facebook fan page: “It took 18 years in the making. Strange how I'd kept all those grade books, never putting much thought into what I was going to do with them once I finally left teaching. When you look at it from afar, you do not know what it is, but once you see all those tens of thousands of tiny hand-written grades...well...there is a moment of impact.” Mr. Hayes then explained how the parents who donated his artwork made clear that his artwork would hang on permanent display in the our school. “As it turns out, I never will actually ‘leave’ the school; I’ll just be sitting there in a different way,” asserted Mr. Hayes.
Greater, though, than a piece of artwork, is the lasting impact Mr. Hayes had on his students. Describing the environment in his classroom, senior Arielle Flynn commented on the authenticity of Mr. Hayes: “His way of teaching was a comedy sketch, bringing laughter into the classroom 45 minutes a day.” The scorpion mating dance, his idiosyncratic voice when reading his biology book, the countless mnemonic memory devices taught in his classroom all formed part of a comical and engaging environment for all his students. After all, Mr. Hayes always taught that the purpose of life is to work hard and have fun.
Class of 2012 alum Chase Kroesche commented about Mr. Hayes in his blog: “For many, the sciences can be daunting, but Mr. Hayes' enthusiasm made every lesson and every quiz memorable and engaging. Even his final exams, though exacting, were a joy to take. All hand-written, his tests were replete with climbing stick figures and detailed drawings of various flora and fauna.” While bringing great fun into his classroom, Mr. Hayes pushed students beyond his subject. Former student body president Zach Levinthal commented: “Mr. Hayes epitomized an unharnessed desire for creativity, passion for learning, and the need to constantly question and push ourselves well beyond what we think we might ever be capable of achieving.” Whether his students pursued biology, English, or history, in the long run, he influenced his students to work hard beyond their capacity.
With a legacy spread as far as the ocean travels, the Rowland Hall community won’t forget Peter Hayes’s long-lasting influence in the lives of his students and colleagues. Describing his legacy at Rowland Hall after his retirement, Mr. Hayes commented to the Salt Lake Tribune, "I love being in the classroom; it's my place. But if I've done one important thing in my life, aside from raising my family, it was to become a teacher and to give to society what I think is the noblest thing anybody could ever do — teach children."
To read Peter's obituary visit the Salt Lake Tribune online. Our love goes to Thi-ly and Lucas. "Mr. Hayes" will be sorely missed.