Mr. Hillman, the head of the Phys Ed. Department. Photo: Valiant Chan

Mr. Hillman. Photo: Valiant Chan

Q: What courses do you teach at Marc Garneau?

A: This specific year, I’m teaching grade 12 courses, but, usually I teach the grade nines and the grade twelves. I like to teach the grade nines so that I get to know all the kids–all the students–and maybe get them to know me, because I know they’re going to be here…four, sometimes five, years.

Wait, you laughed at that. It’s okay if people come for five years; this is not a race, you don’t have to finish in four years. I know that, population wise, at this school, people finish in four years, but, many people in their forties, don’t know what they want to do for the rest of their lives, let alone someone who’s sixteen or seventeen. So, we used to have five years of high school, when I went to school–the reason that they cut that off was because it’s an extra year of cost–but, in terms of development, you are so much more developed than someone who is a year younger.

I went to university in the States, and, they had only gone to school for four years; they were so immature in their fifth year, as compared to me–and I wasn’t the most mature person at that age–but, I could tell, I was dealing with younger kids. So, that fifth year, to me, is very important just ‘cuz we can’t fit everyone in this building, it can [still] be important for some people who just haven’t quite figured it out.

Q: What courses do you teach specifically?

A: Exercise sciences, right now, which, has just changed its name to Introduction to Kinesiology. I brought it into this school. As I’ve said, there’s just been a program change, they’ve changed that to align more with what universities want. I’m also teaching regular grade twelve open courses.

Q: So, why athletics?

A: Ever since I was a young kid, athletics have been a big part of my life, and, I realized early on, if I was to ever have any upward mobility–and what I mean by that is, my mom was on social assistance, she had four kids, alone–if I was gonna make it, it was gonna be through school, and athletics. I had seen people make it in those two routes, so I decided to do both. It worked perfectly because I was a sports-minded kid from the start: high energy, liked to get involved, liked the social aspect of sport, so, it was a perfect fit. And I loved it; I followed pro-sports, and all sports, so I can really see the benefit in every sport, from something as obscure as badminton or table tennis, all the way to the mainstream sports: hockey, and football, and such.

Q:How long have you been teaching, and how long have you been teaching here?

A:Oh jeez, that’s gonna date myself, because I never think of myself…like that. I started teaching in ‘96, so I’m in my nineteenth year, and I started at Marc Garneau in 2006. So, it’s tough to say, I’ve been teaching for almost twenty years. I don’t really feel like I’m that old, but, I am!

Q: What’s your favourite part of this school?

A: The diversity. Not only in terms of where people come from, but in terms of their likes and dislikes. Because it’s so big, you could find something that’s very obscure, but you’ll probably have a classmate from some other class, that might be interested in that. I mean, all you have to do is look at all the different clubs we run here, so, I think it’s really important; not only sports, and physical fitness, but also to have something that you enjoy, that has nothing to do with it. Hobbies are so important. It gives you another connection to the school, to the community, and to other people within the school, so I think that’s great.

Q: As a gym teacher, what is your favourite sport to teach, and why?

A: I don’t really have a favourite sport, to be completely honest, I like whatever the students like. So, if they’re interested in something, usually they get me interested in it, even if it’s not, maybe, my favourite sport. I think that the key is, I think that people should be well-rounded. You should have a large breadth of skill base, because often times–at least in phys-ed–skills are transferable. What you learn in one sport, you can kind of do well in another sport based on that. The field hockey example is a perfect example–when we won field hockey–on how I had nothing to do with field hockey, I don’t know field hockey. But, I do know sports and I do know young athletes, and based on their skillset, they were able to put it in together, and, they won. So, hats off to them for their transferable skill.

Q: As an athlete, what is your favourite sport to play, and why?

A: Ummm…I was best at soccer–that’s where I got my scholarship, and a little bit of money, afterwards…nowhere near real professional, I didn’t like that. Well, you spend so much time doing it, you long for something else. You know, when you get steak everyday, you don’t want steak on your off day, you want something else, or, something we consider good food, or expensive food. So, I honestly like to play everything, and, sometimes I like to play sports I haven’t played in a while, more so, because it seems novel again. ‘Oh yeah, I forgot how good this is.’ Especially when you’re playing with someone who’s got the same interest level, or even more interest in that sport, it really gets them going. I know that when I was in the States, on scholarship, on our days off from soccer, I would say ‘Hey, you wanna go shoot some hoops? Or play some football? Something like that?’ They wanted to go play soccer! And I just couldn’t believe how much they wanted to do it, but, then I realized, they have to play it that much, in order to improve. I was sort of gifted; I didn’t need to play as much as maybe some other people. I could spread myself around so I was able to play most of the mainstream sports, simultaneously, instead of just playing the sport I was best at. So, for me, I wanted the variety of different opportunities.

