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Title: An interview with Dr. Eileen Hilke
Project: Lakeland Oral History Project
Interviewee: Dr. Eileen Hilke
Interviewer: Amy Van Akkeren
Interview location and date: Lakeland Campus on March 28th, 2008
Key words: Lakeland College, Adult Education.
Name Index: Eileen Hilke
Introduction: This interview discusses Dr Eileen Hilke's growth and development as a professor at Lakeland College. The interview covers such topics as Hilke's background in education, her hiring process at Lakeland College, the changes she has observed on the campus and within the education division, and general education topics (school choice, No Child Left Behind, school uniforms, and year-round schooling)
The transcript of this interview has been edited for easier reading. All verbal hesitations, stutters and false starts have been deleted. Certain questions and answers unrelated to the focus of this interview have also been edited out.
Amy Van Akkeren: First off I kind of want to discuss how you began teaching, what made you decide to teach, and what were your inspirations?
Dr. Eileen Hilke: I decided I wanted to be a teacher probably by the time I was in Kindergarten and loved, loved my teacher and loved everything about it. By the time I was in fourth grade I already had the grade picked out that I wanted to teach. And I never thought about another profession. I never even wanted to consider another profession. I loved teaching and will always love teaching. Then I went right on for my bachelor's degree and got that and I was hired to teach 1st grade and got a little nervous and panicked because I was sitting there and it was just right after graduation and I told my parents, I said, "I am teaching first grade, but I don't know if I know how to teach reading." And I really got frightened. So it was my dad who said well why don't you go this summer and take a reading course. So I went to Marquette University and took a couple of courses on how to teach reading, so by the time I started in September I knew how to teach reading to the 1st graders. And then after I had a couple of courses my dad asked if I wanted to go on for my master's degree. My mom was real encouraging and she said just think about it in the summers to go on. So I did and then started working in other curriculum areas. I started out my career teaching first grade and then a special program came along and it was the research and development program out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and it was for Individually Guided Education. This program was wonderful! It would test students in reading to see what they know as far as specific skills. If students knew a subject or an area, then they didn't need to be taught that. For example, I would test my students on contractions, if they knew contractions then they didn't have to study them. Then I would test on compound words and other things, so you would have small groups. For a portion of the day sometimes I would have three or four different groups going in my class room and the groups would be anywhere from kindergarten through grade three. So I would have kindergarten group in one area and a grade three in another area trying to work it all through this reading program. And I was really excited about it and it went beautifully and I was really sold on it because why teach somebody something they already know. Why not teach them something new and challenge them? This was really early on, this was 1972 and we were already doing a lot of differentiation at that time. So I got very interested and just started doing a little research in the area. And ended up doing my master's thesis on Individually Guided Education. Well second grade teachers, nobody wanted to do it because it was quiet a bit of work, a lot of group meeting time, a lot of assessment, a lot of taking it home a night (laughs) and working on it, and they weren't so sure about it. There was an opening in second grade, and a first grade teacher said well as long as I can stay in first grade I will take on the IGE but I can't take on the IGE and go into second grade. So I said fine, I will do second grade (laughs) so I went to second grade absolutely loved second grade. Then by the next year became the team leader for the IGE elementary program. Then I ended up doing my master's thesis on it, and it was just a wonderful program at the time. So that's how I really got excited and started out. Then I had got some field experience students coming into the class, or people seeing how I was teaching and I thought wouldn't it be fun some day to train future teachers. That's how I actually found out about Lakeland. A neighbor had worked out here, and said, " Well I think there is a job at Lakeland, but I am not sure," and he gave me the person to contact here to see if there was a job available. I ended up calling and there was a job available, so I applied for the job here.
Van Akkeren: What was your interview process like at Lakeland?
