KEARNEY — For almost 40 years, Jackie Haller served her community as a teacher. The bulk of her career, more than 25 years, was in the Kearney School District, more specifically, at Kearney High School. The remainder of those years was in the North Kansas City School District at Maple Park Middle School, running her own preschool and substitute teaching.
At the end of December, Haller was inducted into the International Educator Hall of Fame via a virtual celebration.
“I’m kind of embarrassed,” Haller said.
From seventh-grade general math to AP statistics, Haller taught some form of math for decades. She had some seminal moments as a teacher. One of her favorites was a class she created for Kearney High School when students were struggling with algebra.
“I created a project class after a university course I had seen,” Haller explained. “Called Math Apps (now Math Applications), kids did projects and found out that math is all around them. You find math everywhere. I taught it for about 10 years and when I decided to leave, I was fortunate to have a student teacher to take it on.”
That student teacher, Jessa Hahn, is now a math teacher at Kearney High. Hahn called it a privilege to learn from Haller for a year.
“From the very beginning, I could tell that Jackie was a special teacher and that I was very lucky to have the opportunity to learn from her. One of the classes that I taught with her was Math Applications, a class Jackie designed herself,” Hahn said. “This class, designed for students who have oftentimes struggled in math, is unlike any other. There are no tests or homework, but kids get to experience math in ways that they have never experienced it before. They get to see how applicable math is to their daily life. More importantly, they are able to see how they are capable at understanding and using math. Some even left the classes stating that they like math and that Math Applications was their favorite class!”Hahn said Haller saw a hole in Kearney High’s math curriculum and repaired it with her designed class.
“Jackie loved and was fascinated by math and she wanted to share that excitement with her students.She showed me that developing relationships with students and showing students that you care is more important than getting through every piece of curriculum or designing the perfect lesson. Even the most difficult students felt safe and wanted in her classroom and that showed in their willingness to participate in learning. This classroom environment is one of Jackie’s many legacies at KHS that I do my best to continue daily,” Hahn said.
Dave Schwarzenbach, current Kearney athletics director and high school principal from 2011 until 2019, remembers Haller well.
“Mrs. Haller is a kid magnet,” he said. “As a building principal, we cherish the teachers that have the ability to reach every student and make a connection. ”
Along with teaching, Haller coached boys and girls soccer, boys tennis, cheerleading, science Olympiad and yearbook.
One of her sons, Jeff Haller, said he and his two siblings had their mother as one of their math teachers.
“She has always been a great teacher,” he said. “I remember Mom teaching general math, geometry, stats and then the advanced math courses. I had access to my mother, and her friends were all the faculty for my high school education.”
Haller has received mail from students who have thanked her for inspiring reading and exploring math. She has been stopped in grocery stores and at weddings to be thanked for her efforts.
“Those moments make you feel wonderful,” she said.