Steve Hill

Climbing Mountains and Inspiring Classrooms

June 27, 2024

“When you stop using the word can’t and start using the word can, you’ll soon realise that the person you thought you were is no match for the one that you really are.”

I’m Steve, Oldham born and bred, I have been teaching children for 28 years and I still believe it is the greatest privilege to get to stand in front of a class of children each day and inspire them.

Growing up I always loved the outdoors, playing rugby, adventures, bike rides all that sort of stuff but upon leaving school I didn’t really know where to go from there. I ended up training as a quantity surveyor but it bored me – I hated it. So, as you do, I phoned my mum up to have a moan about it and, as mums do, she gave me the best advice:

“Steven, stop whinging about it and do something about it.” 

So, as a teacher herself, she encouraged me to try teaching. I was reluctant at first because it just simply was not what I saw myself doing but she planted a seed and that seed grew and I ended up trialling in two schools. I loved it. The idea of having a class of 30 primary school kids for a year to grow as a team and go on a journey together really did inspire me. That was back in 1997 and I haven’t looked back.

Over the years, I have been a huge advocate for sports in schools. Teaching children to be part of a team, to work and grow together is a skill children need to learn to survive in the world. It pains me to see how education has changed to be more prescriptive, more robotic and, essentially, to make children feel inadequate if they cannot pass exams. Life is about so much more than that.

Anyway, around 15 years ago I had a bit of a moment. My classroom is full of many quotes encouraging the children to dream big, try hard, believe in themselves, but as I looked around, I began to question whether I was following my own mantra. Was I living my life to its full potential? I felt I wasn’t. I was trying to inspire my class by telling them they can, but I thought why don’t I show them. I wanted them to think:

“If Sir can do it, then we can do it.”

As the summer holidays came around I decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, something really out of my comfort zone and something I had never done before. It was amazing. I mean it was tough, it was hard, there were thoughts about going back to camp, even hallucinations, but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and I thought:

“I’m having this!” 

The moment at the top was emotional, phenomenal but, most of all, I was excited to take this adventure back to the classroom and share it with the children. So, as I am telling the class when I returned, a hand went up at the back of the class and asked, “what’s next sir?” And that was it, I had to keep going. The following year I climbed Mount Blanc. After that I went to the Sahara Desert, Arctic, the jungles of Borneo, completed the Mount Everest marathon, the North Pole marathon, Amazon jungle ultra-marathon and so on and every year I would take on these challenges with the whole class following along with me.

For each challenge, the children would nominate charities for us to support. During my first visit to Uganda for the Uganda marathon with a week being involved in school projects in Masaka, I met children and people who were just incredible. As I ran the marathon through the villages, children came out to support me and run with me. One moment will stick with me for the rest of my life, I was running with some children and one at a time they all dropped off but one little boy stayed with me. We were talking and listening to my music together as we ran for about 5km. As we came to a junction, I gave him 1000 shillings which is around 50p. His eyes lit up, he thanked me and off he went. I carried on but around 10 minutes later I sensed someone was behind me and as I looked over my shoulder the little boy was running back with two ice creams in his hands, one for him and one for me. That small gesture was such a special moment.

During lockdown, I wrote a book about my adventures and after the book launch on Monday morning as I looked up from the register, I saw 30 children with their heads in my book reading it. It was a moment in my life where I had to remind myself to take this in because how many teachers get that opportunity. It was so special to hear them talk about where they were, what adventure they were doing, they bought into the idea that they were able to live those challenges with me.

I carried on going back to Uganda and became more involved with some of the schools. I learnt that they needed to build dormitories and walls to protect the children so my challenges began to be tailored towards helping those children. It was a great feeling to actually see where the money was going that we had raised and that was it, I set my own charity up – Team Hill Charitable Trust.

We do work over in Uganda with schools and clinics, and I hope to one day take past pupils over there with me. We also support children and families in the north west of England, Oldham hospital and young carers. Basically, we help wherever we can.

So, while I do feel my teaching career is now coming to a natural end, I believe through the charity and my adventures I can go from inspiring 30 children to 30,000 children. I will miss being Mr Hill and standing up in front of those children but I want to see where the charity takes me. There’s so much more I want to do. I will carry on trying to get children excited about their futures irrelevant of their background, irrelevant of academic ability, of what obstacles they face, if they try hard and dream big, they will achieve.

“You get one life – make it your best.”

This blog was written by Megan Morris on behalf of Tales to Inspire.

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