Hilke: It was very, very strenuous. They really wanted somebody with a PhD, and at that time I had just been awarded my master's. A matter of fact the ink wasn't even dry at the point I applied for it. They were really looking for that, and I decided, well this is just something that I would have loved and I said, "I am going to apply, the worst that can happen is they say forget it you're not qualified." Well, I went for a first interview and it went fairly well so they invited me back for a second interview. The first one was with the division chair and the second one was with the Dean. That went well too. And he said, "Well we want you to meet with students." So there was a group of students and we were in the Muskie all around a great big table and they just started firing questions at me. "How would you do this? What would you do? How would you teach this class?" It was just really unnerving (laughs). I was just like, "Oh my goodness." I thought, oh I am not sure how this is going. And then I got a phone call saying we would like to have you come back for another interview. A fourth interview with the president. Well it turns out the one with the president was just to meet the president at the time and chat with him. By that time they had already decided they would like to offer me the contract. So I was like YES and I was absolutely thrilled. That was how I came to Lakeland. I was just so proud of having my master's and getting all set and then all of a sudden I looked around and most people, a lot of them at that time, did have PhDs. And I thought well, I better get started. So I took my GREs and then started on my PhD program. I worked on that while I was here. I just did evening work and summer work and you know weekend classes. Whatever I could to do that, because I didn't want to quit my job. They kept saying, I got it from UWM, "Well you should really just take a leave." And I Said, "I love what I am doing, and if it takes me a little longer it takes me a little longer. But I said I don't want to give up my job." So that is how I came here and was interviewed. I loved that process. It makes so much sense to me that students should be interviewing the new person coming on because they are the ones who are going to be taking the classes. They didn't do a lot of that at that time, so I was really pretty impressed then. I got a chance to meet with the students so that was wonderful.
Van Akkeren: What are some of the changes you've seen around campus since you have been here?
Hilke: Okay, Major! (laughs) When I came here there were probably only about 400 hundred students. Now we're much more than doubled. (laughs) My class sizes were very small. I would have seven or eight students in a class for some of my classes. Others courses like an introduction or curriculum like educational psych were a little larger classes, but some of the others were fairly small. Some would maybe even have like 10 students in a class. Right now the class I am teaching has 29 students, my social studies and language arts class. ly has his undergraduate degree from here and on his graduation day, they were supposed to have outdoor graduation which was always tradition here. It was very beautiful and you could do that because our numbers were smaller. All of sudden a rain storm hit just as they had started and everybody ran to Founders. Everybody sat down, they had chairs there just in case. They all, the audience, went running in and there was no spots left for the graduates to sit. So my husband was pictured in the paper sitting cross legged on the floor in his graduation gown.
Hilke: We use to have basketball games in Founders, and we had our plays in Founders. So it was kind of fun. It's not there anymore, but that's a nice memory. The other thing that has changed is we have the main Bossard Hall over in the campus center, but we actually had the structure and it was just really up the hill from this building. I had a beautiful office that I absolutely loved. It was this large office, closest, and it was on the second floor. Because it was an older structure, the floor tilted a little bit and my chair had wheels so every time I sat down (laughing) I would go into the wall. The maintenance people were so nice they said, "We'll carpet it for you." Even carpeting didn't help that much, it would still tilt down. And then finally they not only carpeted it, but they put a metal strip in the back of my chair so that the wheels would go back and stop on the metal strip. You would get a little jolt if you weren't careful. (laughs) And it was a lot of fun because we had a lot of camaraderie with that, and really enjoyed it. It was a small environment and a very small faculty at that time, so it was fun. But the building needed to be (laughs) raised (laughs). Probably another thing I noticed quite dramatically was that there were very few female faculty members when I came here. There was almost an all-male staff at the time, and that has changed a lot. We have a lot of very talented and gifted female faculty members, as well as male faculty members, so that has been an major change too. And then with the new buildings on campus, it's just wonderful. It really is!
Van Akkeren: What about the changes in the Education Division specifically. What have you observed there?
Hilke: My first year was the first time we applied to have an Early Childcare Program. I was in on the process working with Madison to get our Early Childcare Program certified. I worked with LTC for that, so that was new. We have added other things over the years. For example, our business education, English as a Second Language to work with the English language learners in the area. We have been adding different areas and broadening what we can offer our students and that has been exciting. Just recently we are getting our TEC certification so that is really wonderful. We have continued to grow as far as our numbers as well. We just really are doing, I think a really good job of preparing teachers for the area. We always have had a really good reputation in the area, and really supportive teachers and administrators as far as welcoming our students for student teaching and hiring them. So that has continued over the years. I think our program has always stayed very, ve! ry strong. Another thing I have noticed is how many full time staff people we have. We also have some adjunct people. When I first came it was just two people who were full time. It was that way for many years, and then we added another person and it just kept growing. So that's really nice. I like the idea of us having more full time faculty people, because they can do advising and work on committees in addition to teaching. It's also nice when we still have a couple of adjunct people who help us out because they bring their knowledge from the schools and what they do in the schools to our students. That practical aspect. So I think it is a wonderful blend, but I think the numbers once again have grown in the department.
