Teacher of the Year
Teacher of the Year Home
2006 Teachers of the Year
2005 Teachers of the Year
2004 Teachers of the Year
State Teachers
2003 Teachers of the Year
About the Program
Application and Selection Information


Explore, Empower, Excel.

Keil Hileman sees it as his professional duty to take his students through as he calls it, "these three phases of learning." As he says, "It is the teacher's responsibility to determine what it will take to enable students to explore the world they live in, empower them with useful learning and excel by applying that knowledge to achieve educational and personal goals in their everyday lives."

To do this with an age range often viewed as especially difficult to reach takes not only an emphasis on these phases but a truly positive belief in the middle school experience. "The middle school student has an open mind and many creative skills," says this teacher from Monticello Trails Middle School in Shawnee, Kansas. "The middle school years are the best time for me to help prepare students for their academic and athletic pursuits in high school, since this is when most students are taught organization and develop study skills.

"It is a difficult journey because many lose their enthusiasm for learning. My job is to teach but my passion is setting students' minds ablaze with a love of creative learning and the power of knowledge. For me there is no other educational level that holds as much potential for personal and intellectual growth as the middle school," this teacher of 10 years says.

That passion has led to a number of creative endeavors in Mr. Hileman's teaching experience, in particular the creation of his students' Classroom Museum. After years of collecting historical artifacts, such as a 3000-year-old Chinese coin, a 1790s slave collar and an early 1900s nickel and cast iron stove, this social studies teacher opened the 2003-2004 school year with a new 6-8 grade class called Museum Connections, complete with an in-school museum twice the size of a typical classroom.

Using a personally-designed curriculum that supports the regular social studies classes by using museum artifacts, Internet searches, hands-on lessons, video clips, discussions and student-created projects, the class and museum are quickly becoming a motivator not only for more higher-level learning but an educational bond for the entire Shawnee, Kansas community.

The passion and creativity he brings to his school and profession is echoed by many who work with him. Members of his seventh-grade teaching team describe his enthusiasm as "never-ending," his creatively as "astounding," his compassion for students "inspiring" and his love and passion for his subject area "overwhelming." .
"He offers the best 'hands-on' teaching methods I have ever seen in the thirty years I have taught," one said. "In his lessons he offers students choices for how they can accomplish the goal of learning the material, making it possible for them to learn in the style most suited to them. His room is a plethora of historical information, artifacts, and stimulating materials that daily peak their interest in the topic they are covering. At the end of each unit, he ties it all back to the present day by showing a film that coincides with or accentuates the time period or the facts and concepts the students just covered in that unit."

One of his former students describes an "especially moving" topic covered in class: racial discrimination and the American and worldwide civil rights movement. As she says, "Mr. Hileman shared with us many items including a slave collar and a Nazi helmet to express just how horrible racial discrimination is. Then after showing us a heartbreaking but inspiring video with clips of newscasts during the civil rights movement, it got us, his students, thinking, 'How could our country have been that wrong?' And that was his goal, to get us thinking. He knew what would touch us, what would change us and used that to make us learn."