There aren’t many people who know Glenvar High School and its community better than Joe Hafey.
For more than four decades, the 60-year-old has been directly connected to the area. In 1974 he graduated with a Highlander Diploma, he attended Roanoke College right up the road and will soon retire as Glenvar High’s Principal after a successful ten-year run. “I had a physical science teacher named Leslie Watkins when I was a student here. She saw something in me early on and took me under her wing,” Joe said. “She stuck with me throughout my three-and-a-half years here and I went off to college with plans of being a biology major because of her.”
When Joe arrived at Roanoke College he thought that he was destined to be a biologist. After working for a company called Centec for six months, he realized that it just wasn’t for him. Shortly thereafter, an educational position opened at the Roanoke Valley Science Museum and Joe got it after applying. That experience inspired him to get into teaching.
“From the early 1980s to 1996 I was a science teacher at Hidden Valley Junior High School,” he said. “One of the most important things I learned early on from Al McClearn (former Hidden Valley Junior High principal) is you chastise in private if need be but you certainly praise in public.”
Anytime someone makes a career change there is an adjustment period. In 2002 when Joe arrived at Glenvar, he had spent the previous six years as Assistant Principal and Athletic Director at Cave Spring High School. “At the beginning of my tenure here we had a little bit of a problem with critical thinking skills. You can’t eat an elephant in one bite and the problems that needed to be fixed needed more than a week’s time,” Joe said. “As soon as everyone started working together, we started to see significant improvements.”
While scores are not the end-all-be-all in measuring how successful a school is, it is certainly a useful metric. Under his stewardship, Glenvar High has graduated nearly 96 percent of its students and has been recognized on two different occasions by US World & News as one of the top high schools in America. A few years ago Glenvar underwent a renovation project that took nearly two years to complete. “We finished things up last year and that was my intention,” Joe said.
Joe Hafey has always taken pride in having great relationships with people. “It’s important for teachers to build relationships with their students and I’ve preached that time and time again since I’ve been here,” Joe said. “The best part of my job has been the opportunity to mentor young teachers and aspiring administrators.” Sarah Schwartz, a first-year English teacher at Glenvar, says that she has learned a lot from Principal Hafey.
On why this is the right time for him to retire, Joe said: “I’ll be 61 in April and I think that’s about the right time to give it up. I’d like to do all of my retirement days in one year.” He added, “I will still substitute because I don’t think I can get 100 percent away from it. This has been my life for more than half of my life.”