Hileman finalist for teacher of the year
Monticello Trails social studies instructor makes it five in a row for USD 232
Monticello Trails Middle School social studies teacher Keil Hileman II has to find room in his crowded classroom for two new artifacts.
Hileman was named a Region III finalist for the 2004 Kansas Teacher of the Year award Sunday.
By Monday, he had returned to the passion that drives his work in De Soto USD 232: the development of his classroom "museum" and its new course curriculum. The classroom museum studies course is the first of its kind in the state of Kansas.
The challenge Monday was to find room amid the pot-bellied stove, antique cash register and other museum items for a golden apple and certificate that came with the honor.
"This isn't what I'm about," Hileman said, pointing to all of the congratulatory presents and decorations that have filled his room. "The museum is a lot of work. The program is all up to me. It will be my legacy long after I'm gone. Just in case I drop dead, there will always be the museum and its legacy."
A De Soto resident, Hileman was among seven Teacher of the Year semi-finalists from Region III, which covers the 3rd U.S. Congressional District. He becomes the fifth consecutive De Soto teacher to be selected as a state finalist for the award.
As finalist for the Kansas Teacher of the Year distinction, Hileman received a $2,000 cash award from the Security Benefit Group of Companies, a major partner in the Kansas Teacher of the Year program.
"I feel very awkward to be receiving this recognition after having been at the school for only 10 years," Hileman said. "To this point, the judges haven't seen my room. I'm excited to see what their reaction will be to the museum."
To call Hileman's work site at Monticello Trails a "classroom" is to do it a grave injustice. In his 10 years at the school, Hileman has taken a traditional classroom space and transformed it into a history lesson that students can touch and feel. The popularity of Hileman's teachings in the museum has not only translated into statewide accolades, but also a greenlight from school administrators to develop his own unique curriculum and courses to supply the school with what is being dubbed as the "Museum Connections" program.
"Here, the museum is about putting the students in a new kind of classroom that doesn't rely on traditional textbooks," Hileman said. "When they come in. I want them to analyze historical programs (film) I produced. I want them to discuss the artifacts they see here and then test them with oral exams. I don't like the idea of creating 'test anxiety' for the students. I'd rather observe them debating Greek contributions to building civilization than having them take standard tests."
Hileman called his freedom to implement a new format to his teachings as pure heaven for an educator. The current museum will be getting a facelift in the next two years when displays will be moved into a larger area of the school as the next phase of the building's expansion is completed.
"When I move into the new room the museum connections program will have about 500 students every year," Hileman said. "I've been allowed to give input on what kind of room would be appropriate to help the program continue to grow. Soon, I'll be able to watch kids grow over a three-year period as they experience the museum each year."
In the meantime, Hileman's current class space can barely support the museum at its present size. Neighboring classrooms have graciously agreed to house the overflow.
While he is fulfilling his duties in the application process as finalist for Kansas Teacher of the Year, he is operating on a few hours of sleep a night and looking to keep the museum up and running.
"You can't let these things compromise your school work even though the process is a big investment," Hileman said. "I do what I can to get out to yard sales, and other places that junk may be available. You never know what's going to become the next addition for the museum so you just get out there and keep looking."