KEIL HILEMAN, 2004 KANSAS TEACHER OF THE YEAR
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
"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."