Doug Hazen is the first to admit that he was a little “wet behind the ears” when he accepted his first teaching job at Lovell High School in 2008. He said he felt equally short on experience when he was promoted to principal at Lovell Middle School six years ago, but with the support of staff and top administrators, he said his 11-year run as an educator and top administrator in Big Horn County School District Two has turned out to be one of the greatest experiences he could have hoped for in his career. His time in Lovell will come to an end in the next few weeks as he leaves his post at the middle school for a new job as principal of Columbia Falls Junior High School in Montana.
“As a young man from Wisconsin in my 20s just out of college, I couldn’t have fallen backwards into a better place,” said Hazen. “This is a very strong school district. I am biased to that, but I think this is as good of a school district as there is.”
Hazen served a total of 11 years in the district, including five years as a math teacher at Lovell High School and six years as principal of Lovell Middle School, with the last two of those years acting as special education director concurrent with his responsibilities as principal.
“Working in this district has been such a great learning experience for me,” said Hazen. “I think I learned more than any kid in the district, especially the last two years.”
Hazen also served as the head football coach for nine years at Lovell High School and assistant coach for one year. During that time, he coached the team to a 62-25 record and a state championship title during the team’s 2011 undefeated season. He also served as the middle school wrestling coach for two years.
“Again, I was very lucky here to get to work with such a gifted group of athletes during that time,” said Hazen, declining to take credit for the team’s success.
Hazen came to the district with a bachelor’s degree in education from Carroll University in Wisconsin and a master’s degree from Northern State University in South Dakota already on his resume. After three years of teaching experience at LHS, a few additional courses and serving an internship under LHS principal Scott O’Tremba, he qualified to obtain certification to become an administrator. He is currently working toward a doctorate from the University of Wyoming. His hard work and natural talent for management quickly caught the eye of his superiors when he came to Lovell, making him a prime candidate for advancement.
“Doug Hazen is one of the finest young administrators I have had the pleasure to work with in my career,” said School District Two Supt. Rick Woodford. “We are sad to see him move on, but understand his aspirations to gain experience in a larger school system. He has positively influenced the culture and climate at LMS for both staff and students. Doug is positive, forward-thinking and inspiring as an educational leader.
“Many of the skills and beliefs that made him a great coach on the football field also helped him become a successful school principal. We wish nothing but the best to Doug, Lindsey and their family as they transition into a new home and community.”
In his new position in Montana, Hazen will manage a staff of around 45 teachers compared to the 16 teachers he manages in Lovell. The school has a student population of around 500 students from the town of Columbia Falls and adjacent areas.
“Since I’ve spent all of my career so far in Lovell, this is a chance for me to see how I do at that next step in size,” Hazen said. “It will be interesting to see if I like it bigger and how I handle managing a bigger staff and student population. I’ve only known Lovell schools and it’s been fantastic and great, but this is a chance for me to see how they do things in other places.”
He said his family is excited about the outdoor recreational opportunities the Columbia Falls area offers, with the entrance to Glacier National Park less than 12 miles from home, a major ski area in Whitefish only a 15-minute drive away and numerous opportunities to fish big lakes and rivers nearby.
Hazen said he will miss the community, his coworkers and, of course, the students he has interacted with throughout his time in Lovell.
“It is difficult to say goodbye,” he said. “It was very emotional to say goodbye to staff. More emotional for me than expected. It was similar to how I felt when I stepped down as football coach but harder.
“When you’re a school person like a coach or teacher or principal you end up dedicating a lot of time to the school system and it becomes a huge part of your life. Saying goodbye to the community and all of the kids that have come through the school in the last 11 years is really hard. I’ve been here long enough that there are students that I taught that are working for me or with me in the district now.
By Patti Carpenter