Q: Do you think chess is a sport?

A: I don’t think it’s a sport, per se, I think it’s a game, but somebody could probably argue with me that it is a sport. I don’t really consider it a sport. I think physical activity has to be in there, I think the cerebral part of chess is the same part that you would use when you’re trying to break down an opponent, and trying to get that advantage, so I think that is, but the lack of physical activity in it: that’s my deciding factor.

Q: In high school, did you consider yourself a stereotypical jock?

A: No, because I believe academics are so much more important than sport. I was able to play sports, and I think that complimented my academics, but, it really taught me to just manage my time. Time management was great–I also worked at the same time–so time management was honed through sport. Um…what was the original question though?

Q: [Laughs] Did you consider yourself a stereotypical jock?

A: I was a jock, and I didn’t, to be completely honest, I didn’t take the time to appreciate all the other parts of high school life. So, I did have the social life, so I was a part of that, but, I never really took the arts–actually no, I was in the play once, so yeah, I liked that too–but I never took the trades. If I could go back, I would take, as an option, I would take a trade and learn more about things that will help you once you leave school, and once you’re just like a home-owner, or a car-owner, and not just focus on the sports. But, I was pretty much a jock.

Q: There are many sports today that aren’t recognized by the International Olympic Committee- ultimate frisbee, synchronized skating, American football, surfing, and more. In your opinion, what constitutes as a sport worth playing in the Olympics?

A: They all should be in the olympics. Any of those sports you just mentioned. A lot of the sports that get into the olympics are based on who’s going to watch it, who’s going to go to it, how popular it is worldwide, because you wouldn’t want a sport that’s only popular in two countries. Who’s going to participate. That being said, within any given community, a particular sport could be very, very well known and attractive to that country. And they may be very good, but they don’t get recognized on a world scale, so I think that’s unfortunate. But I think that they would all be recognizable. I get what the IOC and the IAAF are trying to do, I get it, but to me, sport usually is universal, but within certain communities there are sports that are only popular within that community, and I believe that deserves some credence.

Q: If you could be any kind of fish, what would you be and why?

A: Any kind of fish? Uh.. You know, the first that came to my mind was a shark, because I can be pretty tenacious when I play sports. Um, but then I’m also kind of like a dolphin with the goofiness. So, I think those two. I kind of have teeth when necessary, I guess, but usually I’m sort of playful. Monkeys are kind of like that too. [Laughter] So I guess I could kind of be a monkey too. Monkey and gorilla. Silverback. Is that funny? Oh you asked me about fish! So much for the monkey. A monkeyfish. [laughter] A fish? Uh, how about, what’s Nemo. A clownfish? I like being a clownfish? Yeah, that’s a good one, a clownfish. I’d say a clownfish over a shark. But every once in awhile you gotta have a little teeth.

Q: On a scale of 1-10, how weird are you, and what’s your weirdest quality?

A: Weird? I’m like 9 or 10 I’m sure. And, my weirdest quality? Honesty. ‘Cuz I think the world is weird we just always hide the weird facts. I just don’t. I don’t care. I think they’re funny. I think you should enjoy them and, you know, be smothered in it. I don’t know, it makes life more fun.

Q: What advice would you give to your high school self?

A: Uh, take a trade? Um, be more open to everyone. Everyone has something to contribute. Before, I probably, getting back to that jock culture, I probably would have been mostly with that kind of group, but there’s many other people that had so much to offer that I didn’t really take the time to get to know. And I would get involved in as many things as I could handle, even though I was very busy, but I would just try to listen and take a little bit more and talk a little bit less.

Q: Who is your role model?

A: Lots of role models. Mandela comes to mind. He said some remarkable quotes. Who else? Harriet Tubman, from the underground railroad. My mom, my big brother. Yeah those are the people who I tend to kind of follow. If I’m looking for somebody to think ‘what should I do?’, usually it’s my mom’s voice I hear. Anyone in sports? Like I’m around sports all the time. I don’t think, I don’t know. I don’t really have anyone from sports. I used to really admire one of my coaches, but for different reasons. So I had a previous coach who actually didn’t even coach me, but I was just close to him. He actually taught me a lot. Actually, it’s funny you say that, because even some students, they think that they learn everything from me, but I actually learn a lot from them. So I wouldn’t really call them role models, but I certainly value what they have to say and what their opinions are, and it sort of gives me a different way to see it.