• June 4Havre de Grace High School: Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve

Celebrating Mr. Spooner’s 43 Year Legacy

Retiring Havre de Grace legend, Alex Spooner, giving his speech during the 2017 Havre de Grace Graduation Ceremony.

Retiring Havre de Grace legend, Alex Spooner, giving his speech during the 2017 Havre de Grace Graduation Ceremony.

Retiring Havre de Grace legend, Alex Spooner, giving his speech during the 2017 Havre de Grace Graduation Ceremony.

Jade Smith and Katie Klisavage

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At Havre de Grace High School’s graduation on June 2nd, Assistant Principal Brad Spence introduced the commencement speaker with these words, “One of the defining landmarks of the our great city is the Concord Point Lighthouse. Built in 1827, the lighthouse served the town and the lower Susquehanna guiding watermen on to the Chesapeake Bay. Since being decommissioned in 1975, the Lighthouse has become a symbol of our city and a connection to our long and storied past.”

Spence continued, “Like the town, we Warriors have also a keeper of our history and a guiding light for generations of students. This man stands tall as a beacon of education, history and school pride.” He was introducing Alex Spooner, beloved history teacher.  After 43 years, Mr. Spooner will be retiring at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.

Jack of all trades, Master of all  

Alex Spooner’s story at Havre de Grace High School began in 1963, when he was a student there himself. His most vivid memory, he says, is “in 7th grade when John Kennedy was assassinated.” Spooner explains, “I remember leaving the classroom and going into the hall and seeing all these seniors crying their eyes out and being a little 7th grader seeing all these seniors who I think of as adults and they’re crying and it got me all upset and I teared up.”

Over Mr. Spooner’s 43 years of teaching, he has taught at least five thousand students and has had a strong impact on many. Spooner is known for his love of teaching, his immense knowledge, and his endless kindness.

However, Spooner describes his way into teaching as more of an accident.  Spooner admits, “I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, but what I did know that I didn’t want to do was go to Vietnam and fight in the Vietnam War. So one of the ways to stay from being drafted was to go to college, so initially I went to college for that reason.” After beginning college at Harford, Spooner decided to become a teacher. He says, even though he never initially planned to teach, “once I got started I never stopped.”

Mr. Spooner was an active member of the Havre de Grace High School community and was known for always supporting every single team. Spooner said, “I try to get to see every team play once a year. They may not see me, but I see them.”  This year during Boys’ Basketball games, he could always be seen cheering along with the school.

Jared Graybeal, a junior at Havre de Grace this year, talked about the experience of Basketball Games with Mr. Spooner. “He always laughed with us and goofed around until we got carried away. One game he wasn’t there and we started a “We want Spooner” chant.”

Throughout Mr. Spooner’s career he has been involved within Havre de Grace High School in more ways than just teaching. Mr. Spooner has been a coach, club moderator, and even acted as the school’s Athletic Director

During his time at Havre de Grace Mr. Spooner has coached six varsity sports including Boys Basketball, Boys Soccer, Girls Softball, Golf, Tennis, and Cross Country. As a Varsity Head Coach, Mr. Spooner achieved four district championships in basketball and also one in soccer.

In addition to the four district championships that Mr. Spooner helped to earn in Boys Basketball he was also the 1988 Baltimore Evening Sun Coach of the Year for Basketball.

Spooner has been a coach for two state finalist appearances and also two state championship appearances in cross country as a team. Also two golfers earned the right to participate in the state championship while Mr. Spooner was coaching.

Mr. Spooner not only has been a head coach for multiple Varsity Sports he was also the Junior Varsity head coach for Baseball and Boys Soccer. He has also been an assistant coach in Track, Baseball, and JV Football.

Spooner was the Philosophy Club coordinator and has been the Mock Trial Team Coach for many years. Spooner has not only been able to teach students in the classroom but also dedicated his time to teaching them after school through such opportunities like these clubs.

During his 43 years Mr. Spooner has taught over 10 different history courses, including courses like AP World History, Geography, Contemporary Issues, American Government, World History, US History, AP European History, Ancient World History, Modern World History, and his favorite- Russian History.

