The best educators are not just great at teaching students reading, writing and arithmetic, they know how to inspire young people to believe in themselves.
Nearing retirement following 39 years in education as a teacher, coach, athletic director and administrator, Kevin Wilson was quick to credit three educators he learned from growing up that led him into a career in education.
“Don Huber (Wilson’s basketball coach at Continental High School) was the best man I knew, he was a big, big influence on me, as were my teachers Tom Diltz and Helen Spitnale,” said Wilson, who will retire as principal of Grover Hill Elementary on June 22. “Both Tom and Helen were teachers I had in elementary school (at Continental), and they took a backward young man, challenged me and made me grow as a person and as a student.
“They supported me, they were outstanding teachers, and the difference they made in my life made me want to make a difference in the lives of students,” continued Wilson. “Because I also thought about coaching, that’s where Donnie (Huber) comes in. Playing under him and working for him, I got to see how he handled students and situations. I loved the opportunities he gave me, and he made me want to coach and help others.”
Wilson, a 1977 Continental High School graduate who played on Huber’s team that went to state his senior year, went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Bluffton College (now University) in 1981. Following graduation, Wilson was hired as a fifth-grade teacher at North Central Local Schools in Pioneer, where he also served as varsity baseball coach.
A call from Huber to coach with him at Continental led Wilson back to his alma mater. During 21 years at Continental Local Schools, Wilson served as a special education teacher, elementary teacher, junior high teacher and athletic director, as well as eighth-grade boys basketball coach, varsity baseball coach and varsity girls basketball coach.
A conversation with then colleague Marty Miller (now Dr. Miller serves as superintendent of Antwerp Local Schools), changed Wilson’s career trajectory.
“I was sitting in the teacher’s lounge one day with Marty, and we got to talking about getting administration degrees,” began Wilson, “so Marty and I and one other gentlemen went through a Bowling Green cohort to get our administration degrees, which was a three-year process, and so we earned a master’s degree in supervision administration.”
After earning his master’s degree, Wilson was hired in 2005 to become principal of Wayne Trace Junior/Senior High School, a position he held until 2013 when he made the move to Grover Hill Elementary to become principal.
“When I got the job at Wayne Trace in 2005, the first thing I wanted to do was to get to know the people, especially the students,” said Wilson. “I spent a lot of time getting to know the students and working with them any way I could. I didn’t want to be the principal who served as the punisher, but to be a principal who would be there when the students needed me.
“I loved my time at the high school, but attending every event possible was wearing on me,” said Wilson. “My first four years as principal, my son, Nick, was playing basketball at Bluffton University, so every Saturday I would be on the road watching my son, and then head back to be at a Wayne Trace game Saturday evening. On Wednesday nights I would be on the road until late (watching Nick), and getting up early. It definitely was wearing on me.”
Wilson went on to share that making the move to principal at Grover Hill was not smooth at first.
“That was a tough transition, because my weakness was kindergarten through second grade,” Wilson said. “As an elementary teacher, I dealt with kids that could already read, and I didn’t understand the process of teaching a student to read. I did a lot of reading on phonics, on teaching kids to read, I had great teachers at Grover Hill who worked with me, explained to me and taught me the process.”
During his time as an administrator, Wilson admitted that he wasn’t always popular because of how he dealt with students.
“Seeing how Mr. Diltz, Mrs. Spitnale and coach Huber handled people and situations, that helped develop who I was as an educator and administrator,” said Wilson. “It wasn’t always easy, because being an administrator that listened to the students didn’t always please the teachers. Having teachers upset with how I handled certain situations, was sometimes difficult.”
Now, with retirement upon him, Wilson is excited about his next chapter.
“My first goal in retirement is to spend more time with the grandkids (Brady and Brylee),” said Wilson. “I am actually looking for part-time jobs, in fact I might get a class A CDL and see what opportunities that could open up. Now, I can do things when I want to do them, not because I have to do them.
“My wife, Cindy, has been very supportive of my coaching and all the hours I spent doing it, even all the hours I put in as a principal,” continued Wilson. “She’s been supportive of all the times I’ve made her move. We’re looking forward to the time we will spend with Nick and (his wife) Katie, and the kids. We’re going to be there for them when they need us.
“I guess, the past 39 years have been a blur, they’ve really gone by so fast,” added Wilson. “But because of so many wonderful people, they’ve been great.”