Luther College English professor Gerald Hill announced his retirement earlier today. "The sun wasn't up yet when I dropped off the letter to the Dean," Hill said, on the steps of Tangerine, one of his latte haunts.
Hill's teaching career began in 1975, as a grade 7 Language Arts teacher in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. "It was a great school," he said, over his latte at Tangerine. "I could have stayed there and retired 10 years ago."
But he stayed only two, then part of a third, thinking that with his Permanent Professional certificate he'd get a job down in Calgary, where he'd taken his B.Ed. What he did get was the notion to teach in Papua New Guinea, as a CUSO volunteer, from 1978-1980. "I could have stayed there too," he says, "and taken a contract job for big money and retired 15 years ago."
When his writing career kicked in, Hill taught around it: as a sub in Nelson (1981-82) while he studied writing at DTUC, as a maternity leave replacement at an alternative school in Regina (1982-83) once he'd set up his first writing home, as an Adult Ed drop-in Literacy instructor in Saskatoon (1983-84) after he'd met his future wife, the Saskatoon-based theatre artist Ruth Smillie, at a writing retreat in Fort San, and as an Adult Education teacher in Edmonton (1984-8). "That's enough for one sentence!" Hill says, wiping the latte foam from his lips.
As a matter of fact, teaching did feel as if it were a sentence by that time. "I wanted to more closely align my teaching and writing interests," is how he put it this morning, breaking off a piece of peach-pair scone. That meant post-secondary; that meant grad degree.
By 1993, with a new Master's and an all-but-dissertation PhD in English from UAlberta, Hill had been teaching first-year English for a couple of years. "The plan was, I'd finish the PhD and get a job somewhere and move the family there." That plan ended with the marriage. Hill taught for a year or two at Red Deer College and then, in 1995, "When my ex got a job at the Arts Board in Regina, I got one too, at Luther as a Sessional Instructor, so we could continue to co-parent our young family."
In 2001 he won his tenure-track job, the one from which he's just retired.
"Man, good latte," Hill said, as the darkness lifted this morning.