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What kept this middle school music teacher on the job for 35 years?

Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy
Contributing Writer

Robin Hazlett of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, says she has known she wanted to be a music teacher since the 9th grade, when she was a student at Drexel Hill Middle School. By high school, Hazlett discovered that playing music was a way to participate and be a part of theatre performances without having to be up on stage, but still getting to experience the magic of live musical theatre.

Fast forward to the present, and Hazlett has combined all these revelations into a dedicated career at the very school where she first was inspired to become an educator: Hazlett has been the music teacher at Drexel Hill Middle School for 35 years now. After four decades as a music educator at the school — where she’s had the privilege of teaching multiple generations within given families — she’s finally hanging up her hat and thinking back on what it was that kept her so committed to her work for so long.

“It’s many hours of work, but it’s a lot of fun,” Hazlett says of her work producing and directing the annual school musical. “It’s just been magical to watch. It’s been so rewarding to look in these faces … and see the excitement of opening curtain. It’s a great joy to bring that to kids.”

Which is why the work is also so hard to walk away from now, she says.

“When it’s time for the last curtain of the last day of the last show, I will be a mess. I know I will be crying. Because it is such a part of me — this school and these kids and doing a show. It’s part of my personality. It’s part of who I am …. I’m probably going to have a little difficulty figuring out who I am without this piece that is a big part of my life.”

Hazlett also explains that another big part of her life — and her life’s work — is positivity and joy.

“I’ve always tried to stay positive with my students,” she says. “And especially in this time when a lot of them need positive things in their life, it’s just the key to success — for my classroom — is laughter and fun.”

And her advice to her own students on how to build long-standing, committed careers like her own? It’s simple: Keep searching until you “find what you love.”

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