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Hal and Loretta Mullenaux have a combined career of 63 years in education. Their love for the youth in the Thatcher School District taught them to look for the good and help the youngsters along their way.
Hal Mullenaux’s career in the Thatcher School District began in 1980. He taught a variety of subjects. He was also an athletic director and the principal of the Thatcher Middle School and the Thatcher Elementary School. Hal coached basketball for 26 years, taught English for 34 years and was the girls’ volleyball coach for more than 15 years. He also taught French for 20 years. During the last six years of his career, Hal was principal at the elementary school, and during the first three of those years, he was principal at the middle school as well.
Loretta was the TUSD librarian for 23 years. She oversaw the Thatcher High School library, and she ran the online Thatcher High School remediate program for 15 years. The online program consisted of classes for students who had fallen behind and were at risk of not graduating. They excelled in the online educational setting. She was a National Honor Society advisor as well as a student council advisor for three years.
Both Hal and Loretta retired in 2020. They fondly remember many of their students, although they both admit that over the years, they can’t remember each one individually.
Vance Bryce, executive director of the Graham County Chamber of Commerce, was one of Hal’s students and remembers his time in high school with both Hal and Loretta. He recalled one of his experiences in Hal’s French class when Hal played charades using French verbs.
“I remember him doing somersaults on the floor and handstands,” Bryce said. “Most people know Hal as a coach, but I knew him as a French and English teacher.”
Bryce said he remembered Hal’s commitment to his students on a personal level.
“He read one of my papers, and he said, ‘This is good, but I know you could do better.” Hal saw past the basic grade. He didn’t see a class as a group but individual students.”
Hal also supported the student council, Bryce said. He was an exceptional model for leadership.
Bryce remembered Loretta’s role as a sympathetic listening ear. If a student was faced with hardship, they knew they could go to Loretta for support.
“She listened to everything you said,” Bryce said. “She was a person you could go to and she’d help you out. She was the high school confidant. She was a student council advisor, she helped with homecoming, with concessions, and with fundraising. She was a great model of leadership.”
Loretta was exemplary at her job as a librarian, Bryce said. She was always doing something new in the library, from updating to purchasing new books and keeping the library in pristine condition.
“It’s not about winning championships. It’s about helping kids progress,” Hal said. “It wasn’t about the paycheck. You enjoyed making a difference in a small, small way.”
Giving advice to the new generation of teachers, Hal said to look on the brighter side.
“Look for the good,” Hal said. “Don’t focus on all the bad. Find something every day or every week to fill your bucket and make you remember why you went into it. Don’t let the negative get too overwhelming.”
Loretta said her role as the librarian was great because the library itself was the hub of the school. The students who spent their time in the library chose to be there.
“I felt like I was having a good time every single day,” she said. “I felt it was a privilege to work there with them.”
She said she preferred to teach and work with teenagers. She listened to the students when they told her about the situations they faced. Sometimes that was all the youngsters needed.
“When you’re in education and work with any age of children, you have a responsibility to help form them,” Loretta said, “and try to be as positive as you can to help them along the way.”