“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go! Get after it!”
Head basketball coach Shawn Hair’s voice booms through the hectic living room as he corrals his three daughters out the door for school. Today, he takes 7-year-old Annabelle to St. Peter’s Episcopal School, while his wife, Jennifer, drops 3-year-old Caroline off at daycare. 16-year-old Grace rushes to her car for Sion. In the midst of all the early morning commotion, Jennifer almost slips into her minivan before the married couple can tell each other goodbye.
“I love you– “
“–have a great day–”
“–Touch base at school.”
By 7:20, both of their cars are parked in their usual staff spots in the staff parking lot of East to start the work day.
This is the morning routine of Digital Design teacher Jennifer and basketball Head Coach Shawn Hair who still show up to work eleven years after first meeting at his basketball games.
Eleven years ago, Jennifer was the cheer sponsor while Shawn was head basketball coach — and a single dad raising two kids. In prior years, Shawn had gone through a rough time between switching jobs, a divorce, and learning how to raise Grace and his son Luke on his own. Babysitters were hard to come by, so he often brought his kids to games.
Asking Jennifer to watch his kids was easy. Shawn needed to focus on coaching his players, so Grace would chant and holler with the cheerleaders and Luke sat with the players like he was part of the team.
“She was the one who was able to settle my life and help me through a really tough time,” Shawn said.
After a few games, the two started talking. At first it was grabbing dinner from The Other Place after games with coaches and teachers. Then it was Jennifer hot gluing Grace’s black cat costume for her kindergarten Christmas play. The relationship didn’t take long to get serious. Three years later they were married.
Jennifer Hair says she and her husband are yin and yang — his sometimes serious and rule-following demeanor balances her creative and laid back personality. While she admires his inclination to respect and follow rules, Jennifer still believes “rules are meant to be broken.”
They work as a team to ensure Annabelle reaches dance rehearsal Wednesday and Friday nights, soccer practice on Thursdays, Girl Scout meetings, daycare drop-offs are taken care of, and if lucky, everyone can sit down for a family dinner.
The pair continue to help each other in their work lives. In the middle of a heated game, Shawn won’t hold back as he coaches his players until red in the face. Sometimes he doesn’t pick up on the body language of a kid who is struggling — but Jennifer does. When she hears from student chatter that a certain player has a hard schedule this semester, or doesn’t know all the guys on the team, she is likely to remind Shawn to keep an eye out.
Shawn affirms as much discipline on himself as he does with his PE students — enforcing rules to stay safe from injuries and bullying. His rule-following nature reminds Jennifer that sometimes cracking down is necessary. When the same student has strolled into class five minutes late the past week, it’s time for a talking to.
Jennifer often reminds him to be the father with the kids and the coach with the players, like when he’s challenging them to finish getting pajamas on in under a minute. He frequently takes himself too seriously, according to her, but that’s challenging when he’s sitting in a tiny chair playing tea party, and pretending to eat playdough cookies.
The two take advantage of working in such close proximity. Sometimes Jennifer will send down a lab aide to retrieve $10 so she can buy lunch from the cafeteria — if Shawn hasn’t already picked up a salad from Panera or placed money in her lunch account. Last year, alumna Eva Tucker became accustomed to running credit cards back and forth between the two. If she leaves her phone at home, he’ll run home to grab it and send a lab aide up with it.
“She’s my best friend,” Shawn says, “She does so much for me at school and in my life.”
On her way into a faculty meeting, Shawn greets her with a chocolate chip cookie he saved and lets her know he signed her in.
Although convenient that the two work just two floors away from each other, challenges come when they become attached to the students they both teach.
Over the years Shawn and Jennifer have both lost students to teen suicides and traumatic deaths. Jennifer believes if they worked separately, they wouldn’t both feel as if they were bringing the bad day home.
At the end of the day, when there’s time to take a breath, it’s not uncommon they break their agreement of talking about school at home. Work is hard to get away from, especially since they both love the community so much.
“I’m more of a boss at school, she’s more of a boss at home,” Shawn says. “But I’m sure she’d say she’s boss of both.”