Dakota Hill, former starting quarterback and standout baseball athlete for the Yelm Tornados, had hoped to one day return to Yelm High School after his graduation in 2017.
On Sept. 5, Hill had his first day back as a Tornado teaching algebra and pre-algebra. For the new YHS teacher, Yelm is where he’s wanted to be all along.
“Two reasons, one of the main reasons is that my family has been in education. My grandma was a teacher, my dad was a teacher and now (Yelm’s) athletic director, my mom is a school nurse,” Hill said. “I knew I always wanted to be in education, and I knew I wanted to stay in Yelm. I love Yelm.”
Hill, inspired by his family to have a career in education, attended Saint Martin’s University in Lacey. While attending, he was a member of the school’s baseball program where he excelled in 2021 as he batted .297 and collected 24 RBIs in 28 games.
Hill initially received his undergraduate degree in educational studies in special education, and because he had an extra year of eligibility at the school, received his masters degree in mid-level math education.
“I wanted to do something with smaller classes, and originally I was thinking special education. I got called to math, I don’t know if it was God’s plan or what,” Hill said. “But I want to make sure kids are wanting to come to math class every day, not dreading it.”
The new math teacher said he wants to form solid relationships with his students because working hard and together will lead to success.
“If you get those few things, then the math comes. Relationships are where it starts,” Hill said. “One of my favorite things to do is start off with a non-math conversation. Every Monday I’ll ask about their weekend, what they did, and on Friday’s I’ll ask what they have going on for the weekend. On Tuesday’s, we’ll have trivia Tuesday, and on Thursday’s we’ll have survey Thursdays. I want kids to feel welcomed here. I am a human being, too. I don’t want to be math, math, math. I want to get to know them and have some fun this year, too.”
Hill added that he’d describe himself as “fair,” and he plans on having conversations with his students to learn “why they’re doing what they’re doing” in their learning process.
“I’ll try to explain my viewpoint, and I want to understand what’s happening to them in class. I like to try new things, too,” Hill said. “Obviously as a young teacher, there’s things you try and sometimes they’ll work and sometimes they won’t work. Kids will be fine with it, as long as you’re honest, open and able to have conversations with them.”
Being a former Yelm High School student, Hill now has the opportunity to work as colleagues with staff at school who were his teachers while he was a student. He highlighted Jeremiah Hume, a math teacher, as one of his co-workers with whom he’s been happy to work alongside.
“It’s great being able to work with (Jeremiah) Hume. I had Hume for Algebra II, and being able to work with him now is really cool. Obviously, there’s a lot of people that are gone now, but it’s still been really fun,” Hill said. “I still call him Mr. Hume, too. I can’t call him by the first name yet.”
While Hill starts his new chapter as a teacher at YHS, he continues to write his own story as a coach.
Hill, the freshman football coach, has worked with ninth-grade quarterbacks and linebackers as one of the C team coaches for several years. Being a Yelm football alumni, Hill said he’s thankful to return to the program as a coach.
“I love coaching with the C-squad guys just because they’re all Yelm grads. That’s something that’s so different. It’s such a family-oriented group,” Hill said. “Even the guys up at the varsity squad, they’re always spending time and hanging out with each other.”
He was a freshman at YHS when current head coach Jason Ronquillo was introduced to Yelm athletes. Ronquillo’s initial message as Yelm’s coach was about the importance of building a foundation, and how the “rest would go from there.”
“I think it’s cool to be a part of that building, not only as a player but now a coach,” Hill said. “It’s been a very cool experience. I’m very blessed.”
Whether it’s teaching or coaching, Hill said he aims to always put students first.
“I care about the child more than the student. I think that’s somewhere we all get lost in,” Hill said.
“Sometimes in humanity, we think about athletes as athletes. We think about coaches as coaches. We forget that they’re human beings, too. They’re husbands, sons, daughters, mothers. I like to make sure I keep the human element in it.”
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