Recent graduate and alumni club scholar Tina Hiller returns to her Hardin County roots to teach others
Tina Hiller learned more at Ohio State than how to be a teacher. She discovered who she really was and where she was headed. Turns out, her path led right back home.
The four-time scholarship winner from Hardin County, Ohio, is now teaching at a school just 15 minutes from her rural hometown of Kenton.
“It’s been a very rewarding experience,” Hiller says of teaching English language arts to seventh- and eighth-graders at Arlington High School, which includes grades 7 through 12.
“Seeing the way they grow from day to day is wonderful. We’ve all been inspired by one or two teachers along the way and you always hope you will be able to teach students in an inspirational way.”
Hiller, who began her Ohio State experience at the Lima regional campus, was personally inspired by two specific individuals during her own educational journey.
Shortly after transferring to the Columbus campus as a sophomore, Hiller befriended her public speaking instructor, who shared an affinity for farm life.
“I sought her out after class one day in hopes of gaining some insight as to how she was able to love and thrive in both country and city life,” Hiller says. But the professor’s advice — that it was OK to be uncomfortable — did not resonate with Hiller until she bounced it off a mentor back home.
“My boss encouraged me that the reason it was OK to be uncomfortable is because discomfort breeds growth,” Hiller says. “She reminded me that I was in college, a place where students are supposed to be challenged on a daily basis.”
That epiphany changed everything. Hiller became more confident and more willing to learn from new experiences. She successfully auditioned for University Chorale, got involved with the Alpha Sigma Epsilon sorority she’d initially pledged at Lima, and, during a trip home, met with the Ohio State Extension Office and landed an internship as a 4-H and Youth Development Professional.
“Hands down, the Hardin County Extension was the best experience I’ve had,” Hiller says. “It allowed me to combine my pride for my hometown and my pride for Ohio State.”
The internship, as well as a student teaching stint at Gahanna Lincoln High School in northeast Columbus, solidified her career choice.
“I know I’m in the right field because I always leave with a sense of accomplishment” she says. “What has been really significant for me was developing an appreciation for small town community education as well as large-scale education in an urban environment.”
As graduation approached, Hiller sought jobs around Columbus and near her hometown.
“My heart had landed in those two places, so I didn’t really know where I would end up,” she says. Hiller accepted the Arlington offer two days before graduation, welcoming the opportunity to return home — at least for now.
“Teaching is where I know my career needs to start,” she says. “I have aspirations, in the next couple years, to get a master’s degree in administration and maybe, one day, be a curriculum director. But teaching students and being in the classroom is where I need to be right now.”
Lois Lautenschlager, scholarship chair for the Alumni Club of Hardin County, says she appreciates when young movers and shakers like Hiller return to the community after graduation.
“We have more and more graduates who have been out in the city spreading their wings and, after they’ve flown for a while, they like to come back,” she says. “They are coming back with new skills and new ideas. That’s why we feel our investment in these students is really paying off. It’s a rejuvenation of our community.”
Students reap dividends, too, Hiller adds.
“Having the support of your hometown is a great reminder during college’s more arduous experiences that people believe in you,” she says. “It’s always a reminder to push yourself.”