Now in his 26th year as a teacher at Bernard Zell, Andy Hirt has seen a lot of change at the school during his tenure. Among the biggest changes throughout all that time has been the growth of the facilities and the overall size of the student body and staff. But Andy is quick to point out that despite Bernard Zell’s continued evolution, one thing has remained constant:
“The sense of warmth and community that has endured throughout the years is why this work has always been so appealing to me,” said Andy. “Regardless of the school’s size, the welcoming feeling at Bernard Zell has always remained consistent.”
Before arriving at BZ, Andy completed medical school and a year of his residency until he decided that a life practicing medicine wasn’t where he wanted to spend his career. He thought about teaching or working in the sciences but after his residency in pediatrics and a personal connection that led him to a temporary role at Bernard Zell, he began to fall in love with the community and culture. Covering for a bereavement leave led him to work as a more regular substitute, then as a school librarian and back to covering a maternity leave in Senior Kindergarten. His contributions were so valued that he was offered a full-time role.
Another constant amid the change? “Seeing the growth of kids from the time they walk into the classroom on day one, to their final day of SK is one of the most exciting things about the job,” notes Andy. “The sense of wonder they enter with is always fun to see and it helps propel them to accomplish so much over the course of the year—the amount of growth is amazing. While no two kids take the same course to get to their goals, they all eventually get there and seeing the variety of paths they take is incredible.”
Getting to experience student growth and change year after year is certainly a meaningful component to this work, but the single biggest fringe benefit of having chosen this career path, notes Andy, was getting to see his three kids during the day as they progressed through their own Bernard Zell education. “Getting to sneak in a kiss or a hug during the day is a luxury that very few parents get to have,” he said.
Throughout all the constants and all the change, Andy is steadfast in his passion for this work. While his career path took a turn 26 years ago, he is clearly happy with where he ended up, and his colleagues and students feel the same.