Stella Hill retires after 14 years teaching at GVMS
GUNNISON—A dream to do as she pleases will soon become a reality for Gunnison Valley Middle School (GVMS) teacher Stella Hill, who recently announced her plan to retire after 25 years in education.
Hill has been teaching seventh grade at GVMS since the school’s inception in 1999.
“I’m going to miss being here,” she said as tears streaked her face. “It’s been great but the time comes when I need to say, ‘it’s time to retire.’”
Hill graduated from Manti High in 1970 and went on to earn an associate degree from Snow in 1972. In the early 1990’s, she earned a Master’s in Elementary Education from Southern Utah University on top of getting an administrative degree.
Having always carried the dream to be a teacher, Hill says the person who inspired her to follow that path was her high school science teacher, Mr. Earl Wheeler.
“I loved the way he taught, and I often thought to myself, ‘I want to be just like you’” she said.
More inspiration came from her high school English teacher Mrs. Thelma Smith, who Hill says was an incredibly strict teacher but provided her a great background in English.
Trials often play a part in an individual’s success, and Hill says there were some aspects of the job that made it difficult, such as testing and everything teachers are required to do to get kids ready for testing.
She says often-time teachers become parents because some kids are not given the support they need from home.
“I don’t know what people say about education, but you’re working conditions are great,” Hill said. “Our benefits are still good. Mom’s are home when kids are home. It’s a good job, and it’s been good to me.”
Hill is known throughout the Gunnison Valley as not only a teacher but a co-director for the annual musicals the school puts on.
GVMS Principal Alan Peterson says he coerced Hill to recruit staff to help get something creative for the kids going the year the school was established.
Hill said she and co-director Kristal Childs joined to build something that would inspire kids to get more culture in their lives and had a mutual vision to produce a musical.
“I think we just needed kids to have more experience in the arts. We thought this was a really great school and we have good teachers here, but the one thing that might have been missing was the fact that we didn’t really have anything artsy yet.”
At that time, the school had not yet established the orchestra, and the band was still in the beginning stages.
After researching production options, Hill and Childs said they had become concerned about funding because the royalties and licensing alone were $800.
Hill says Peterson had faith in the directors, told them to move forward with what they needed, and the bill would be covered.
It was at least two years before the school would recover from the first two productions, Hill said.
“Our administrator has always supported us completely,” Hill said. “He was and is very supportive in everything.”
Over a decade later Hill says she was not concerned with the bill because she knew the school had the means to cover production costs from previous productions.
Her final production, The Wizard of Oz, was held last weekend at the school where more than 300 guests filled the auditorium on the first night alone.
Childs said her favorite things about working with Hill throughout the years was seeing how much she loved the kids.
“It really has been a great journey,” Hill said. “Kristal and I ran production, but really, everybody helps. There isn’t one teacher in the school who wouldn’t help us if we asked, and that includes lunch and janitorial staff.”
Finally, after over two decades in the classroom, Hill says it’s time for her to take care of herself and spend time with her husband.
She says she also plans to spend more time with her children, Andy, 42; Ben, 41; Samantha, 38; Chad, 35; Daniel, 33; and her 12 grandkids, two of which she says she has had the pleasure of teaching.
Aside from spending ample quality time with her loved ones, she says she is going to live out her dream to road trip to New York, Boston and Washington D.C.