After 39 years of educational service, the past six years as Wood River High School's principal, Graham Hume has announced that he will be retiring at the end of the school year.
"It has been a great six years," Hume said. "I love the kids, I love the staff, and the parents have really contributed a great deal to everything we've accomplished. This is an amazingly supportive community and such a beautiful place to live."
Following 33 years at Henry M. Jackson High School, located just south of Everett, Wash., Hume found the Wood River valley almost by accident.
"It was more serendipity than anything else," Hume said. "While here on vacation ... I sat down with the school district superintendent who had heard my school in Washington was listed as one of America's top 100 schools."
When the principal position opened up shortly thereafter, Hume applied and Wood River students have benefited ever since.
"He always says 'hi' to people in the hall," said Lauren Phillips, a senior at Wood River High School. "I know he really cares about the kids and the school—you can tell it's more than a job for him."
Senior Whitney DeBree holds a similar impression of Hume.
"He's a really generous man," DeBree said. "He's done a lot for the school—he's been really supportive of our environmental club, and he always has a smile on his face."
For an individual who has given so much to education and to the development of America's youth, the decision to retire was not an easy one.
"I have always told our staff to take care of themselves and to take care of their families first and everything at school will then fall into place," Hume said. With the retirement of his wife last year and her need to be with family in Arizona, Hume followed his heart and his own good advice.
"We sat down and made a commitment over spring break. The school is doing fine, all the programs are in place for next year, it's a good time for everyone involved," Hume said.
Several of the programs Hume refers to are programs he and his staff have implemented during his tenure. Since taking the reins, Wood River High School has increased graduation requirements, added Advanced Placement courses that allow students to enter college with acceptable credits already under their belt, and instilled the senior project program.
"The senior project is a really neat opportunity for the kids," Hume said. "The goal is to show what they have learned in class."
The project calls on seniors to choose a topic of interest and to find a mentor in the community with expertise in the field. Throughout the immersion process, students perform autobiographical analyses of what they have learned and how it has affected them. Lastly, the project culminates with each student giving a presentation to a panel of community leaders, parents and teachers.
"The nice thing is they have a chance to learn something about themselves," Hume said. "And it gives them confidence for college," knowing they can apply lessons that were at one time purely theoretical to actual situations.
"I think it gives the community a sense of, 'Wow, it's amazing what the kids can do.'"
With such a substantial and rewarding chapter of his life coming to a close, Hume remains busy at school.
"The things you miss most are the things that brought you into the business in the first place—and that's the kids," Hume said. "At this point it's hard to imagine not having them around. This is something that has not quite soaked in yet."
The notion of retirement for Hume, however, may be more a matter of semantics, as he plans to become involved in and around his new home of Gooding, Ariz.
Gooding is a rapidly growing area located west of Phoenix. Hume said he would like to lend his educational expertise to local school districts that are forced to adapt to and mitigate the affects of the population boom.
Buckeye, southwest of Gooding, is expected to go from two high schools to potentially two dozen in the next 10 years, Hume said.
"I really wouldn't mind doing some community volunteer work to help them with the changes they are facing," Hume said.
Over the past four decades, countless students have matured and grown from the lessons implemented on Hume's watch. The learning curve was reciprocal.
"When you look at kids you learn to look past what they are wearing and how they act and you learn to see what's in their hearts. They are why we are all in this business," he said. "You want to do the best thing for them and through that process they teach you so much. It's really hard not to be a life time learner when you are around them."