After 27 years, Mr. Hackney is ready for his next adventure


Katherine Lian

Mr. Hackney, humanities teacher at Townsend Harris for 27 years.

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With the 2023 school year coming to a close, humanities teacher Chris Hackney is retiring from his 27 years of teaching at Townsend Harris High School.

Mr. Hackney said, “I think the signs in the universe have told me it’s time to retire… I sort of view life as consisting of different chapters of your destiny, and you kind of move on to different things because life is a [journey].”

Before becoming a teacher, Mr. Hackney started college at 20 years old after moving to America from South Africa. He said, “I was an immigrant. I had no family here, so I didn’t really have connections.” He then became an investment banker but eventually left that job because it didn’t fit his lifestyle. He said, “I had always kind of toyed around with the idea of being a teacher. I felt [like] it could be fun, but I never [seriously] thought about being a teacher [until then]… It was kind of like a guilty pleasure I didn’t tell anyone.”

He then enrolled in a teaching internship program that was organized for people who had already started other careers but were thinking about becoming teachers. Mr. Hackney first taught at Louis Armstrong Middle School, and he said that from that experience he learned he did not want to be a middle school teacher. Afterward, his wife was the main reason he first reached out to THHS for a position because she “went to this school and graduated from this school.” He also mentioned that his former student’s mother taught here and told him he “would be perfect to teach at Townsend Harris.”

Mr. Hackney first became a substitute teacher at Townsend Harris, a position he held for six months until being hired as a full-time teacher. He then taught the classes Global History, Psychology of Film, and Social Science Research, and also started, taught, and wrote the curricula for AP European History, AP Capstone (including AP Seminar and AP Research along with Mr. Scardino), AP World History, and History Through Film.

History teacher Adam Stonehill called Mr. Hackney “an incredible teacher who is incredibly creative.” He said, “Some of my best lessons are [actually] knockoffs of his lessons that he showed me, like Mystery Island.”

Senior Amelia Ferrell said, “Mr. Hackney [is] a great teacher and I really loved being a part of his class. I always felt that he created a relaxing environment that was refreshing to walk into each day.”

Mr. Hackney also designed and built an editing studio in Room 443, worked with the senior AP Government class, taught Technology in Humanities alongside Ms. Wischerth, set up the original lighting and sound systems in the auditorium, and worked on the PA system. “I like building things,” said Mr. Hackney.

In Mr. Hackney’s many years at THHS, he also coached the Boys Varsity Baseball team, Girls and Boys Varsity Soccer, and the Girls and Boys Fencing teams, and has also been nominated several times and one year won the award of the NYS Historical Society’s NYS Social Studies teacher of the year.

When asked about his experience at THHS, Mr. Hackney said the main reason he likes the school is the students and his colleagues. He said, “I really like Townsend Harris teenagers because [they] are so creative and intelligent. As much as we attempt to teach you, we learn from you guys every day.” He also said that he really likes “the whole idea of teaching,” including creating classes and putting together lessons.

“Every single day that I walked into his class, Mr. Hackney would always have a smile on his face or he’d be laughing about something and it was always so contagious. I could have been having a horrible day and just joking around with Mr. Hackney for even five minutes never failed to make me feel better,” said senior Anna Bogonis.

Amelia said Mr. Hackney is “really kind and funny” and “cares a lot about his students. He is always checking in with us and engaging us in conversations about our hobbies and activities, [both] in [and] out of school.”

He is also thought of fondly by many of his colleagues. History teacher Aliza Sherman said, “I am going to miss my retiring colleague very much.”

Mr. Hackney said that he has “too many plans” for the future, but for the next year, he hopes to travel and go on different adventures.