Lead Strong Staff Spotlight: Justin Hildebrand

This school year, we will be sharing a Lead Strong Staff Spotlight. Each month, you’ll meet an Affton Schools staff member and see how they help make us Affton Strong. Our Lead Strong Staff Spotlight for March is:

Justin Hildebrand, Business teacher at Affton High School and Global Business & Entrepreneurship teacher for A@ps/STL CAPS

How long have you been with Affton Schools? This is my tenth year as a Business teacher. Although I also student taught at Affton High School, so I guess it’s technically my ten-and-a-halfth year.

Tell us about your job. What do you do, and what do you like best? Aside from serving as a business teacher at AHS, I am also the Global Business and Entrepreneurship teacher for A@ps/STL CAPS, the sponsor for DECA, FBLA and the Chess Team, the Practical Arts Department leader, our Professional Development Committee building rep, the AHS Social Committee Chairman, and I serve on our Building Leadership Team. I run our Starting a Business program with our Advanced Marketing class, and this year, I helped with business planning for Operation Anti-Discrimination as part of the Anti-Defamation League’s 50 States Against Hate initiative.

Being an elective teacher is a whirlwind. I’m constantly bouncing from teaching entrepreneurship, finance, law, and starting a business, while simultaneously juggling business partners for all of those classes. It’s important that all my students have real life experiences with real world projects and problems to solve. The Advanced Marketing class itself is run as a business, with the students constantly selling products, organizing shifts to sell products during lunches, and setting up meetings with sponsors and other local businesses. These different classes and student organizations are also focusing on a variety of charities. Philanthropy is a big focus, which includes fundraisers for Advanced Marketing like a lemonade stand, dodgeball tournament, and Valentine’s grams. With DECA, we plan the annual Tag Along with Thomas fundraiser that benefits the Thomas Boley Fund, as well as the Pie in the Face Challenge, and our major partner is the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). The kids really rally around that.

For me, the best part are the personal relationships that we build. I love when parents and, more importantly, students that have graduated and gotten a job take time to thank me. Although I appreciate their gratitude, I really like to know what former students are doing and how they are. There are so many successful stories from Affton, and it’s gratifying being able to see what’s happened to those with whom you hope you had an impact.

Tell us a little about your family. Who supports you? My wife, Jana (a teacher assistant for SSD at Rogers Middle School), and I have been married for 2.5 years. We actually got married here at  the AHS Auditorium, and have a cat named Brooklyn, who’s the cutest devil in the world. I’m close to my parents, Bill & Patty, who live in St. Louis and own a couple of restaurants, as well as my brother and his family in Kansas City. We have a large extended family, so if you hear the name Hildebrand, I’m most likely related.

What’s your favorite memory from your time in Affton? That’s a tough question. My favorite event has been the first-annual Tag Along for Thomas fundraiser last year. It was so neat to see our community come together on what started as the windiest, craziest morning and without knowing what to expect. But people showed up, the sun came out, everything aligned, and we raised $6,000 for the Thomas Boley Fund. I couldn’t have been more pleased. It was a pretty awesome day.

As a teacher, it was a moment that I had with a student who really struggled, he even had been expelled. I had a lot of conversations with him, but one in particular, we talked about the two different paths his life could take from that moment on. He came back after graduation and told me how glad he was that we had that conversation and how it helped shape his life into something better. It’s taking the extra moments to pull a kid aside and talk to them like they’re human, and not just a number or test score.

What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about Affton Schools? We have so many capable and amazing students that want to learn, and such a brilliant and supportive staff. We’re lucky to work in a district that’s small but has a big feel. We offer so many amazing things to students that not a lot of big districts do, and a lot of opportunities for our kids that aren’t given everywhere else. We shouldn’t take that for granted.