“You’re telling stories about people who are doing things.” It seems a simplistic description of journalism, and yet who would know better about getting to the heart of the matter than Nancy Hastings, unofficial Godmother of Journalism.
Hastings found her love for the report when she was a student at Griffith High School, and enjoyed a summer program at Ball State so much that she chose a Journalism Education degree there.
Now, Hastings has retired from 38 years of teaching journalism at Munster High School, but she stays active in the community on her own terms.
“I have retired from the day-to-day grading and stuff, but I’m very involved and do lots of judging and teaching at workshops and conventions. So I’m still involved, but I get to pick and choose what I want to do. That’s the part I like.”
Hastings is the Journalism Education Association State Director, which makes her a great local resource for what’s happening at the national level. If she cannot help directly, she can advise journalism educators on how and where to get the help they seek.
Nancy enjoys regular dinner meetings with local journalism educators in the region, many of whom were former students of hers in one form or another.
“It’s kind of a reunion that started after I retired,” she said. “I wanted to keep in touch with what’s going on in the area, and I have relationships with a lot of these people from before I retired.”
A quick sampling of the dinner party includes Hasting's former students who now advise at Lake Central and Munster, her student teacher who is now the district advisor at Crown Point, and Crown Point’s yearbook advisor who ran the yearbook for Hastings in Munster at one time.
“Munster was a wonderful school to teach for,” she said. “They have a supportive community and administration that understood and respected what the kids were doing. They allowed us to cover stories that mattered without administrative interference. And the community supported us, so I couldn’t have been in a better place.”
This support went a long way in keeping Hastings where she was for the duration of her career. In fact, when she began teaching, a rule was issued that teachers needed to obtain a master’s degree by their fifth year to continue. Initially Hastings joked that she’d stay for a while and get a “real job” before the master’s degree thing came into play. But she realized she absolutely loved what she was doing and where she was doing it, so she scrambled to get her degree on a truncated timeline.
“From a teaching standpoint, I loved that every day was a different day. Always a new problem, a new story to tell,” Hastings said. “I loved it so much that I never looked back.”
Hasting’s husband Bob was the Social Studies Department Chair at Griffith High School, and also taught for 38 years. While he had to convince Hastings to retire, they are both enjoying this phase of their life to the fullest.
“My husband taught history, and there’s nothing better than traveling with your own personal tour guide,” she said.
The year Hastings was convinced to retire, Munster High School respected her influence enough to give her a voice in helping to choose her successor. She recommended one of her former students who had been student teaching at Chesterton High School at the time.
Serendipity would come into play as Hasting’s pick found out that she was pregnant the same day that she was offered the job. Hastings made a deal with her: if she took the job, Hastings would substitute during her maternity leave.
“It was nice because I still knew all the kids,” Hastings said. “Plus, my husband and I were able to use that extra money to go to France.”
Nancy and Bob had traveled a bit before retirement, as Bob is an avid golfer and enjoys the British Open. They went every five years, when it was held at St. Andrews in Scottland.
Since retirement, they’ve been all over Europe, and have turned their focus to traveling in the states, reconnecting with her birthplace just outside Boston, and other areas in New England.
They have seen more of America, and continue to travel to Europe as well, now adding Germany, Hungary and the Czech Republic to their passports.
“I’m intrigued by different cultures and where everything came from,” Nancy said of their European travels.
Now that they’ve retired they could easily live absolutely anywhere, yet they choose to stay here in Northwest Indiana.
“We’re content here, and we love the seasons. Right here, we’re so close to everything. You forget until you talk to people who aren’t from here. We have two airports that go everywhere, and we have the city only 40 minutes away,” she said.