Professor and director of Early Childhood Services retires
News | Grace Shull
Dr. Robin Hasslen worked with Bethel's two Childhood Development Centers. | Photo illustration courtesy of Bethel
It’s dark outside, and while most students are buried under blankets, Dr. Robin Hasslen is up as usual and has her day planned out.
“I have a list! And this is what I’m going to do today, and I’m so excited!”
Whether she’s teaching students, overseeing the Child Development Centers or volunteering with patients in hospice or the emergency room, Hasslen brings enthusiasm to whatever she does. Hasslen is retiring this spring from her role at Bethel as the director of Early Childhood Services and interim chairperson of Modern World Languages. Her passion for life and her work has made an impression on students and faculty during her eight years at Bethel.
“Robin Hasslen lives the moment,” said Laura Sanchez, assistant professor in the Modern World Languages department. “She’s not concerned about the future or the past. She enjoys and she lives the present, the day. And she gets the most out of that day.”
Hasslen said she’s had an “amazing experience” at Bethel. She taught at St. Cloud State University for about 17 years before coming to Bethel in 2004. She likes the Christian community and thinks the students are unique in their respectfulness and commitment to their goals and education.
“It’s just been a very rewarding time, and I have so enjoyed working with the two Child Development Centers,” said Hasslen.
Hasslen has brought a high level of professional production to Bethel, obtaining significant grant money for the Child Development Centers, said Louise Wilson, chair of the education department. Hasslen is also a wonderful teacher, she said, “She has a heart for students, [and] she’s developed great relationships with students in her program.”
Hasslen is a wonderful mentor and encourager, said Sanchez. “She has the ability to bring the best – to see your potential and to call you upon that.”
Although many faculty members often keep within their departments, only getting to know those they frequently work with, said Wilson, “Robin is one of these people that has gotten to know people all over Bethel.”
The way Hasslen reaches out to others is a testimony to her faith. Wilson said, “Her faith really pervades everything she does, in a very real and authentic way.”
Hasslen is passionate about early childhood development. She’s always enjoyed children, she said, and she appreciates the honesty and directness of children that is lost as they grow up. Working with young children, she believes, is a very special vocation.
“In my mind, this is the most important calling a person could have, because your impact on a child from birth to five years is overwhelming,” said Hasslen. “And we talk about the achievement gap in this country, it can’t be closed in high school or middle school – it has to be closed from the time a child is born.”
It’s not whether or not you have an A+ average that decides whether you’ll be a good teacher, Hasslen tells her students, but “it’s also whether you have that kind of instinctual ability to understand children and interact with them.”
Sanchez said Hasslen has a great love for children: if there is a toddler in the room, she said, Hasslen will forget everything else and get down on the floor with him or her.
She’s still here, she said, so she’s not thinking about the future too much right now. “I’m still very much interested in what I’m doing.”
She doesn’t have very set plans at the moment, but Hasslen has lots of ideas about things she’d still like to do.
What she does will probably be related to children, Hasslen said, but it might also have something to do with those at the end of their lives. She has volunteered with hospice for 25 years, as well as in the hospital ER. Hasslen said working with hospice for so long has given her an important perspective on time. “You need to use it and not waste it.”
Hasslen said she is helped knowing God’s peace is always with us, even when she’s not sure what she’ll be doing next: “That comforts me in not knowing what’s ahead.”
One thing she knows for sure is that she’s moving back to the farm. She and her husband have owned their farm in South Haven for 39 years. Since she came to Bethel, she’s lived in a condo in the cities, just going home to the farm on weekends. She’s eager to go back: “I’ve been eight years away from my husband.”
Although she hopes she can slow down a little, Hasslen said she always needs to have a purpose.
“I will probably still get up at four in the morning,” she said, “but I don’t know that I’ll make a list every day.”