Van Akkeren: What's your favorite part of your job?
Hilke: I love teaching. I just I get so excited to teach. I am always super early for class because I just can't wait to get started. The other thing is being out and supervising our student teachers. It brings me such joy to see students in methods classes saying oh how do you write a lesson plan, and what do you do, and doing their first or second little teaching experience. Then seeing them as student teachers, where they are teachers, and they are doing a wonderful job with their children that they work with. I sit back with a big smile on my face because I am so proud. (laughs) So I don't know if it's me physically teaching the students or me supervising the students to see how well they are doing. But that's just the greatest joy.
Van Akkeren: I have a couple of general education questions for you. Questions that are considered controversial, and are always topics that are brought up a lot. First off, I am not sure if you have experience working in schools with uniforms at all, but would you say it is something you would suggest or not?
Hilke: I don't like the school uniform idea. I think the individuality in what students wear is fine. I do believe in school dress codes. I don't think students should come in inappropriate attire. (laughs) Rather skimpy clothes or t-shirts with inappropriate things on, so I really believe in having restrictions on the clothing if they are inappropriate. Otherwise allowing students individuality to wear what they, what they feel comfortable in or what they can afford.
Van Akkeren: What about school choice?
Hilke: I feel comfortable about the school choice movement, because it allows parents to have some kind of say in what their students are interested in. For example, in Sheboygan we now have a variety of different school choice schools. The one thing I think about, probably because my daughter was always into the creative arts dealing a lot with music and theatre and there were not always a lot of options. Now as a parent it is my responsibility to go out and find the options. I found local theater groups and got private singing lessons. So there are things as a parent I should be doing, but sometimes that gets to be difficult for a parent to either find those avenues or to be able to afford things for their children. By having them in school, a parent can say I would like my child to go to a performing arts school so I can use some of their creative talents in that way. There are so many different school choice areas to go into, so once you know what is good for your child you can place them in those different areas. I really do like the school choice idea.
Van Akkeren: One major issue that is brought up a lot is No Child Left Behind. What would you say to future teachers about this topic?
Hilke: This is something that causes a lot of discussion in the area schools because of the heavy testing and penalizing of schools. The good thing that did come out of it is that we are aware of the different needs of students, we are aware of how well they are doing, and how to help them. We are taking that very seriously with the differentiation. What I feel uncomfortable with is the government saying this is what you have to do with your scores, or this is not a good school. I think what we should be doing is helping the teachers. Giving the teachers training to be able to work with the children and young adults in our schools. Having smaller class sizes, having enough resources available for them. So trust the professionalism of the people that are out in the schools, and meet the needs of the students that they work with. I think that is more important than teaching from a test. There are many ways that we can teach a variety of different things as far as learning styles. Looking at multiple intelligences and not just saying "oh, we have to know this and teach from the test." I feel uncomfortable with that. I feel very comfortable with uhh our state standards ummm because we know in the state that there are certain things we have to do in all the subject areas, but teachers are allowed to teach in the way they would like to meet those particular standards. So once again the heavy testing and penalizing the schools, I am not comfortable with. The idea of yes we should know where students are and how to help them. And help teachers help students. That I do feel comfortable with.
Van Akkeren: My last question for you is another topic often brought up, year-round schooling. Is this something you would be for or against, and do you see any pros and cons to this?
Hilke: I don't think I care as much for year round schooling because I think that children and young adults need a little break during the summer. I know they do get larger chunks of breaks with year round school, but during the summer that is when I see a lot of enrichment taking place. This is where they can be with friends playing, go to camps, or learn sports or do the creative arts. There are so many opportunities during the summer for so many children, and I think sometimes they need that little bit of a break. I don't think I would feel as comfortable with that. And also if it is 90 or 100 degrees in the summer and you are sitting in school trying to teach grammar, it gets to be a little more difficult. So I like the system that we have now.
Van Akkeren: Well thank you for your time today, and for letting me interview you. I greatly appreciate it.
Hilke: You're welcome.Back to top