Learn more about these past and present "Fantastic Five" HSD teachers who represent just a slice of the 117 outstanding educators in our district.
Mariah Maudlin - 6th Grade Math Teacher
Mrs. Maudlin teaches 6th grade math at Hockinson Middle School. Fun fact: Her husband Nick is a counseling intern at HMS this year.
Mrs. Maudlin has always known she wanted to work with children and make a difference in their lives. As a little girl, she would play teacher and ask her father to assign her math problems.
“My job has never been just about doing ‘math’ but more so helping kids enjoy doing math and give them a chance to believe in their abilities to actually DO math,” she said. For Mrs. Maudlin, one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching is hearing from parents how being in her class transformed students from strongly disliking the subject to enjoying, and even becoming excited, to do math.
This comes as no surprise to HMS Principal Meredith Gannon, who sees Maudlin’s extra efforts to build connections with her students as the foundation for their success with math. “Mariah goes above and beyond. She volunteers during her prep time to spend one-on-one time with students who need extra support,” says Gannon. “She sees the best in every student and helps them to believe in themselves.”
Mrs. Maudlin attributes her approach to her 1st and 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Cayton, whom she says shaped her desire to become an educator. Mrs. Maudlin remembers Cayton as being caring, responsive, and a fantastic role model. Her high school math teacher, Mrs. McMartin, inspired her love of math and the thought of pursuing a math-focused career.
Thank you, Mrs. Maudlin, for all you do for Hockinson’s students!
Dennis DeWitt - Science Teacher
Dennis DeWitt is very involved within Hockinson High School. In addition to currently teaching 3 science courses (AP Environmental Science, Chemistry, or 10th grade Integrated Science II), Mr. DeWitt also coaches HHS girls golf and advises both the equestrian team and Environmental Club. This fall, he will teach environmental science as an adjunct professor at Central Washington University.
For Mr. DeWitt, the most fulfilling part of teaching at HHS is the relationships he has with his students and colleagues. “I get to laugh, joke, cry and teach some of the most amazing people on the planet, and the fact that we get to be part of each other's lives is really amazing,” he said.
Larry Clow, who retired from Hockinson several years ago, is one colleague that has inspired Mr. DeWitt to be the teacher he is today. He describes Clow fondly as being one of the kindest, most patient people he has met and admires how Clow never allowed his emotions to affect his relationships with students.
Mr. DeWitt believes teaching is “more about who you are as a person and not something you do. If you are lucky enough to have a job that allows you to utilize your natural talents, you never have to work another day in your life.” While teaching is hard work, he cannot imagine himself doing anything else.
HHS Principal Tim Fox admires DeWitt’s versatility, energy, and commitment. “Our students are fortunate that Dennis is at HHS,” says Fox. “We’re a smaller, comprehensive high school and he steps up to new opportunities with a can-do spirit and delivers in so many different ways for our students - as a teacher, a coach, an advisor, and next year as a professor.”
Thank you Mr. DeWitt for all you do for our students!
Brooke Hieter - 2nd Grade Teacher
Brooke Hieter teaches 2nd grade at HHES and is admired by her colleagues and students alike. She is dedicated to making a positive impact on her students’ lives.
When asked what inspired her to become a teacher, Ms. Hieter referred to her longtime love of helping people and working with children. She enjoys designing engaging lessons for her class and seeing the “ah-ha” moment when a student understands a new concept.
The most fulfilling part of teaching second grade for Ms. Hieter is watching her students grow socially, academically, and emotionally from the beginning of the school year to the end. To her, witnessing this growth and knowing she played a role in it is what makes teaching second grade worth it.
Like her 2nd grade colleagues, Ms. Hieter a special effort to include and support all of her students. According to HHES Principal Josh Robertson, “Brooke challenges herself to learn and improve.” He added, “This year, she dedicated herself to supporting our second grade multilingual students to build their vocabulary and language skills. This has made an incredible difference in their ability to access content knowledge.”
Ms. Hieter cites her fellow teachers as a daily source of inspiration. She describes her 2nd grade team as hardworking, full of incredible ideas, and always willing to try out new instructional strategies. Growing up, she was inspired by her 3rd grade teacher, Miss Sue. Miss Sue’s hands-on activities and engaging writing and art projects left a lasting impression on Ms. Hieter. As a teacher, she aspires to be like Miss Sue.
Thank you, Ms. Hieter, for all you do for Hockinson’s students! Parents, as part of Teacher Appreciation Week, you are invited to leave a comment for Ms. Hieter or any of the HSD’s amazing teachers to acknowledge the difference they make in the classroom every day.
Dave Sotka - Former HSD Teacher
Hockinson Schools are known for their dedicated educators, many of whom served generations of students. One such teacher is Dave Sotka, who taught from 1968 until 2008. In his career that spanned over five decades, Sotka influenced students as both a teacher and coach.
