Dwain Haynes reflects on 36-year career with Eunice Municipal Schools
EUNICE — It was a toss-up what Dwain Haynes was going to do with his life while he was a student at New Mexico State University.
Multiple generations of his family worked in the oil fields, and Haynes wanted to follow in their footsteps. He also has a passion for history to this day, he said. That ended up influencing his eventual decision.
“It was 1987 and I was walking along the International Walkway at NMSU,” Haynes told the News-Sun on Friday. “I probably changed my major four times that one day.
“I couldn’t figure out exactly what I wanted to do. My parents encouraged me to stay in school. Even as I got into the classes I wasn’t sure.”
That eventual decision started a legacy that’s made Haynes something of an elder statesman in education in Lea County.
And now, 36 years later, Haynes is planning to retire at the end of the current school year from the only district he’s ever known.
There’s barely a piece of Eunice Municipal Schools where you won’t find Haynes’ fingerprints.
From Mettie Jordan Elementary and Caton Middle School, both opened in the last few years, to the activity center on campus, to upgrades to Eunice High School and the $38 million athletic complex currently under construction, Haynes legacy is in virtually every brick and window in the district.
And nowhere is his legacy move visible than the students.
He’s taught middle school through high school in a variety of subjects, including math, physical education and history. He’s coached every sport the district offers, including a stint as assistant Cardinals high school football coach.
As one of probably the top three superintendents in the state by tenure, Haynes retirement “will leave a big hole in New Mexico education,” said Gene Strickland, superintendent of Hobbs Municipal Schools. Strickland did part of his administrative internship under Haynes tutelage.
“I think what’s most important, what most folks can appreciate about Dwain, is his passion,” Strickland said. “His passion for kids, his passion for his kids in Eunice and the impact his kids can go forth and have on society as a whole.
“We’re there to make good members of society and he recognizes that. That’s what I appreciate about Dwain. (His) retirement is going to leave a big whole in our superintendent ranks in this state.”
Brian Snider, superintendent in Jal Municipal agreed. Haynes has served as a resource and mentor for Snider through his nine years leading the Jal district.
Snider worked for Haynes at Caton Middle School in Eunice about 15 years ago, he said. And later Haynes would be a positive influence as Snider grew into the job of superintendent, he said.
Haynes roots in New Mexico education stretch back to the Tasker family of Hobbs, arguably educational royalty in their own right in the state, he said.
“After I took all the classes, I knew (teaching) had to be the right thing for me,” Haynes said. “What happened next was to do my student teaching rotation and I was placed with Diane Tasker, (Hobbs teacher and basketball coach) Ralph Tasker’s daughter, at Mayfield High School in Las Cruces.”
At the time, Diane Tasker had stopped taking student teachers due to problems with a previous person, Haynes said. But when she found out Haynes was a Lea County native — he was born and raised in Jal — she accepted Haynes as a student.
“It was one of the greatest moments in both of our lives,” Haynes said. “I learned I could be a teacher (and) I learned from one of the best. Many things I do today are still based on what she taught me in 1988.”
It was in August of that year, the freshly-graduated Haynes learned of an opening for a history and math teacher at what was then Caton Junior High. He applied and was soon hired, beginning his legacy as a Eunice Cardinal.
He spent about 10 years in the classroom before a former principal urged Haynes to go back to school himself for his administrative certificate to allow him to move up in the ranks.
A shakeup in 2000 that saw the superintendent and two of three campus principals leave the district lead Haynes to his first leadership role at Mettie Jordan Elementary.
Four years later, and the new superintendent of schools had “a plan for the middle school,” Haynes said. “She wanted to use my skills there.”
He moved up again, becoming superintendent of schools in December 2008. Through it all, though, Haynes still sometimes misses his days as a classroom teacher, he said.
“That’s what we’re all about,” Haynes said. “I’ve discovered, as I head for retirement, the teacher has never left me. I do the administration duties, but the teacher has never left me.”
And 36 years builds a lot of memories — some good and some not so good — he said. Most of his best memories come from working directly with children, particularly at the elementary school.
“When I’m at the elementary school, the little ones come up to you and give you a hug, they ask of you’re the boss,” Haynes said, smiling. “No matter how bad your day is, it’s like they take all the hard day’s darkness off you and for a moment you’re able to see the light again.”
There’s even some good to be found in his bad memories, Haynes said.
On the back of his school-issued identification card, he has written the names of two former students who passed away.
One of them, an elementary girl named Kenadi, died of cancer several years ago, Haynes said. But he’s carried her name through several changes of ID because of the good memories of the first time they met, with her mother in the administrative offices on Avenue K, across from the high school.
“I will never forget the day she walked in here,” Haynes said, his eyes growing distant as he sees through the memory.
“She had a little beret on, standing on the west side” of the counter in the office. “When I’m down, on a dark day, I remember that. I’ll remember that forever.”
And Haynes adopted Kenadi’s favorite saying as his own, he said — “Catch the faith.”
“She represents what we’re her for — the kids,” Haynes said. “They make mistakes but it’s our job as adults to correct them and guide them and teach them.”
Haynes has earned honors and awards over his 36 years, including Teacher of the Year his first year teaching in Eunice.
One, though, he still keeps in his office in Eunice — a thank you pen holder he received from the Mayfield High School class where he did his student teaching rotation that led to perhaps one of the most important lessons Haynes said he’s learned during his career.
“I turned to Mrs. Tasker and said, ‘I don’t know what to say,’” when he was given the award. “She said, ‘Dwain, just be humble. Say thank you.’ I think that’s why I keep this” pen holder.
“That’s my driving principle — be humble. Every piece of my career has been about the kids. It’s all about the kids, everything I do.”
And for the time being, as his final school year nears its midpoint, that’s where Haynes focus remains. While he’s given some thought to what’s next, Haynes hasn’t made any firm decisions about what the next chapter in his life will be, he said.
“I’ve been asked that question since I announced my retirement,” Haynes said. “I’ve been taught you’ve been to the top, looked down into the next valley, so what’s next?
“Maybe it’s time for me to become a mentor to those who are coming up through the teaching or administrative professions. I’m putting every ounce of my power into Eunice Schools right now. … I want to give them everything up to the last moment. I want to wear myself out. It’s in the good Lord’s hands and I will wait until he gives me that guidance.”