People of Pittsburg: Paul Hanney

by Alexandra Pierson, Pittsburg High School

photo: Pittsburg USD 250

Socrates once said, “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.” Paul Hanney is an illustration of this quote. Hanney has lived in Pittsburg, Kansas for the past 26 years. He dropped out of high school in 11th grade and now has 2 degrees from PSU. Hanney teaches 3rd graders at Westside Elementary school.

After dropping out of high school, he was discouraged and had no idea what he wanted his future career to be. “I ended up in the Air Force and went in as a carpenter. I thought that would be my career,” Hanney said. “Many years later, my second wife talked me into taking a college course. She said to take one I knew I would be successful at. I chose an art class.”

After going back to college he realized what he wanted to do: he didn’t want students to make the same mistakes as he did. “I went through a bunch of stuff growing up. I never thought I would ever be a teacher. But now, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.” When asked why he loves teaching that much he responded with, “The most rewarding thing about teaching is knowing I can positively impact a child’s life. I have an opportunity to teach our youth the lesson no one taught me, and I had to learn on my own.”

“My teachers let me fail, let me ‘pass’ by passing me on when even I knew I shouldn’t be going to the next grade,” he explained. Hanney now goes on throughout his career trying to inspire students to learn and get active in school, as well as extracurricular activities–anything to make the students passionate. “If you feel good about yourself, you will pursue education when you are ready for it,” he said. “You just can’t give up, and we can’t give up on those who see dropping out as the only solution.”

People of Pittsburg is a series from Emily Rountree’s Pittsburg High School Honors English class focusing on the stories of everyday residents of Pittsburg.