After spending two-thirds of his 69 years of life teaching in the same room at the same school, Hayward Randolph went out in style when Miami Springs Senior High School administrators and faculty held a luncheon in his honor to say good-bye.
The school’s media center was the centerpiece of activity on Friday, April 8, as the massive teaching tree that Randolph had grown through nearly half a century of work came into clear focus.
There were plenty of plaques, gift cards and gifts to be presented, including one from Miami Springs council member Roslyn Buckner, who was on hand on behalf of the city. But it all paled in comparison over the backdrop of how many now successful people in the business world paid emotional tributes to a man who had a major impact on their lives.
To put things in perspective, the day Randolph started at Springs, Richard Nixon was still in his first term in the White House; Watergate was nothing more than the name of a hotel in Washington; and a young hot-shot coach by the name of Don Shula had just been named the new boss of the Miami Dolphins. And if you had told people that one day they would be able to take a phone out of their pocket and dial anybody, anywhere in the world, at any time, they might have tried to have you committed.
“This day brings back just a whole bunch of great memories,” said Randolph. “To see so many people who impacted my life and others who I was lucky enough to maybe have had some kind of an impact on theirs, it’s just very humbling.”
Began in 1970
Randolph, who walked through the doors at Springs High School on a February morning in 1970 as a young, wet-behind-the-ears 23-year-old hoping to get hired by then-Principal Alex Bromir (who hired him on the spot), sat over on a table next to his son and daughter and watched as numerous people got up to say something.
“Here you have a man that has devoted most of his life to educating kids and doing things the right way,” said Miami Springs High School Principal Ed Smith. “You go up to his room and it’s like you’re walking into a beginning teacher’s room with the enthusiasm, energy and love for his students that he has. There’s nothing that we could do as a school — plaques, gift cards, whatever — that would be enough to thank you for what you’ve done.”
Smith then mentioned that he and his staff did a little rough math and, averaging about 145 students a year times 46 years, they came to the following conclusion: Randolph taught an astounding 6,500 students or so.
“The ultimate was this year when we found out you were teaching one of your student’s grandchildren,” Smith said as the media center erupted in laughter. “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your dedication and love of students. More than teaching the subject area, you were a shining example of what a good human being is and that in my mind will always be your legacy here.”
Perhaps the most emotional moment came when longtime teacher Sylvia Perez, who was the primary organizer of the event, got up and talked about how important a person Randolph was in her life.
“Everything I’ve done as a teacher, you’ve always been a part of me,” said Perez, who became a full-time teacher at Springs in 1991. “Everything I’ve ever done as a teacher at this school has been done with you in mind. You are my mentor and I will forever be grateful. Like it says in the Bible, a man was sent to sell seeds that landed in many different places. Well, Mr. Randolph, your seeds landed on me.”
Buckner then stepped up with the biggest plaque of all, and it was a proclamation from the city of Miami Springs, commemorating April 8, 2016, Hayward Randolph Day in Miami Springs.
“I went to Miami High but that doesn’t mean you haven’t impacted my family,” Buckner said. “My husband and his boys went to Springs High, my kids went to Springs High and when I told my youngest daughter, who graduated three or four years ago, that you were retiring, she actually cried. You impacted each and every one of them and I thank you for that.”
Numerous testimonials about Randolph, who taught various subjects including American government and economics through the years, then followed.
Tributes from many
The United Teachers of Dade County Union was well represented. First Vice President Tom Gammon, a former teacher at Springs and secretary-treasurer, and soon-to-be President Karla Hernandez-Mats, a 1998 Springs grad and former student of Randolph’s, both spoke, as well as UTD organizer Velda McKinney.
Even former UTD President Fedrick Ingram, now vice president for the Florida Education Association in Tallahassee, managed to get by to pay tribute.
“I apologize because I just got here and have to leave for a very important meeting I have to be at,” said Ingram. “But I told those folks that they would have to deal with me being a few minutes late because I needed to be here to pay tribute to someone who epitomizes what it means to dedicate their life to the teaching profession.”
Two former students of Randolph’s from the early ’70s also were there.
Both Hector Gray and Levon Jones were great football players at Springs from 1972-74 and, after coming back to teach and coach at Springs from the mid-’80s to 2000, are now great successes elsewhere.
“When I first entered school here, it was very difficult because it was back when African Americans were being integrated into white schools,” said Gray, now the athletic director at Booker T. Washington High School. “I was actually zoned to go to Miami Jackson, so it was tough. I remember you pulling us aside and how hard you worked to make us feel welcome and helped us adjust to being here.”
“Mr. Randolph, let there be no doubt, it is because of you that I am a great teacher today,” said Jones, who has been an administrator and teacher at Turner Technical Institute in Miami Lakes for the last 15 years. “You were always more than a teacher to me, you were a mentor as I’m sure you were to so many others. There is a lot of love in this room today and when God looks down from heaven on you, he will have a big smile on his face.”
Finally it was time for the guest of honor to get up and say a few words. Typical to his style, Hayward Randolph deflected the praise to others.
“I was trying to just see if I could just sneak out the side door without all of this fanfare,” Randolph said as the room erupted in laughter. “One of the things that kept me here all of these years was that Springs was a very good school. Great kids, great staff, great leadership, it all played a major part in me never leaving. Looking back now, I’m proud to say that I wouldn’t do one thing different if I had it to do all over again. This has been a fantastic journey for me and I’m so glad and proud that I started at Miami Springs High School and am going out at Miami Springs High School.”