Spooner has been a curriculum writer and editor for courses in grades 6-11, he is the Social Studies Department Chairman for Havre de Grace, and in 1997 was the Acting Social Studies Supervisor. Mr. Spooner has even won the Middle States Council for the Social Studies Distinguished Service Award.

In addition to his already impressive record as a member of the staff of Havre de Grace High School, Mr. Spooner was the School Improvement Team Chairman, a member of the Eligibility Committee, a facilitator of numerous staff developments, and this year’s Golden Apple Award Winner for Havre de Grace High School.

The accomplishments and achievements of Alex Spooner speak for themselves with his amazing record of dedication to his school and his community. He has taken his role at Havre de Grace High School outside of the classroom and in doing so has made a lasting impact on the school and its students.

Students Remember Spooner’s Influence

Spooner has shaped many young lives over the last 43 years, including students like Jacob Kirby, class of 2015, who feel Spooner has impacted the man he is today. “He helped me while I struggled in his AP World History class, and he taught me a little bit of believing in myself especially when it came to doing the work. From there on I’ve believed in myself a lot more to the point where I’m at today,” Kirby recounted.

James Beck, a 2007 graduate, shared, “When I graduated he gave me a piece of advice, he told me, ‘Do not settle for being good, for that is a waste.’ This has always been a constant reminder to rise above and be excellent. I continue to this day to have this quote in the back of my mind to help drive my ambitions.”

Lucy Brooks, 2016, remembers, “Mr. Spooner was one of my favorite parts of high school. No matter what kind of day I was having it was impossible not to smile when I saw Mr. Spooner… throughout the years, especially in mock trial, Mr. Spooner really taught me that, no matter what, I am worthy and that though I make mistakes, I’m strong enough to pick myself up and push forward. Mr. Spooner was always the person who reminded me that no matter what, as long as you pick yourself back up, nothing else matters.”

2017 graduate Bryce McCown said, “The lesson he taught me was, don’t pick a job because of the money. Do something you can wake up and love to do.”

Having Spooner as a teacher became a family tradition for Havre de Grace families.  McCown added, “I would like to thank him for staying around long enough to teach both me and my mother.”

Bryce’s mother, Trish McCown, class of 1985, confirmed, saying, “I had him as a teacher and so did my brother and sister.”  Mrs. McCown remembers, “students would affectionately call him ‘Spoony G,’ and recounts, “his obvious passion for teaching and working with students.” Mrs. McCown expressed her gratitude for Mr. Spooner, “Thanks for being that one teacher that made you work, but you enjoyed going to class.”

Mr. Spooner even helped students realize their dreams, as current student Megan Lutz shared, “Mr. Spooner has impacted my life in many ways. He showed me how to grow up and do what you want to do in life. Mr. Spooner helped me officially decide to become a teacher when I grow up because of his passion and love for his job.”

Spooner’s passion for his students is evident in the way he discusses them. When discussing the way students have changed over his near half-century tenure as a teacher, he said, “They [students] haven’t changed at all. In 43 years you hear people say, ‘Well, you know, they’re not as respectful today as they used to be,’ and yes they are. They haven’t changed, their goals haven’t changed, and their belief in themselves hasn’t changed.”

Alex Gordon, 2010, spoke fondly of Mr. Spooner, “While you can easily talk about how thoroughly he teaches every student his lesson plan, it’s his connection to his students that puts him above the rest. He takes the time to build a relationship with all of his students because in his mind you’re not just a grade… you’re a person.”

The kind of sentiment that Gordon shares is one that many fellow graduates of Havre de Grace also feel. Olivia Joseph, a 2016 graduate, shared a fond memory of Spooner, “The best part about Mr. Spooner is that Abbi and I came back after we graduated and Mr. Spooner sat and talked to us for over an hour after school one day. He genuinely cares for his students and loves to hear how we are doing, even after graduation. I appreciate him not only as an educator but as a friend.”

