The Formula for a Perfect Career: Mr. Hite Retires from Chamblee Middle School

Sirianna Blanck, Editor-in-chief

Chamblee Middle School will be saying goodbye to Kent Hite, who has taught magnet math at the school since 1998. Along with guiding seventh graders through the trials of geometry and algebra, he’s created a stellar math team that introduces his students to new mathematical concepts.

Despite not knowing he would one day become a teacher, Hite always knew he enjoyed math, majoring in it in college.

“I graduated from Auburn University and I was a math major. So I always enjoyed math and probably wasn’t good enough to go ahead and get any higher degrees, but I enjoyed math. And so that was why I chose middle school math education,” said Hite during an interview in May.

Even with his love for the subject, math didn’t lead to a career of teaching just yet. Always interested in the military, Hite entered the Navy after college and became a pilot.

“I was in the Navy. I was a pilot in the Navy. […] After that, I got hired at Eastern Airlines. I did that for six years. They went out of business. So then I got a job at PanAm [Pan American Airlines] for one year, they went out of business. And then I said, you know, I need to get out of the aviation business. I need something stable. My parents were both educators, high school teachers, so I went back to Georgia State and got my degree in middle childhood education in 1994,” said Hite.

“And I was really, really lucky too, the principal of Kittredge at that time was looking for a math teacher for seventh grade, and so he contacted the Georgia State math education department and they recommended me, so I got hired at Kittredge in the fall of 1994, and I taught there for four years,” he continued. “And then in 1998, I think they moved the seventh grade […] over to Chamblee Middle School for the magnet. So I went over to Chamblee Middle School in 1998, and I’ve been at Chamblee since then, teaching the same subject, […] with the same magnet kids, you know, the same magnet program. […] It’s been awesome.”

Had it not been for his unsuccessful time in commercial flight, Hite would likely have never turned to his highly successful education career.

“I never considered teaching. I mean, I saw how my parents worked and they worked really hard, and I was thinking, ‘I don’t want to do that’. My sister was a teacher, too, and it just never occurred to me to be a teacher at all […] until as I got older,” Hite admitted. “After these other airline jobs didn’t work out, then I thought, I can do that, I’ll give it a shot.”

For many teachers, there’s a steep learning curve in their first few years, and Hite was no exception.

“I was at Kittredge and […] Mr. Dunlap, [who] was the principal, put me in […] this […] one little dinky trailer back there behind the building. So he put me in there to teach a bunch of really smart seventh graders who liked to talk, [and] I’ve never been really great with discipline and I really wasn’t great with discipline then and so it was a challenge. It was not easy, trying to keep everything under control,” said Hite. “Those first two years, it was difficult to try to learn how to teach them, what they knew, and how to [teach to] all the different levels of math ability that were in one math magnet class. It was difficult.”

Hite’s work goes beyond just the classroom as well, with many years leading the school’s math teams.

“That’s probably been the most fun thing about teaching, 25 years just doing the math team, because I’ve learned so much and […] I’ve either taught myself a lot of stuff I didn’t know how to do just by research, getting ready for math team practices or maybe even more importantly, I’ve learned a lot from the math team students and I mean […] I’ll go into a practice thinking, ‘Oh, this is the way to solve that problem. This is the way I’m going to show them how to do it.’ And then somebody in the math team shows me a completely different way that I hadn’t thought about and so I always liked that because then like, ‘wow that’s cool.’ You know I’m learning from them,” said Hite.

For Hite, the team was never about the awards, but about the math itself.

“I’ve always felt like, okay, if a student gets an award personally or does well personally, of course, I’m proud for them, but I guess my main interest in the math team has always been just to expose the students into some subjects or areas of math that they had not ever seen before, ever thought about before, and as long as they were just growing and seeing some of those sides of math, other than […] classroom math, I thought that would be a plus […] and so the awards, the competitions […] didn’t mean that much to me. I always wanted to do well, but I just wanted them to learn and become more interested in math,” said Hite.

In order to be the best teacher he could be, Hite tried to balance his classes perfectly between challenging his students and not going overboard.

“For teaching magnet seventh grade the whole time, I always just tried to put myself in their position and try to think about what they’ve learned and how much they can accelerate and still keep it reasonable for everybody in the class,” said Hite. “So I just tried to keep everybody somewhat challenged and interested but not go over the majority of their heads.”

After so many years at the middle school, balancing math team and seventh grade discipline, Hite felt it was time to move forward into retirement.

“It’s just, it’s time for somebody else to have a shot at this. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s great. It’s been a terrific job. I mean, I could not imagine having a better job the last 25 years doing this. […] But there’s other things I want to do. I want to make sure I get out as Mr. Donegan has said, while I’m still able to walk,” said Hite.

With the newfound time on his hands, Hite has many hobbies and projects he wants to get to work on.

“I have a stack of books I finally want to try to finish or read, I’ve got a lot of projects around the house I want to work on. I want to get a lot more exercise than I’ve been able to do, especially the past year and a half and, you know, just spending time with my wife and my son a little bit more and my dog,” added Hite.

He trusts that whoever comes next to teach his students will be the right person.

“Somebody the other day said ‘Mr. Hite but we can’t replace you’ and I told them, everybody’s replaceable. There’s always going to be somebody that can do this job if they find the right person and I hope they do. So no legacy other than, I was there for 25 years or 20 years or whatever. That’s my legacy,” said Hite.

Regardless of whether or not he feels like he’s left a true mark on the school, he knows how lucky he is to have taught at Chamblee.

“I would just say, I realize how lucky I’ve been for this job, I mean, there are some teaching jobs I know I could not do, I would not be successful at, but I think this has been right up my alley,” said Hite. “This has been the sweet spot for me as far as a teaching career goes, and I’m so appreciative of it. I feel really, really honored to have had all these kids come through my class. I don’t want to say teach them, I’m just honored to have met them and had them come to my class and it’s really been a privilege to me and I’m so appreciative of it.”