Carole Hillestad has a favorite phrase, typed on a folded piece of white paper and taped near the window in her O’Rielly Hall office, which epitomizes why she’s happily taught at Avila University the last 27 years.
It’s No. 52 of the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Maxims of the Little Institute and it reads, “Interpret all things from the best possible point of view.”
“People just respond to you differently if you look at things positively,” she said.
It’s how Hillestad, assistant professor of radiologic sciences and chairperson and program director in radiologic sciences, has lived her life and gone about teaching during her long tenure at Avila. And, it’s the reason the University’s students voted her Professor of the Year for the 2012-13 academic year.
Hillestad said she was shocked at the honor, though she knew something was afoot when School of Science and Health Dean Larry Sullivan, Ph.D., pulled her aside the previous week and made her promise she would attend the Honors Recognition Ceremony April 27.
“It was an amazing and unbelievable surprise,” she said. “Nobody gave me any idea that I’d even been nominated. It was just so nice.”
It was recognition long overdue for Hillestad, Sullivan said.
“We’ve had close to 100 percent pass rates that have gone through the program which speaks volumes to the role Carole has played,” he said. “She’s dynamite in the classroom because of her very infectious, energetic teaching style. She fully engages her students in teaching.”
A wry grin crossed Sullivan’s face, and he added, with a bit of hesitation, “Carole has even been known to do a little singing in her classroom.”
Hillestad’s relationship to Avila goes even further than her time of employment. She graduated from Avila with a degree in radiologic science.
“I love Avila,” she said. “I feel like I’ve grown up here. And, I love the Sisters of St. Joseph.”
So much so, in fact, that Hillestad became a Sisters of St. Joseph Associate in 2008. It’s the values of the Sisters that she’s brought into the classroom, that’s given her the qualities of caring for each and every student and doing her absolute best to ensure each student takes away the knowledge they’ll need in the workforce.
“It’s the students,” said Hillestad when asked why she’s stayed at Avila all this time. “We get closer to them than other places. Our classes are spaced out over seven semesters, so you get to really know them, know about them. It’s just a close-knit group of people. It’s just wonderful.”
At the beginning of every semester, Hillestad asks her students to write on a piece of purple paper the one word they’d use to describe themselves. Each and every semester, she writes the same word on her sheet – enthusiastic.
It’s another reason that, at least for the 2012-13 academic year, Hillestad stands apart from her peers when it comes to being beloved by her students.
“I think, at Avila, we change students one student at a time,” she said. “And, I’ve been changed, one student at a time.” AU
Media Contact: Bob Luder, 816.501.2434