Dave Sotka joined the Hockinson School District in 1968. He had finished his student teaching at Renton HS, graduated from the University of Washington, and was looking for his first teaching job. Sotka interviewed in Camas, but another candidate was selected for the position. He had seen a posting for an 8th Grade opening in Hockinson advertised on a UW Job Board and decided to follow up on it. Another disappointment: He was a day late; the job had just been filled. However, the superintendent informed Sotka that a 5th Grade position was still available. He was asked, “Have you ever taught 10 year olds?” Sotka replied, “No. But I have a nephew that age.” That was enough! Sotka was hired on the spot and after a summer of elementary education classes he started what would become a teaching career that would span 40 years - all in Hockinson.
Hockinson was small. A few classrooms had just been constructed on the campus that would become Hockinson Heights Elementary School, but most students in Grades 2-9 were housed in the present-day Hockinson Community Center. “It was one teacher per grade and one grade per classroom,” recalled Sotka. He spent five years in the 5th Grade classroom before moving down the hallway to teach 6th Grade for the following five years. In the decades that followed, Sotka taught a variety of grades and subjects including PE, English, Social Studies, and Math. “I just kept moving down the hallway,” Sotka chuckled.
According to Sotka, Hockinson’s facilities “left a lot to be desired” in the 1960s and 70s. The Hockinson Gym was particularly quirky. It doubled as a cafeteria during breakfast and lunch, had low ceilings that made deep shots impossible, and the non-retractable side hoops that hung over the court prevented long sideline passes. “We had a home court advantage. The playing surface was linoleum tiles. Our players knew which ones were loose, but our opponents didn’t,” Sotka recalled. “For a few years, Castle Rock refused to play at Hockinson” because the court was so ill equipped. Also, classrooms were in poor condition and overcrowded. His first 5th Grade roster had 41 students, which was not unusual.
Due to levy failures, Hockinson’s buildings continued to age and classroom supplies became scarce. Things became so dire that a vote was taken to consolidate with the Battle Ground School District. The vote failed and eventually things turned around for the district. “The construction of the I-205 Bridge brought more families to Hockinson” and the community began to consistently support its schools, recalled Sotka.
Sotka said the lean years weren’t all bad. “Teachers really had to stick together and support each other. We had a strong camaraderie and the kids were always great,” said Sotka. Consequently, Hockinson teachers stayed in the district and became known for their loyalty and longevity.
Sotka is still connected to the HSD. He was a member of the district’s 150th Anniversary Committee and plans on attending this year’s Fun Days Parade. Sotka is grateful for his years in Hockinson: “I had a wonderful career filled with wonderful students.”
Stacey Ruppel - Reading Interventionist
As the HHES reading interventionist, Stacey plays a key role in the school’s Learning Assistance Program (LAP) and reading support initiatives.
For the past three years, the staff at HHES have focused their attention on a literacy-centered mission: To help all students reach proficiency in reading by the end of 2nd grade and maintain proficiency through 5th grade. Educational research shows that students who develop this skill early on are more likely to succeed in school and have significantly higher graduation rates.
That’s where Stacey comes in.
For Mrs. Ruppel, the most fulfilling part of teaching is seeing the “aha” moment in her readers and watching their faces light up when they are able to read a work or book they previously struggled with. She loves building their confidence and getting them to the point where students can apply their skills both inside and outside of the classroom.
Mrs. Ruppel cites fellow teachers and educators as a source of inspiration throughout her career, particularly those that encourage her to continuously reflect on her teaching methods and think outside the box. Among the most influential are the literacy and math coaches she works alongside. Mrs. Ruppel’s favorite part of working with the coaches is discussing what went well about a lesson, what she would do differently next time, and how her lesson will change for the next day. She strongly values her colleagues and the impact they have on increasing student achievement.
However, it was her mother (also known as “Ms. Klavano” to her students) who inspired her to become an educator. Her mother’s classroom was a haven of captivating children’s books and her lessons were filled with encouragement and genuine care for her students. “Watching the kids in her class soak up every morsel of knowledge she taught them was inspiring,” Mrs. Ruppel said. “Every kid felt safe to share their thoughts and loved being in her room.”
To this day, Mrs. Ruppel still encounters parents and other adults who tell her that her mom was one of their favorite teachers. Witnessing the impact her mother had on students is the reason she pursued a career in education.
HHES Principal Josh Robertson thinks Mrs. Ruppel has succeeded in carrying forward her mom’s legacy. “Stacey is an amazing educator who will go to any lengths to ensure that students are learning,” said Robertson. “She seems to have a limitless number of strategies at her disposal and masterfully employs them to reach all students. Stacey is dedicated to her kids and never gives up.”
Thank you, Mrs. Ruppel, for all you do for Hockinson’s students!