Spotlight Writer-Linda Hayek

Linda Hayek
Mathematics Teacher

Linda Hayek
The Jewish Quarter, Granada
Spain, on bicycle tour, April 2008


Writing Excerpts:

Linda Hayek
Enjoying the trees near the beach
in San Diego while visiting family


Linda Hayek with three of her Grandchildren
Three of my 10 grandchildren



  1. Retired from Papillion LaVista High School 2003-2007
  2. Ralston Public Schools, 1973-2003
  3. Co-Author "Algebra 1" and "Algebra II" (Glencoe Publishing Company)

NeWP Experience

  1. 2001-2003, Papillion Public Schools
  2. Member of Omaha Small Writers Group

     My writing habit was developed through the Nebraska Writer's Project while teaching at Papillion LaVista High School.  What a gift to teach in a district that supports the philosophy that teachers who write (even math teachers!) make better teachers.  This experience broadened my understanding of writing and helped me to not only use writing a new tool for teaching, but also as a habit for better living in my personal life. Formerly, my writing was limited to purpose driven products (test items for ACT, story problems for Algebra textbooks, and information memos as math department chair.)  It was through my experience with NeWP that I discovered that the process of writing was more important that the product.  For example, working on the poem-in-progress "Memories and Memorabilia" helps me untangle my emotions as I move from our dream house at Beaver Laker to a downtown condominium in the Paxton Hotel.  I offer myself as evidence that anyone can write (and benefit from writing) and that no one is too old to learn!

Special Interest:  Traveling by Bicycle

         I want to see the entire world from the seat of my bike.  So far I have pedaled through 9 countries on three continents and plan to bicycle through New Zealand in January 2010.   When I do the math comparing the expected days remaining in my life with the number of countries yet to be traveled, I predict that I will run out of time, but I continue this quest because the pursuit is as enjoyable as attaining my goal. Riding a bicycle turns up my senses until I can almost smell the sounds along the way; I'm wide awake and fully alive.         
     To understand my interest in bicycle travel, one needs some details.   Allow me to begin with the school year 2006-07, the last of 34 in my career as a classroom teacher and the year after my husband, Dave, gave up his long battle against cancer.  (My day diary of 3/27/07, published in Water Cooler Diaries:  Women Across America Share Their Work, offers a quick glance at my life at that time.)  I was 55 years old, and the world as I knew it seemed to fall apart.   I struggled to envision life without Dave, without students, and without school activities, but I felt lost, sluggish, and stuck to the recliner.  The inspiration for what happened that winter is still a mystery.   I decided to train for a bicycle tour in Europe to honor Dave, and in memory of our dream to do this together one day.   I settled on a 10 day tour riding from Prague to Budapest. A little nervous, I paid the deposit, got out of the recliner, and never looked back.  For several months I worked out, building strength and endurance and gaining confidence.  Then, three days after I locked my classroom door for the last time, I found myself flying across the Atlantic to travel by bicycle through four countries in Eastern Europe.  It was June, and the poppies were in full bloom in the Czech Republic.  Entire hillsides of huge blossoms, brilliant orange with the blackest black centers, appeared en masse, bombarding me with color and showing me that I had been seeing in black and white.   It was as if my world had come to life again, and I realized that biking was about me, too, and not entirely about honoring Dave.  I was hooked! 
      Since that time I have completed several multi-day bicycle tours in locations that include Spain, Chile, Argentina, and El Salvador as well as the United States.   My travel diary and pictures for last January's Coast to Coast South America tour are posted at the website:

Retirement Specialist (A Work in Progress)

      After retirement, it was easy to adjust to a more flexible schedule, but I missed the students and the teachers and the sense of purpose that comes with working in education.   Now I fill that void by volunteering at St. Peter Claver High School, one of 24 Cristo Rey network schools in urban settings around the nation. Students must qualify by demonstrating both financial need and the desire and potential to go to college.   Each student attends class 4 days per week while working one day per week at a local corporation to cover most of his/her tuition for this private school.  My work there is deeply satisfying in a varied schedule where I might collaborate with teachers on curriculum one day and another day work with students in a classroom or at a retreat.
      In this phase of my life, some words from Mary Oliver's poem, "Messenger" resonate with me:

Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?
Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.

Now "my work" includes watching my garden grow (both weeds and intended plants), amateur photography and visual journaling (in order to notice details), learning with my grandchildren (a total of 10 belonging to my 4 daughters/stepdaughters), working out (to survive the bike tours without being left behind), listening to people (because their stories help me understand m own), and keeping my hand in education (as a mentor through the UNL NebraskaMATH program and as a volunteer at St. Peter Claver HS).