Thursday, August 8, 2013

Retired Caro teacher pens book about her 55 Septembers in a classroom

story by janet i. martineau

For 55 of her 63 years, Michele Hile was in a school classroom -- first as a student and then as a teacher.

So no small wonder she ended up penning a self-published book titled “My Journey of 55 Septembers -- A Teacher’s Story.”

Michele Hile
On Tuesday (Aug. 13), the Caro resident will talk about her journey and her book during one of the “In  Poet’s Backyard” picnics taking place this summer at the Theodore Roethke Home Museum, 1805 Gratiot in Saginaw.

Titled “One Person’s Path to Becoming an Author,” her presentation runs from noon to 2:30pm and includes a lunch catered by Crumbs.

The inspiration for the book came from a fellow teacher.

“I retired from teaching at the end of the 2009-2010 school year,” says Hile, “and during the general staff information meeting held at the beginning of that school year a teacher across from me noted that her mentor had retired and asked if I would be her mentor.”

At the time, Hile said, she had not yet planned to retire after teaching 38 years for the Caro schools. 

“I asked if she was serious, and she replied that she was. So for each day of that school year, until Memorial Day, I had in her mailbox at the day's beginning a paragraph to two pages of something that worked for me, what my teachers meant to me, perspectives I believed teachers should have, and various items about my school years. 

“In October, another teacher told me she also wanted what that teacher was getting each day. I complied. By April, both were telling me that I needed to write a book using the ideas given them.”

And so she did.

Its 208 pages contain 141 vignettes in four sections: My Mother's Vision (9); My Early Years (18); Things Learned While Teaching (90); and Odds and Ends (24). It was published in the spring 2013. 

While the book is aimed at educators, Hile says she is receiving favorable reviews from people in all walks of life. 

“I am being told, ‘We all went to school, and we can relate to so much of what your write.’ It is also about achieving and living your dreams.” 

Hile primarily taught seventh and eighth grades, science and reading. For the first six years of her career, she taught various high school science classes. And from 1993-2001, she taught  summer school to elementary students in grades 2-6. 

Her family moved to the farm where she still lives in 1960, when she was 10.

Hile has not retired yet from a  second job which she has held for the past 18 years -- as an interfaith minister. 

“Currently, I am the interim pastor for the Fraser and Cass City First Presbyterian Churches. They are seeking a full time pastor since theirs retired a little over a year ago. In a recent nine-week stretch, I officiated eight weddings and have nine more booked.”

And from 1972 to 1974) she  was the charter secretary of the Watrousville-Caro Area Historical Society.

Hile will have copies of her book, priced at $20, for sale at the Tuesday event. Reservations are required by calling (989) 928-0430 or emailing 

Following is an excerpt from her book, a vignette titled “The Rat”:

One mid-winter day, my first-hour science class was working at the counters on an assignment. I looked up from my desk to see a foot-long brown rat ambling down the aisle between the second and third rows. I assumed it had somehow come in from the cold by the poorly insulated, very drafty heat conduits under the windows, finding an opening large enough to allow its wiggling entry. I quietly told my cadet to go get the custodian.

Meanwhile, I calmly (like any good science teacher) told the students that we had a visitor and to remain at their stations. Several gasped, others’ eyes popped open like sewer lids, and all except one remained in place exactly as I had asked. 

This boy was walking toward the rat. I loudly restated that everyone should remain where they were. He, a normally cooperative, nice kid, kept walking toward the rat. I pointed my finger and screamed at him, “Stay where you are!” as I continued to gaze at the rat. He took another step forward. I just could not figure out why this normally congenial boy was being so defiant of my direct order, especially under these unusual circumstances. 

I was about to yell again when I looked at his face. “Oh,” I said, “you two know each other.” He then slinked to the rat noticeably relieved, picked it up, and went to his seat before I sent him to the office. It seems his pet rat had unexpectedly hitched a ride to school in his backpack.

The office secretary later told me that after I had sent him from class to the office that he had stood at her desk opposite her with his hands behind his back. When she questioned him, he told her that Mrs. Hile had “kicked him out” of class. This rather surprised the secretary as I very rarely sent students to the office for discipline, especially one as mild-mannered and nice as this young man. 

When she inquired as to specifically why I had sent him, he plopped the rat on her blotter. Immediately, she understood. I was told that while he waited for his mother to come to retrieve his rat that he sat in the principal’s office with it cozily wrapped around his neck.

There was never a dull moment teaching middle school.

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