Impact Teacher: Jim Haney


Jim Haney has been awarded the 2021 Impact Teacher.

Every few weeks, the halls of ALHS are filled with the grumbled complaints of juniors and seniors as they prepare for yet another current events test in their AP Government class. You’ll see them staring at an odd sheet of paper that features haphazardly arranged faces as they try to memorize who the people are and what makes them newsworthy. There is even an Instagram page (@officialalhsquizlet), run by senior Priya Patel, to help the students study. These current events tests are administered by none other than the 2021 Impact Teacher, Jim Haney. The Impact Teacher is voted on by the senior class and awarded to the teacher of their choice.

Haney was born in Muscatine, Iowa, where he lived for several years before moving to Mandan, North Dakota. He graduated from Mandan High School and attended the University of North Dakota, where he majored in social studies. He taught at other schools for three years before eventually finding his way to Albert Lea in 1989, and he has been teaching here since then. Haney was inspired to become a teacher by his parents, who were English teachers, but he was more interested in a different subject. 

“I thought, ‘Well, I don’t necessarily like English that much, I like stories,” he said. “I know I can tell a story, and I thought teaching would be the way to go, that each day I could tell a story, and social studies is a story, it really is.” 

The curriculum in Haney’s class isn’t always the most enjoyable, and he recognizes that.

“I ask them to read things that I know are not interesting,” he said. “Federalist 10, you know what I’m talking about.” 

But any of his students can attest to his ability to spin a dull lesson into something interesting. After all, who else could relate the First Amendment freedoms to a fictional yet hilarious tale about upperclassmen staging a protest in order to provocatively dance at Prom? 

“Mr. Haney brings a level of energy to class that you can’t get anywhere else,” said senior Aaron Farris. “[He] can turn any topic or any boring activity into something that you enjoy and look forward to participating in.” 

Haney is involved in many things outside of his teaching job at ALHS. He organizes the Wall of Inspiration, assists with the Veterans’ Day assembly, oversees the German Culture Exchange program and helps out with the Orrie Jirele Memorial Scholarship. He is also the head cross country coach and an assistant track coach. 

Senior Jaiden Venem has been one of Haney’s runners for five years. She appreciates Haney’s candor – he’s always up front with his students and athletes about his expectations for them. 

“Mr. Haney has taught me the value of hard work,” she said. “In his class and on his cross country team, he always expects you to work your hardest.”


Haney is an inspiration to his athletes, but they have just as great of an influence on him as well. He appreciates their dedication to running and their willingness to do difficult things. 

“I ask my runners things that I can’t do,” he said. “I haven’t run since 2001, and I’m asking kids to run 7, 8, 9, 10 miles. They come through. They’re amazing.” 

Haney also has an impact on his colleagues. Fellow social studies teacher Kurt Barickman has known Haney for 32 years and has been greatly inspired by him over the course of their friendship. 

“He has changed my life,” Barickman said. “[We’ve] had common experiences with all of the joys and challenges we have dealt with over the decades in this job and in our personal lives.” 

Haney himself has been inspired by the other teachers around him. He credits Orrie Jirele and Henry Guse with making him the man he is today. 

“They showed me what it takes,” Haney said. “You just can’t be just a blob of goo. You gotta be passionate. You gotta make people better, and those guys made me better.”

It’s safe to say that Haney isn’t just a blob of goo. His infectious personality and love of history leaves students with no choice but to match his energy. He changes the lives of everyone he interacts with for the better, and it’s for that reason that the juniors and seniors let out exasperated sighs but continue to study for the current events tests – Haney makes it worth it.