York Comprehensive High art teacher helped students reach for more

Scott Hance
Scott Hance

Longtime York Comprehensive High School art teacher Jeffrey “Scott” Hance knew his students “had more in them than maybe they knew themselves.”

Colleagues said he showed up at school every day, eager to encourage his students and see them discover their potential. Even after his cancer diagnosis last year and the cancer’s return this spring, Hance wanted to teach.

“He showed them he believed in them,” said Leslie Templeton, another YCHS art teacher who taught in a classroom next to Hance for 17 years. Templeton said that Hance knew his students had more potential and ability than they realized.

“He was really good at getting to know them,” said Templeton. “He would sit at their tables when they were working on a project and chat with them. They really felt he cared about them and made them feel valued.”

The school’s faculty, staff and students this week mourned the loss of Hance, 48, who died April 20 after a yearlong battle with lymphoma. The school and family members are planning to create an annual scholarship in his name.

Many past and present students and faculty members this week shared their tributes to Hance on his Facebook page.

“Thank you for giving me my escape from the hard times in my life by giving me art,” one student wrote.

Another wrote: “I can honestly say I would not be where I am today if not for Scott Hance. He took a chance and stuck his neck out for me and helped me graduate from high school.”

Still another student called Hance “the greatest teacher I have ever had and ever will.”

Templeton said Hance used a lot of humor in his classes.

“The kids talk about him telling them stories. The kids say that was part of what they loved about it.”

Hance started his 23-year teacher career in York in 1991, when he began teaching art and drama at York Junior High.

In 1998, he moved to the high school, where he taught art, ceramics and art history. He had been chairman of the art department since 2005.

YCHS Principal Christopher Black said Hance “loved our kids. We are a true family, and he really looked at this as a family. He cared about so many people here, and so many people cared about him.”

Black’s secretary, Sandi Johnson, a close friend of Hance, said the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes last week asked the student body to wear green in honor of Hance, who was nearing the end of his battle with cancer.

The group gathered in the gym instead of out at the school flagpole because it was raining, Johnson said. “We all said little silent prayers, led by our FCA, and took pictures and did a book for him and presented it to him.”

Black said the fact that students wanted to organize such an event to honor Hance shows the impression he made on them.

“We are going to miss him,” Black said. “Sometimes it’s easy to be mad and bitter and sad, but as I told the staff, I hope that they are grateful for being able to know Scott and being influenced by him here at the school.”

Johnson, who visited Hance and his family last week, said he had returned home April 13 after being hospitalized for a week following the discovery that his cancer had returned.

As recently as last week, Johnson said, Hance “told us that he planned to be back, he was coming back to school. He was a fighter. He was ready to do a bone marrow transplant.”

She said he was diagnosed in late May 2014 with lymphoma after he began feeling ill, and missed the June graduation and the fall semester.

He returned to school a week before Christmas break, she said, and continued working until the week before spring break.

During his illness and hospitalization at Gibbs Cancer Center in Spartanburg, he often was accompanied by his beloved pet JJ, a Chihuahua, she said.

Johnson said she, Hance and another teacher had been working on plans for the YCHS prom May 16 and that Hance was eager to participate.

During his time at YCHS, Hance also started the National Art Honor Society and was the Art Club adviser. He helped with the Junior Ring Ceremony, and he coached boys’ tennis from 2003 to 2006.

Born in Kings Mountain, N.C., Hance was a graduate of Blacksburg High School. He earned his bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Limestone College and a masters of education from Columbia College.

Survivors include his parents, Robert and Shirley Hance; a brother, Robbie Hance and his wife, Tiffany; two nieces, Morgan and Madalyn Hance; an aunt, Charlene Harwick; cousin, Lee Cashion; and his lifelong friend, Mandy Upchurch Grigg.

Memorial services were last week at Broad River Baptist Church in Blacksburg.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the Scott Hance Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o York Comprehensive High School, 275 E. Alexander Love Highway, York, SC 29745.

Blakely Funeral Home & Crematory in Gaffney is handling the arrangements. An online guest register is available at www.blakelyfuneralhome.com.

Jennifer Becknell •  803-329-4077