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Retiring Olney-Bissell teacher keeps on learning

by HEIDI DESCH
Whitefish Pilot | June 2, 2021 1:00 AM

Olney-Bissell School teacher Kathy Hill is retiring this month after 31 years teaching at the school, but last month she walked across the graduation stage earning her doctorate degree.

While working full-time teaching fifth through eighth grade math at Olney-Bissell, Hill has spent the last decade working on her doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Montana. Her hard work proved to be a lesson she could pass onto her own students.

“When they get bogged down, I’d tell them I’m on my 12th version of writing my dissertation,” she said, noting that after earning her masters in mathematics getting her doctorate just seemed like the next progression.

Hill grew up in California knowing she wanted to be a teacher, and spent a few years teaching in Oregon before joining Olney-Bissell. She tried out teaching in the younger grades, but found middle school students to be her favorite age to work with.

“They’re not quite adults yet, but they’re very capable,” she said. “They’re a little quirky and they’re a lot of fun.”

Teaching at Olney-Bissell, Hill works across multiple grades spending four years with her students before they move on to high school.

“I get to know them pretty well,” she said of her students. “Here, you really get to know all the students because the school is small enough.”

After retiring Hill plans to move to Oregon to be closer to her grandchildren. She plans to continue hitting the hiking trails, and she may even go back into the classroom again.

“I don’t really know what I’m going to do with [my doctorate],” she said. “I’m looking at teaching as an adjunct professor at a university. I’m retiring, but I’m not stopping working.”

Hill cherishes the moment when her students figure out a new concept. When she thinks about retiring, she tears up, saying it's the students she’ll miss the most.

“I love it,” she said. “I love teaching.”

Hill is likely one of the educators who has worked the most years at Olney-Bissell.

“Olney-Bissell is an amazing school, it’s a great community and a great staff,” she said. “I’m extremely happy to have worked here in such an amazing school.”

A retirement celebration for Hill is being held at the school on Sunday, June 6 from 2-4 p.m.