The Colorado Writing Project is sad to say good-bye to teacher/consultant Tim Hillmer. Tim has been with us for years, but once he retired from Boulder Valley School District, he began to focus on not only CWP, but also on other projects close to his heart. Tim was a teacher and then an instructional coach and finally a classroom mentor for BVSD. He was loved by his CWP students not only for his gentle coaching of their writing but for his expertise in teaching writing in the classroom. He was instrumental in helping us build our curriculum over the years, asking hard questions and helping us develop our vision for CWP.
Tim now has more time for hiking and for spending time rafting on beautiful rivers. He loves to visit his daughter’s classrooms and help out as needed. But most of all, he has time for his writing. Tim has published two novels, The Hookmen (Scribner), and Ravenhill (University of New Mexico Press). His books have received the Colorado Fiction Award as well as a special fiction prize from the Colorado Center. He also has had poems and articles published over the years. He now has much more time to spend on his writing—lucky for us!
There’s another side to Tim that I admire most of all—his compassion for others. He is now on the board of New Horizons House, a residence in Southern India for young girls 12-18 who have been rescued from the sex trade. He was in India for their grand opening and plans another trip soon though works here in the states fundraising for New Horizons. Tim also meets with a group of homeless people in a park in Longmont for a church service as often as possible. He brings food and talks with them after the service. Once Tim and I were driving home from a meeting, and he stopped to give some money to a homeless man standing at the side of an intersection. Tim asked the man if he had a place to sleep on this cold night and if he had enough for food. When the man told Tim he did, Tim talked with him a bit more and then told him to take care of himself. I told Tim I used to give money to people asking for it but was told it’s better to give the money to a shelter or a food bank. Tim explained why that just wasn’t so. He told me that might be the only time on any given day someone asked about this man and showed concern for his circumstances. He also said it wasn’t up to us to wonder or judge how he would spend the money. He makes me think!
We’ll miss you in our CWP work Tim but will always remain friends.
From Sheila Kaehny, CWP Teacher/Consultant: Thank you, Tim, for being a teacher, mentor, coach, colleague, walking partner, and friend to me through CWP! Tim Hillmer has the heart and soul of a writer, and it is that magical energy that he brought to the Colorado Writing Project. From sharing his own writing projects with us to introducing me to new authors, I relied on Tim to keep my writer’s eye sharp. I have also benefited from Tim’s kindness and support – he is an attentive listener, a compassionate ear, and also an honest sounding board. More than once I have sought Tim’s advice on both teaching and life questions, and after each conversation, I left with clarity and at least one concrete next step. We will miss Tim’s creative contributions to our CWP planning team and he should be ready to get a phone call every now and then!
From Stevi Quate, CWP Teacher/Consultant: I wish I could remember when I first met Tim. Was it through our friend and our former CWP teacher consultant, Dan Seger, who studied with Tim in New Hampshire? Dan and Tim told stories of their times learning from our educational heroes, the two Dons (Graves and Murray), Linda Rief, Tom Romano, and so many others who influenced writing instruction. Was it as he was writing his first novel, The Hookmen, and I saw the impact on students when their teacher authentically lived the life of a writer? Or was it when he was coaching teachers and I saw his impact on a whole generation of teachers? I may not remember when I first met him, but I do recall his ability and grace in “walking the talk,” of supporting and nudging teachers, of advocating for the best writing instruction possible, and of squeezing out time for friendship, for adventure, and for family. How I’ll miss collaborating with him at CWP and how excited I am to follow the next chapter of his life’s journey.
From Shari VanderVelde, Retired CWP Teacher/Consultant: Tim Hillmer. I remember when Tim joined the team at Colorado Writing Project. He was a published author. A success. His name and photo appeared on the jacket of a book I had read and loved! I gulped and hoped I wouldn’t find him too intimidating, too scary to talk to, too important for me. Boy, was I in for a surprise! Tim Hillmer turned out to be one of the best things that happened at CWP. He was approachable, funny, easy to talk to and a great listener. He asked important questions each time we gathered together to revise and refine our curriculum. He came from the perspective of an author, yes, but also with the experience of a middle school teacher and an instructional coach. Tim was a mentor and understood people deeply, always searching for the authentic person behind the persona. This quality was one of the many that made him such a skilled facilitator of our summer workshops. Tim loved people; worked hard to understand teachers and respond carefully, thoughtfully, and intentionally to their writing; and brought passion to his work. He put himself out there every time we met, and this evoked a similar response in the team he was a part of. It has been my privilege and my joy to work with Tim Hillmer and I wish him the very best in the next chapter of his own story.
From Sarah M. Zerwin, CWP Teacher/Consultant: When I took CWP as a participant back in 2009, Tim Hartman facilitated. It is still, to this day, the most meaningful professional development I’ve done. Tim is a thoughtful, attentive teacher. I was lucky to have him in the role of a coach in my school district, so my work with him has not been limited to CWP. He has since retired from that role in my district, but I always loved running into him in my building or getting the chance to dialogue with him at a district meeting. He has also been graciously generous to me as a writer. His feedback on my early drafts of my book was invaluable. Tim has a talent of posing just the right question to me at just the right time–questions that reverberate in my thinking in ways that shift my perspective and work. And perhaps my favorite CWP-related Tim moments were conversations during carpooling to and from CWP planning retreats. Tim, thank you for all you’ve done for CWP and for me.