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Josiah Hill Q&A

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Educator, union leader Josiah Hill serves on education, labor committees in first term as a state representative.

Long-time educator and local union leader Josiah Hill from Stillwater was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives for District 33B in 2022. In his new role, Rep. Hill is serving as the vice chair of the Education Policy Committee, and he also serves on the Labor and Industry and Education Finance committees. Hill began teaching in Stillwater in 2005, and in 2010 became president of the 540-member St. Croix Education Association. He now serves as an assistant principal in the district. Hill also has taught as an adjunct professor at The College of St. Scholastica’s St. Paul campus instructing students seeking licensure in K-12 education.

Why is having educators serving on education and labor committees important? Having people who know what it is like to be an educator and a union leader means they know what to prioritize to get students, educators and schools what they need. Having that lens when making decisions, discussing bills and voting on them is important to moving legislation that best benefits our schools, educators and students.

The Minnesota Educator connected with Rep. Hill for a few questions so Education Minnesota members can get to know him and what to expect from his leadership this session.

Why did you run for office?

As a father and a 25-year educator, I ran for our kids and the next generation. In particular, I wanted to see our schools fully funded after seeing a decline in what we’re able to do for students and families throughout my career. That was a key motivator. Also, as the father of three young girls, I wanted to ensure that their rights were protected, and make sure that we care for our environment as well.

What did you notice about underfunding in schools?

Josiah Hill

I can remember walking into my first teaching job, almost 25 years ago, and a colleague told me that they were shocked that class sizes had finally surpassed 25 students in a classroom. And as I watched them balloon up to 35 in other places, I knew that this wasn’t sustainable. I’ve seen the burnout. I’ve seen the challenges that unmanageable class sizes put on our teachers. Where I teach, in Stillwater Area High School, a full teaching load is serving between 180-190 students. The desire to provide quality education for every last one of them, to meet every student where they’re at, and to help them grow, learn and develop, is something that’s in the heart of every educator. We need to make sure we have the tools to achieve that important goal.

What solutions do you support this year to solve the crises in our schools?

Funding is a big part of that, but policy matters too. Number one, we need to make sure that we attract, train, hire, develop, empower and retain the next generation of teachers and educators. We need to support our support staff by making sure that everyone in our education system has a livable wage and access to health care. We need to make sure that we have a more representative group of teachers in the classrooms serving our kids. I’m really excited about the host of bills that we’re seeing aimed at improving conditions for our employees. I’m also excited about our efforts to grow the population of teachers of color, and the investments we’re making toward healing disparities.

What’s been the biggest challenge in advocating for these issues?

It’s quite a moment to be elected, and we have incredible opportunities to move things forward. I think the challenges are ensuring folks that our motivations are pure, and that this is about the future generations of Minnesota, making sure that they have what they need to have a world-class educational experience.

Do you have any advice for Education Minnesota members in how to interact with the Legislature?

Absolutely. What was the old Nike ad campaign? “Just do it.” Reach out, start a conversation and tell your story. You and only you are the educational experts. You are the ones that do it every day. Your stories matter and have great impact. Beyond that, I would like to see more educators lean in and get involved politically. Start locally. Attend school board meetings. Take a board member out for coffee and tell them what’s going on. Making sure that you never miss an election, making sure that you understand the issues, making sure that you support candidates that are going to do right by our kids. Don’t ever think for a second that your opinions don’t count. I cringe and tear up when I hear people say “I’m only a fill-in-the-blank teacher” or paraprofessional. Don’t ever adopt that approach. Your voice is key, it matters and we need it here at the Legislature to be able to do right by our kids.

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