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Capital city to small-town classroom

February 05, 2018

Why Tina Hiller ’17 went from hometown to big city and back again

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Tina Hiller

Sometimes when you follow the path to your dream job, it leads you right back to where you started. At least, that’s how it ended up going for Tina Hiller '17, and she couldn’t be happier.

After graduating from Ohio State, the four-time scholarship winner from Hardin County, Ohio, is now teaching at a school just 15 minutes from her rural hometown of Kenton.

“Teaching is where I know my career needs to start,” Hiller 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.”

The teacher of English language arts has a goal not only to be a successful teacher, but also an inspirational one — just like the professors who inspired her during her time at Ohio State.

“We’ve all been inspired by one or two teachers along the way,” Hiller says, “and you always hope you will be able to teach students in an inspirational way.”

But how did she realize that going from hometown to city life back to hometown was the path she was supposed to take?

Hiller, who began her Ohio State experience at the Lima regional campus, was personally inspired by two specific people during her own educational journey.

Shortly after transferring to the Columbus campus as a sophomore, Hiller befriended her professor of public speaking, who shared an affinity for farm life.

After asking her professor how she balanced an affinity for both country and city life, she was told that sometimes it’s uncomfortable. And it’s OK to be uncomfortable in certain situations, because that feeling encourages growth.

Intrigued, she bounced that thought off of her mentor back home, and her mentor agreed, saying that being a college student means being challenged every day.

Just like that, Hiller had an epiphany, and it changed everything. She became more confident and more willing to learn from new experiences. She successfully auditioned for University Chorale, got involved in a sorority, and, during a trip home, met with an Ohio State Extension office contact 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.

“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.”

So what’s it like teaching junior high students in a small town? Turns out, it has abundant rewards for both her and her students.

“Seeing the way they grow from day to day is wonderful,” Hiller says. “When someone walks into my classroom, it’s very easy to see the learning atmosphere. The students get along with each other, they get along with me and the learning is phenomenal.”

Read more about Tina's story in the winter edition of Ohio State Alumni Magazine.