Get to know Peoria educator David 'Skinny' Hill

Hill has been named Hometown Hero in the educator category

Posted 12/26/22

For his work in the Peoria community, David "Skinny" Hill has been named the 2022 Peoria Independent Hometown Hero in the Educator category.

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Get to know Peoria educator David 'Skinny' Hill

Hill has been named Hometown Hero in the educator category


For his work in the Peoria community, David "Skinny" Hill has been named the 2022 Peoria Independent Hometown Hero in the Educator category.

The Hometown Heroes Awards are a celebration of individuals who live or teach in the city, and Peoria businesses for their local achievements and distinguished contributions to the community.

Hill will be honored at an awards luncheon next year.

Get to know him here.

What I like most about living in Peoria.
It has been great over the past years to see Peoria grow into a thriving city with lots of offerings and amenities. But Peoria still has that small town feel with the parks, open spaces and Old Town. Peoria has something for everyone.

Personal background highlights.
Meeting my wife when she came from Iowa to teach at Peoria High. Having most of my immediate family attend or work at Peoria High. Getting to spend time with my three granddaughters as they grow up.

Professional background highlights.
PUSD Pride of Peoria and Raymond S. Kellis Leadership In Teaching Award 2000, NFISDA Outstanding Speech/Drama/Debate Educator Award 1997.

The opportunity to celebrate with my students over the years with their team and individual awards in speech and debate competitions, Boy’s Golf, and MESA Programs. Getting to be the “Voice of the Panthers.”

What does it mean to be a Peoria resident?
To me, being a Peoria resident means being part of a community. In Peoria, it is so easy to get involved and take advantage of the opportunities and activities offered. I am able to work, shop, attend church, find activities and entertainment all here in Peoria. When I am at a store, restaurant, or event, I often run into someone I know and stop to have a conversation.

What do you think you bring to the local community that makes it better?
In working with committees to research and celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Peoria School District and the 100th anniversary of Peoria High School we have been able to share the history of Peoria with students and members of the community. Remembering our past, will help us as we prepare for the future.

Having worked at Peoria High School for 40 years, I have a small part of educating and raising our Peoria youth. Hopefully, they have gained a little on how to be better citizens of our community.

What would you tell people about why it’s important to make a difference?
I think the things you say, the things you do and how you appear to others is important to make a difference. You just never know who you might inspire by what someone sees in you. You might not even be aware of the difference you might have made in a cause or in a person’s life. For that reason, it is important to be honest and clear in your lessons taught, the feedback you give others, showing someone you care or just being there with a listening ear.

Changes I’d like to see in this area.
As Peoria continues to grow, I hope it maintains it’s parks, open areas, and recreation opportunities. I would like to see Old Town Peoria really turn into a walkable, destination spot with entertainment, shops, and venues to visit. Old Town Peoria should really reflect back to and honor the history of Peoria.

In terms of making a difference: In high school one of the organizations I belonged to had a theme one year to “Challenge Indifference.” We spent the school year working on ways to accomplish this. I believe the keys to change here involves education. One key is to inform people about the needs in our school and community. Often youth are not aware of needs where they can make a difference. The other key is helping youth find their strengths and talents and matching those up with the needs. Education can make those changes in helping our youth make a difference.

My family (what have they taught you).
My family taught me the value of hard work. No matter what you do, learn as much as you can and do your best at what you do. I also believe I learned my people skills and communication skills from my family as well. My mom likes to tell people, “David didn’t really talk much until the age of 2, but since then he has never shut up!”

My interests and hobbies.
Golf, science and technology (I am basically a science nerd), science fiction, monitoring climate and weather, Arizona Wildcat Fan!

The trait(s) I admire in others.
I admire people with a sense of humor. Also, people who love to roll up their sleeves and get involved, hands-on. Additionally, I admire people with special talents, like those who can play an instrument or those who are gifted communicators.

People who inspired me (and how).

Physicist and mathematician Sir Isaac Newton on wrote, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” I have had a number of “giants” in my life who have inspired me over the years.

First, I had some great teachers and mentors in high school that inspired me in life and eventually in my teaching career. Those teachers loved what they did, and their enthusiasm inspired me to love school and learning. I have always tried to share that same love of learning with my students hoping to inspire them in their time at Peoria High. I learned the mindset that I don’t teach “science” or “speech,” but I teach youth!

Second, I have been fortunate to work with some great staff at Peoria whom I consider my mentors in working with students. One, in particular was my close friend and colleague, Peoria Drama Teacher, the late Ron Selim. The performing arts center at Peoria High is named after him. He taught me about magic. I was inspired by him to look for the talents that each student possesses and how to encourage students to use their talents to make magic happen on the stage, in the classroom and in life.

And third, I am inspired by the students I have seen over the years. Some students struggle and they inspire me to find a better way to reach them and take them where they didn’t think they could go. Other students take the skills and problem-solving processes we teach them and discover new ways to look at the world or solve a problem. Some are just excited about discovering something they never knew before. These students teach me things I didn’t know.

My guiding philosophy.
I love the words of my favorite author, Robert Fulghum.

“All I really needed to know I learned in kindergarten. These are the things I learned: Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Be aware of wonder.”

My advice to today’s youth.
I always encourage students to “get involved.” Our community and Peoria High offer so much diversity. There is something for just about everyone. Be it sports, the arts, academics, STEM or community service – find something to join and participate in. If you have an interest in something that isn’t there, get some friends and start a group.
I also like to think that we give students tools they can use in life. I encourage students to use those tools to never stop learning and growing.

Name a couple future goals.
I would like to play more golf and get better at my game.
I want to have some more experience to really learn American Sign Language.
I would like to continue teaching and working with the next generation of students as long as I am able.

Philip Haldiman can be reached at phaldiman@iniusa.org, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman.