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With a magical mystique, a young heart, and a lengthy career in education, Bob Hale has been an integral part of the fabric of Westbrook High School (WHS) for more than two decades.
As Bob prepares to retire this summer as WHS principal, he can look back at a career in education that has been as personally rewarding as it has been professionally successful-through teaching, he found the love of his life, his wife, Jill (principal of the Guilford Lakes School in Guilford). Jill's father was a teacher at The Morgan School, at which Bob worked as the band director.
Both Bob and Jill have a strong family teaching legacy. Bob's father (also Robert) taught in Madison, where Bob grew up. Now both of Bob's daughters are also teachers; Rebekah is a special education teacher at Burr Elementary School in Haddam, and Carolyn a science teacher at the Hale-Ray School in East Haddam.
"We joke that teaching is the family's dysfunction," Bob says.
"I have had a wonderful career in education and I would highly recommend it to students who are looking to do the same. Working with kids keeps your heart young and your hair gray," he notes.
The native shoreliner, who knew from a very young age that he wanted to be a teacher, initially had trouble deciding if he should teach physics or music. An entertainer at heart, the latter won out. While he still enjoys playing the saxophone, picks up the trumpet from time to time, and is the choral director at the Clinton Methodist Church, most of his performances in front of audiences have to do with sleight of hand.
"Celebrating the wonder is the best part of doing magic," says Bob. "That's what I love most about performing magic, is seeing the audience's reaction and helping them to reconnect with that curiosity."
This part of Bob is a talent that he has been cultivating since he was 12, when a family friend showed him his first trick.
"Ever since then I have just loved magic. I connected with some other magicians in Hartford after college and I haven't stopped doing magic since," says Bob, who ran a magic shop part-time with five friends for 32 years in Rocky Hill.
Now he performs his craft at private parties and amps up the stage at teacher talent shows and graduation celebrations with his crafty moves.
"I have only been doing my magic tricks at graduation for the past couple of years, but I think it is a great way to celebrate the kids and do something that makes the event a little more memorable for everyone," says Hale.
A proponent of fair play and fostering youth athletics, Bob is the chairman of the Board of Control of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference. He also stays busy as an adjunct professor at UConn, at which he teaches courses in education and teacher certification. He started his storied educational career as a music teacher in North Branford, then moved on to band director at The Morgan School, at which he then changed hats to the position of assistant principal and landed in Westbrook, where he not only has been a staple in the education system for what seems like forever, but also earned himself the title of Connecticut High School Principal of the Year in 2006.
With a magical career behind him and possibly a career in magic in front of him, Bob will be transitioning into retirement at the end of this school year, sending out the Class of 2014 as his last graduates.
"I have had the lucky opportunity to work with students my entire career and I have met some wonderful people and made some very strong connections in the community over the years," he says. "I think my biggest reservation about retiring is not having that daily connection to the kids and the parents. It is something I will definitely have to get used to and something I will miss."