From Student to Teacher: Bar Hass ’16

Jan 24, 2018


Bar Hass in classroomWhen he was a student at Randolph-Macon College, Bar Hass '16 was very involved in campus and volunteer activities. He raised money for local animal shelters, helped organize a bone-marrow registry drive, and shared his time and talent at Henry Clay Elementary school, where he helped students with homework and supervised team-building activities. He was also a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon, the Interfraternity Council, and R-MC's Hillel chapter, which offers programming to enrich Jewish life on campus.

Discovering Social Entrepreneurship
Hass, who majored in psychology and sociology/anthropology major and minored in political science, wasn't sure what kind of career he wanted, but that changed when he took Political Science Professor Richard Meagher's Social Entrepreneurship class. Students in the course use approaches from political science, sociology, and business studies to learn about the field, and then work with a local social entrepreneur. They meet with company leaders, learn about challenges the company faces, and design and implement group projects to help address these challenges.

Improving Communities
"After graduating from Randolph-Macon, I looked for opportunities where I could work alongside community members to enhance opportunities for all, particularly children," says Hass. "I learned about Teach for America (TFA) in Professor Meagher's class, and it looked like an excellent opportunity to work with students and partner with families to improve communities."

Teach for America recruits teaching candidates and matches them to schools in communities across the nation. After candidates go through the recruitment process and become TFA members, they must become certified teachers by passing the Praxis, a certification test, and following other criteria outlined by the Department of Education in the state they teach in.
After being accepted into the TFA program, Hass chose South Dakota as his first placement choice because it is a region with a high need for teachers.

“I felt I could make a greater impact in South Dakota,” explains Hass, who teaches elementary school science at the American Horse School, a K-8 school in Allen, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. "My students are tribal members of the Oglala Lakota Nation, so I focus on integrating cultural awareness as part of the curriculum." His students have studied the problems an oil spill can cause, for example, and during a recent science fair, they explored ways to filter oil-contaminated water through artificial and natural means.

"Prior to my hiring, there was only a middle school science teacher at the school," says Hass, who also coaches the cross-country team. "Because I am the first science teacher the elementary school students have had, we explore material in depth. I allow students' questions to drive additional class discussions, and if we get our work done on time, we explore topics in greater detail."

Hass credits staff from The Edge, R-MC's four-year career preparation program, for helping prepare him for life after college.

"Cathy Rollman, director of professional development for The Edge, helped me shape my résumé and create my cover letter for my TFA application," says Hass. In 2015 he attended Boot Camp, a two-day, career-preparation program sponsored by The Edge in which students identify their career interests, hone their interview skills and meet with business professionals. "At Boot Camp I met lots of alumni who shared their career stories," he says. "Their journeys inspired me to pursue opportunities that matched my interests and strengths."

Hass is also grateful to his R-MC professors, including his advisor, Sociology Professor Denise Bissler, and English Professor Justin Haynes.

"Professor Bissler encouraged me to pursue a career that meshed with my interests and reminded me to follow through with my academic commitments," says Hass. "Professor Haynes was always available to bounce ideas off of. He also helped me improve my writing and presentation skills—something I rely on daily as a teacher."