Math department adds new teachers

Kalin Hilst

Growing up in Hutchinson, math teacher Kalen Hilst always knew he was going to attend the University of Kansas (KU).

“I’m a die-hard KU sports fan. My dad went there, my older brother went there, one of my uncles went there. I was born into a KU family,” Hilst said.

Ellen Miller Garrett

However, what he did not know when he entered his legacy college is that he would one day become a math teacher. 

“I started out with chemical engineering and pre-med, but then I realized how terrible that was and got my degree in math,” Hilst said.

After switching his major, Hilst considered teaching while at KU. However, he dropped out of the school program because he decided he did not want to teach. Then, after graduating in 2018 with a degree in math with an emphasis in data analytics, Hilst began working in IT before doing some soul searching and deciding to find work as a math teacher.

“I did some IT work for a company for the last year and a couple of months after graduation and just hated it,” Hilst said. “In the back of my mind, this is what I always wanted to do. You have to do what you love to do; not just what is going to cut a massive paycheck.”

Hilst then decided to follow his secret dream of teaching. He became equipped with an online resource to find teaching jobs in Kansas and from there he found Newton High School.

“I did not really know anything about the application process. Because my girlfriend is still at KU, I started out looking up there and was not successful,” Hilst said. “I did not want to be at a smaller school, I did not grow up in that atmosphere. Newton is in the same league as Hutch so I knew some kids growing up. The schools are very similar and I loved my time at Hutch, so why not.”

Hilst’s favorite part of the year so far was getting through the first two days, which he said is the equivalent of the first day due to block scheduling. After surviving those 14 hours, Hilst feels that he has had a good start to the year.

“My favorite part was getting through the first day, well, the first two days because it is like the first day over again,” Hilst said. “I was insanely nervous the first couple days and I did not know what to do, but now that we are going and getting through actual math and the kids know more of what to expect I think it is gone a little bit better.”


Esther Koontz

Egypt. Math. German. Cello. Four aspects of Ohio native turned math teacher Esther Koontz’s journey to get outside of her normal life. This journey began with moving a three hour plane ride away from her hometown.

 “I was ready for some adventure in my life and I was recruited to play cello in the orchestra in Bethel,” Koontz said.

Ellen Miller Garrett

At Bethel, Koontz studied math and German, as well as playing the cello. Once she graduated, she went to Egypt to teach English for three years.

“I loved teaching, so when I came back from Egypt, I wanted to explore teaching more. Because I already had a math degree, I decided to become a math teacher,” Koontz said.

Despite living in Newton, Koontz then taught math in Wichita for 11 years. She decided to move to Newton because of her family and to help improve her community.

“I loved it, but I wanted to make a difference in my home community. Since I live in Newton, my kids go to school in Newton. I want to make Newton a better place,” Koontz said.

Even though the year has just begun, Koontz already enjoys the atmosphere amongst her peers and in her classroom.

“My favorite part is watching students take leadership in class. They’re doing a great job taking initiative, working together and I love watching that,” Koontz said. “I’ve really found Newton High to be a great place to work so far. The teachers that I get to work with are lovely and the students are wonderful. I’m looking forward to a good year.”