New Superintendent Follows Long Path to Position

For Keith Hilts, the most memorable early step on his path to becoming an educator came when he was a teen.

“A favorite story is about one of the most influential teachers in my life.” said Hilts. “Mrs. Richter was my English teacher. I was not an academically-minded student in high school. I was coasting.”

“In my senior year of high school, Mrs. Richter assigned a book report. I chose some non-descript book and brought it to her for approval.” said Hilts. “I will never forget her saying, ‘No Keith, you can do better.’”

“She pulled out a copy of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. If you are not familiar with it, I am not surprised. It is a dense, 500-plus page novel set in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1800. The book includes difficult concepts around moral dilemmas and is not a book I would have ever considered reading.” said Hilts. “While I have forgotten the contents of the book, I never forgot Mrs. Richter’s belief in me and the satisfaction of reading that book and completing the book report.”

“She started me on my path to education.”

That path led Hilts to being named the Superintendent of Schools for the Wausau School District in January 2018.

Hilts career as a professional educator began in 1988. “Which would make this my 30th year in education, except for the time I worked for a time as a carpenter.” said Hilts.

“I am proud to be a public school educator.” said Hilts. “I taught chemistry and physical science for 11 years before moving to administration.”

Hilts also coached football and track for several years. The most satisfying aspect of his work as an educator, and greatest inspiration, has always been to find ways to help students succeed.

“Whether I helped an individual student or a small group of students learn chemistry or, now, develop programs to help hundreds of students to be more successful, the satisfaction is immense.” said Hilts. “I enjoy working with other educators and community members who share an abiding interest in strengthening the community through education.”

Hilts earned a Ph.D. in leadership, learning and service from Cardinal Stritch University in 2012. Hilts also earned a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1999. Hilts served most recently as the Superintendent at the School District of Ashland.
Hilts has worked in or been involved with dozens of school districts around the state.

“None have impressed me more than the Wausau School District.” said Hilts. “The depth and breadth of educational programming, coupled with strong student support systems and community connections make Wausau schools a destination district in central Wisconsin.”
The Wausau School District’s mission is ‘To advance student learning, achievement and success.’

“I hope the community is proud of the school district and confident in our ability to accomplish its mission.”

Hilts has a wife, Janet, and three children.

“My oldest child is my daughter Jeanne, who lives in Oklahoma. My middle child is my son Casey. He just graduated from high school and starts college this month at UW-Eau Claire.” said Hilts. “My youngest son’s name is Carter, or CJ as he likes to be called. He is a student at Wausau West.”

“All of my children share a love of music and theatre.” said Hilts. “My wife is a violinist and choir singer. She is hoping to embed herself in the music scene in Wausau.”

The Hilts also have two dogs and two cats with one of the dogs and both cats added to the family as rescue pets.

“After many years of consideration, I finally invested in a real hunting dog.” said Hilts. “My puppy is named after my paternal grandfather, Milo.”

Hilts can be reached at the district office at 715-261-0505 or by email at khilts@wausauschools.org.

“I look for exciting things to happen in the Wausau schools over the next few years!” said Hilts.

This article initially appeared in Wausau Neighbors magazine, Best Version Media

Photos by Portraits by Tiffany/Graphic Impressions Photography LLC

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