Spooner as Master Teacher  

Mr. Spooner has had a large impact on his fellow teachers. He served as a mentor, helper, and friend to many of the members of the HHS staff. His impact is aptly summarized by Kim Schmidt, Social Studies teacher, “Mr. Spooner is one of the kindest, most genuine person with whom I have worked. He is honest and caring, Mr. Spooner is an educator who makes a difference in the lives of those people he touches.”

Brittany Long, Special Educator, reflected, “Mr. Spooner has always been encouraging! I will miss working with him next year. From the day I started working here he has been positive. It’s reassuring to work with someone who has taught as long as he has and still enjoys coming to work every day. It’s very motivating!”

Spooner’s lessons are not just found in the classroom. “I think everyone wishes they could have the kind of impact Mr. Spooner has. He taught me that it’s important to remember to take care of yourself when a large part of your job is the service of others,” said Jennifer Ball, English teacher.

Kathleen Mader, French teacher, said, “Lesson I learned from Mr. Spooner: If you don’t say anything, you won’t put your foot in your mouth…. Kids and even adults gossip in a town and in a school like this, but I never ever once heard anything but warm admiration and appreciation for Mr. Spooner… Mr. Spooner ranks among the beloved living legends of our town.”

Greg Long of the Math Department is full of gratitude for Spooner’s influence, saying, “Thanks for your loyalty and dedication to the high school and community. Personally thanks for being there when I needed someone to talk to.”

Teachers remember the way that Spooner welcomed them into the faculty of Havre de Grace High School. “Mr. Spooner has such a positive attitude and wonderful relationship with both students and teachers. I’ll always remember my first day working here and how welcome he made me feel. He inspires me to always stay smiling and make a positive impact on anyone’s life, just like he has done for many of us over the years, ” Monica Fernandez, Special Educator, reflects.

“I have not known Mr. Spooner very long, but in the short time we have known each other he has had an impact on me. Mr. Spooner was sure to check on me and make sure my first years were going smoothly and to offer any assistance. Mr. Spooner always has a smile on his face and it is clear that he absolutely loves what he does… Every student that Mr. Spooner teaches never has a negative thing to say. As a teacher, I aspire to grow into even half the educator he is,” said Alyssa Sansalone, English teacher.

Social Studies teacher Michelle Rathfon reflects, “Mr. Spooner is the first teacher I met when I came here, and he has helped me tremendously every day. He has taught me new strategies to use in my classroom, and new ways of approaching issues or lessons. I have learned how to de-stress and relax from Mr. Spooner. I learned how to be a better teacher, how to be more involved with my students and the community.”

Jon Rogers, Science teacher, shares his favorite memory with Mr. Spooner, “Golfing with him [Spooner], Tramontana, and Hauf in a travel softball team fundraiser at furnace bay my second year teacher.” Rogers added, “Enjoy the golfing!”

Sue Andrews, English, credits Spooner for his expertise in the classroom. She says, “Mr. Spooner is an excellent teacher whose leadership has shown me tons! Mr. Spooner is kind and knowledgeable–always has an interesting assignment happening.” She remembers a moment where Spooner demonstrated his positivity and grace under pressure. Andrews recounts, “He and I were displaced from class during our planning and instead of being grumpy about not having access to our rooms, Mr. Spooner created the ‘cool kids club’ to which he graciously invited me. I would love for Mr. Spooner to know that he is the model professional yet gentle guide for all who know him.”

Despite well-deserved accolades, Spooner reflects on his own service humbly.  He mused, “You know, I don’t think in terms of big accomplishments. I think in terms of consistency, having done this for 43 years, I want to be consistent. I always want to do as good as I can, so I don’t think in terms of grand accomplishments as much as I think of being good.”

Alex Spooner wishes former students, colleagues, and current students look to the words engraved in the stone entrance to Havre de Grace High School for inspiration. Spooner explains, “The motto “Enter to learn, leave to serve.” I have known so many people who have taken that motto and they’ve run with it and they have made the community, the state, and the nation better because of it. I hope the next generation and the generations that follow keep that tradition going. Serve.”

In order to view the transcript of TheWarriorWord’s interview with Mr. Spooner in its entirety, please click here.

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