Hayes High School Principal Dr. Ric Stranges leads the staff in a round of applause for retiring math teacher Melanie Danhof during the end of the year celebration Tuesday. The round of applause quickly turned into a standing ovation for Danhof.

Glenn Battishill | The Gazette

Hayes High School Principal Dr. Ric Stranges welcomes Tom Jarvis (seated on right in grey) to the district and said he will be teaching math in the same classroom he used when he was a student teacher.

Glenn Battishill | The Gazette

Hayes High School Principal Dr. Ric Stranges poses for a photo with math teacher Melanie Danhof, who is retiring from Hayes after 34 of teaching at the school.

Glenn Battishill | The Gazette

Staff at Hayes High School celebrated the end of the 2022-2023 school year Tuesday with a cookout and a look forward at the future of the school.

The cookout was held in the school’s Rowland Center and featured a speech from Principal Dr. Ric Stranges, who thanked the staff for its work through a “difficult year.”

“I’m excited to bring closure to this year,” Stranges said. “I acknowledge how difficult our jobs have become, and the fact that you do it every day, literally with a smile, makes me feel better. I know it was difficult, but I’ve got to tell you that incredible things happened at this school. So many things happened that were positive.”

Stranges reviewed the school’s various athletic and academic successes this year, and he said the school will continue to evolve as it rolls out the new mastery-based grading school to freshman and sophomore classes next year.

“We are pushing the envelope,” Stranges said. “We’re asking all of you to look at your teaching and learning, and assessing and grading differently. It’s a hard ask, but if I didn’t believe in it, I wouldn’t ask. We’re really doing great things.”

Stranges gave well wishes to the staff departing the school for other positions, gave a gift to longtime math teacher Melanie Danhof, who is retiring this year, and said he appreciates the staff at the school.

“I just want you to know how much you all mean to me, I hope you can tell,” he said. “This means everything to me. The fact that you guys give it all for our kids is something I’ll never forget.”

Danhof told the staff that it was “really hard to leave,” and she’ll miss the school.

“I have lots of good things planned in my life and lots of fun things planned in my life, but this is so a part of me,” Danhof said. “(After) 38 years here, it’s very hard to leave, but I need to go when I still like my job. I will miss you, but I know you’ll continue to do great things.”

Danhof graduated from Hayes in 1983 and returned to the school in 1989 to teach math. She said she has taught basically every type of math at the school, including algebra, geometry, precalculus and dual enrollment college algebra.

After her presentation, Danhof said what she will miss most about her job is the students.

“I unfortunately have cried more than once,” Danhof said. “It’s been kind of an emotional roller coaster. The students, they like to push your buttons but I really like watching them learn, helping them learn, and watching them become better people. (I love) when you see the light go on when they finally understand.”

Danhof said she never would have guessed in 1983 that she would be retiring from the school in 2023.

“But I’m so glad that I got to come back and be a part of the community that I grew up in,” she said. “Delaware really has a special place in my heart. It’s a good place to be.”

After his speech, Stranges said he could have recognized “every single department” if he had the time.

“Every staff member did something better this year than they did last year,” Stranges said. “To me, that’s the mark of a great school. We get better every year and help our kids get better. That’s what this staff does, and that’s what makes us special. This year was the most remarkable student and staff achievement year that I can remember.”

Stranges said that during the spring semester, he assembled three task forces to assess the school and suggest changes.

“Every group had representatives brings solutions for what we can do to get better,” Stranges said. “I’ll be working on those (over the summer).”

Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.