LINGLE – On Tuesday, May 18, Lingle-Fort Laramie (L-FL) schools business teacher Kara Hill was awarded Goshen County School District No.1 (GCSD) Teacher of the Year at the end of the year award ceremony.
Hill was surprised by the announcement at the ceremony when GCSD Superintendent Ryan Kramer announced to the entire school that Hill had been selected as teacher of the year.
“I figured [Kramer] was just here to support our school,” Hill said. “When he said it was Goshen County Teacher of the Year, I felt like I swallowed a canary. It was really surprising and shocking.”
After Kramer announced Hill as Teacher of the Year, she was surprised by her husband Michael and son Avery who were there with flowers. It meant the world to her that her husband and son were in attendance.
“I turned around and there they were,” Hill said. “It was an emotional thing and unlike anything I had ever experienced.”
Hill was born and raised in Mitchell Nebraska and after high school she went to Western Nebraska Community College (WNCC) in Scottsbluff and earned a Business Administration and Journalism degree. When she graduated from WNCC, she transferred to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and was enrolled in a Business Education program.
When Hill was in high school, she described herself as the nerdy kid and had multiple classmates tell her she should become a teacher, but she was always adamant she didn’t want to do the job.
One day, Hill was working in the business office at UNL with one of her business professors when a foreign student walked in and asked, “what be the meaning of wheat?” Hill said the question threw her off because of growing up in western Nebraska surrounded by wheat.
Hill said she then showed her fellow student a picture of wheat and got the opportunity to use some of her Spanish-speaking skills to help show the student what wheat was.
After Hill helped her friend, she said the business professor called her into her office after she helped the foreign student and asked her three questions that would change her life forever.
“Janet Johnson asked me three questions that totally changed everything for me,” Hill said. “ [Johnson] said ‘Do you love business?’, and I said ‘absolutely’, [Johnson] said ‘Do you love helping people?’, and I said ‘more than anything’, and the third question was ‘Well why aren’t you going to be a business teacher?’ to that point I had never thought about it and everything just kind of clicked.”
When Hill was at UNL she had a great time in classrooms gaining different experiences and interacting with people from different cultures and backgrounds.
Hill said her cousin Carol Glenn was a huge help for her while she was at UNL. Unfortunately, while Hill was at UNL, Glenn was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer and lost her fight while Hill was there.
“[Glenn] always kept me going and when I wanted to give up she would talk about the kids in her classroom and the passion she had for it really fed my fire,” Hill said through tears. “Now I teach for us both.”
Before Glenn lost her battle with cancer, Hill said she used to tell her fun and inspirational stories and talk about the love she had for her students. Those stories are what helped motivate Hill and when she took over a classroom of her own, she felt that same special connection with her students.
After Hill completed her student teaching in Mitchell, her mom saw an opening in Guernsey. She taught there for four years until the previous business teacher at L-FL retired. Hill applied for the job at L-FL and was hired. She’s been here for five years.
Hill said she loves teaching at L-FL and if she has her way, she plans to stay at the school until she is able to retire.
“Lingle is like a big family,” Hill said. “You don’t go through anything by yourself and everybody here is so supportive and our kids are amazing.”
When Hill found out she had been nominated for teacher of the year, she was shocked and was close to tears. The application process was a two-page essay discussing your community involvement, what you’ve done to further your education and what you’ve done for Goshen County Schools. After submitting the essay, there was a panel interview process where Hill was asked five different questions.
“Walking in and walking out, I saw teachers that I’ve worked with in the past or that I knew and had a great deal of respect for,” Hill said. “The fact that I was even mentioned among those names, I was totally honored.”
With all the challenges the past year brought to teachers across the Goshen County School District over the past year due to the pandemic, Hill was really happy to just be in the classroom at the beginning of the school year after finishing last year remotely.
Hill said she didn’t mind wearing the masks because she knew it was how she could see her students face to face and after last year, she was ready to take on any of the restrictions that were in place because she wanted to be with her students.
“Whatever restrictions were in place, I was going to jump through those hoops because I wanted to be with my kids,” Hill said. “The masks had their challenges and were something to get used to, but the kids handled it really well and we just rolled with it. The kids are very resilient, they adapt and overcome.”
Over the summer, Hill is looking forward to spending time outdoors with her family and serving on the Lingle Volunteer Fire Department team which she and her husband have been a part of for the last four years.
Currently, Hill serves as the secretary for the fire department and enjoys going through the various trainings and how it helps her further connect to her brother who is a firefighter and teacher in Nebraska.
Hill wanted to thank the L-FL community for all they’ve done for her and her family and all the support they provide. She also gave thanks to her husband and son who supported her every step of the way. Hill also thinks of her cousin Carol every day she’s in the classroom and uses her memory as an inspiration.
“When I think about the community, our school and our district, gratitude and thankfulness, appreciation and absolute love, is the only thing I can think of,” Hill said. “That’s the only adjective’s I can use to describe it.”
“Truly, credit goes out to my mom and dad and brother, they've been inspirations my whole life,” Hill said. “But especially thank you to my husband and son, they’re so patient.”