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Beth Hill leaving Kyrene del Cielo after 30 years in education

By: Georgia Rogers

January 12, 2008

Many jobs come with big responsibilities. Few, however, come with the charge of seeing to the safety, nurturing and growth of more than 700 young lives.

School principals are a breed apart, which is why Beth Hill will be sorely missed at Kyrene del Cielo Elementary School. Since 1988,Hill has devoted much of her life to that school community as principal.

On Jan. 18, Hill will be stepping down from that role to enter retirement after more than 30 years in education.

“This school is going to be just fine,” Hill said as she looked back on her years at Cielo’s helm. “That’s because we have a united team here of many dedicated, caring teachers and involved parents. Everyone in this school community is very supportive of one another, which is what’s helped us adapt and grow.”

Hill jokes that there were many times when she felt like she actually lived at the school because of her long workdays.

“The hours and energy that the job of principal requires are tremendous,” she said. “Sometimes you don’t sleep at night because of the accountability and responsibility you have for your students.”

She recalls the first day of school at Cielo in 1993 when a major remodeling project had just been completed.

Hill arrived on campus at 5:30 a.m. to make sure everything was in good order for that first day of the new school year, only to find that none of the toilets would flush.

She notified Kyrene’s district superintendent immediately, and somehow port-a-johns got installed on campus by the time the morning bell rang. The plumbing problem was fixed that same day.

Having the know-how and resiliency to deal with dilemmas like that make the job of principal a most challenging one. Perhaps Hill’s ability to shine in the role for nearly 20 years comes from the experience in education she already had when she took the top job at Cielo.

A solid foundation

Hill has spent her entire education career with the Kyrene district, working with seven different superintendents.

She began in 1976 by working for four years at Waggoner Elementary, then joined the staff at Kyrene del Cielo as a special-education teacher when it was a brand new school.

Then, until 1988, she did “lots of different jobs” at the Kyrene district office. Those jobs included curriculum and staff development work for the fast-growing school district. Her knowledge of and experience in various facets of education grew, preparing her to take the principal’s job at Cielo.

Memories and changes

The voices of young students and what she calls “knee hugs” from the kindergarteners are examples of the cherished memories that Hill will take with her from Kyrene del Cielo.

“There’s nothing like having a child run up to you and talk excitedly about something he or she learned that day. That’s what makes working in education so rewarding – meeting a child’s needs and motivating children to use their potential to the fullest.

“One of the things I’m proudest of is the very low staff turnover we have at this school,” Hill said. “We work hard but we play hard, too. I run a tight ship and have high expectations about the teachers’ professionalism. But I’ve also done this job with compassion for the staff and students. They know I’m very approachable.”

Hill said one of her proudest memories came in 2006 when Cielo earned the Arizona Educational Foundation’s A+ designation.

Although she put together the school’s application for that prestigious award, Hill credits the teachers’ hard work for making the A+ distinction possible.

She said many things besides strong academic achievement factored into that award. Some examples are the school’s student recognition programs, along with special events like Generation Days involving grandparents, and Halloween parades.

Hill also is proud of the parents who’ve been involved in things like Cielo’s PTO over the years. She noted that keeping parents involved has become a challenge over time, with so many families now having two working parents.

As far as big changes in education, Hill points to today’s increasing dependence on technology in the classroom to help students move forward and succeed. Ensuring students’ safety and security on campus also demands more attention and resources in the wake of events like 2001’s Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the on-campus shooting tragedies at Colorado’s Columbine High School and Virginia Tech.

“There’s definitely heightened parent concern these days about their child’s security at school, and for good reason,” Hill said.

“We have to take extra precautions now to keep our students safe.”

As of Jan. 18, Hill will leave behind her “school family” at Cielo to focus more attention on her own family, including her husband Perry and their aging parents.

She said their retirement plans include spending more time at their cabin in Heber and traveling, maybe even to Antarctica.

But no matter what Beth Hill does in retirement, you can be sure she’ll do it with plenty of dedication and love.



Photo by David Stone


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