LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Mark Hillegass Jr.

Position: Theatre Director
School: Jackson Middle School
School District: Grand Prairie ISD
City, State: Grand Prairie, TX

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Music that Describes Mark

Mark Hillegass Jr. was nominated by his spouse, Perla Aguilera.

Mr. Hillegass Jr. has worked in education for 12 years. He has served as a head director of band, choir, orchestra, and theatre while teaching grades PreK-12. In most cases, he’s been the sole director running a full PreK-12 or 6-12 program(s). He has also taught leadership and career exploration classes and served as a head coach for high school varsity softball teams. Beyond teaching, he aspires to become a Fine Arts Director or Coordinator and a published music composer and blogger. 

Mr. Hillegass has had several honors throughout his career, including being a published composer and blogger with Alfred Reed Publishing. He has been named Teacher of the Year for several schools and districts, was named Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Music Teacher of the Year, was a nominee for the HEB Outstanding Educator Award, a GRAMMY Music Educator Award nominee, was a Texas Educational Theatre Association’s Educator of the Year Finalist, and has presented at the TMEA Conference and for the Region 10 Fine Arts Summit. 

In doing all this, Mr. Hillegass has always found time to go above and beyond the call of duty. He has served as a Fine Arts Team Lead, Gift & Talented Team Lead, cabinet member to the principal, summer school coordinator, mentor to students and his peers, TIA Task Force member, Advisory Council member, social media manager, webmaster for schools, and after school tutor. He was also accepted into a leadership academy to train to become an assistant principal for one of his former schools.  

Everywhere Mr. Hillegass has gone, he has either started or revamped a Fine Arts program(s) for a school and/or district. He puts hard work, dedication, time, passion, compassion, school spirit, and pride into his programs and work. This is reflected by how well his programs achieve or have achieved excellent outcomes, the dedication and commitment of his students, the excitement of his students, and his recruitment for his programs. As a result, he often has high remarks from his co-workers, the staff, and the administration. 

Lastly, Mr. Hillegass takes great pride in his students, wants the absolute best for them, demands the absolute best from them, and provides students with the best possible resources that he can, even if that means going out of his way to make it happen. He often stays in touch with alumni after graduation, offering them guidance and advice.  

Comments (13)

Michelle Posted over a year ago

I had the pleasure of being one of Mr. Hillegass’s students. He was somebody that impacted my life greatly. He is a teacher that truly cares about his students and his job is more than just a job to him. He took the time to not only teach but had so much patience with each of his students. He was somebody that you could feel comfortable asking questions, spoke words of encouragement and wouldn’t let you give up. He was a teacher that made us excited for new things. He not only listened to his students but made us feel like our opinions and suggestions mattered as he took great pride in implementing our ideas into practice. I truly believe he deserves this because he has made such a difference in so many lives as an educator!

Lydia Bare Posted over a year ago

I don’t have much to say…but he really impacted my life. He was probably the best teacher I ever had. He never stopped us and he made me believe in myself when I couldn’t. He did everything for our class. Honestly I loved 5th/6th grade the most because of orchestra. I had quit orchestra now but his class will always have a place in my heart. That class shaped who I am now. I’m glad to say he was my teacher once.I’ll never forget him.

Javier Mendoza Posted over a year ago

My name is Javier Mendoza, I am a former student of Mr. Hillegass. Mr. Hillegass helped me find my passion for orchestra and the cello. I enjoyed being a student of his for four years. He made it possible for us to perform along side Booker T Washington students. A performance I will never forget. He is an extremely passionate instructor. I highly recommend Mr. Hillegass for the Lifechanger of the Year award. I was extremely fortunate to have him as my orchestra instructor.

Adrian Rogers Posted over a year ago

Mr. Hillegass deserves this award hands down. With his wisdom and years of teaching experience he has earned to be recognized for it. After knowing him for over a year he has guided and mentored me to be a great educator myself. He has helped me with the ins and outside of the classroom knowledge. You'll be making the right choice with Mr.Hillegass!

David Loi Posted over a year ago

What an awesome human being Mark is - anytime he is around, the room is uplifted by his passion and care. I can see how much of an impact he makes in our community from afar and I am proud to know him!

Jesus Hector Robles Posted over a year ago

Ever since Mark came to teach at our school he changed the norm and standard in our school. The culture we grew within our marching band is unmatched. He’s not only hard working, but he is full of passion for what he does. I grew a lot as a musician because of mark. Leading my own band currently there is a lot I took from mark to lead my own projects.

Edgar Amaya Posted over a year ago

Mr. H was one of the few teachers who had a real impact on me during the few years he was one of my educators. His unwavering commitment to teach his students was unmatched by anyone I’ve ever met. Although his forte was music he never hesitated to take time out his day to help me with other subjects in school. He provided guidance through times of uncertainty, perspective during times of confusion and chances during time of disparity. Although I’ve learned a lot from him the biggest lesson I received was empathy; When his students were faced with difficult circumstances Mr. H’s ability to truly care has proved to be true. As a leader in my line of work I’ve used his lessons as a guide when faced with difficult situations. He has changed not only my life but also the lives of people he’s never even met.

Antonio lugo Posted over a year ago

When he took over our music program he was so young! To this day I was impressed on how he handled it so young! He helped us become better then what we thought! He helped me become an all stater! And pursue music!

Marcia Zawada Posted over a year ago

I have known Mark since he was 8 years old; in fact, I was his third grade teacher. Even as a child, Mark was kind and thoughtful, the kind of boy anyone would be proud of. As the years went on, he never changed. Seeing what an accomplished educator and musician Mark has become only proves I was correct in knowing he would grow up to be a special man. I highly recommend Mark Hillegass for this award.

Beth Imars Posted over a year ago

I was an elementary teacher for Mark. I'm so proud he has kept the spark he always had for learning. Mark is making a positive impact to students now sharing his talents and inspiring them to reach for their dreams. So proud of all Mark has achieved and his bright future ahead!

Birdie Sepulveda Posted over a year ago

What an awsome teached and instructor at our Leadership school in Cedar Hill. He definitely made an impact in our daughter's life. Thank you for all of your hard work. We certainly appreciate you and need more people like you to incourage our kids.

Andre Posted over a year ago

I had the incredible opportunity to partner with Mark and his advanced MS theatre class this year. I do motivational speaking using slam poetry and was brought in to lead a workshop around emotional storytelling. I lead a ton of workshops with students and, even after being vulnerable first, it can still be a Sisyphean task to get students to be vulnerable with each other. These students not only shared some of the most honest and emotionally raw stories about themselves, they ran to be each other’s cheerleaders and support after each vulnerable outpouring. It takes a special kind of mentor and educator to create a space for students to have the confidence to share work like that, but a truly caring individual to inspire students to show that kind of empathy towards each other. I left that workshop in tears with a full heart and the one being inspired rather than the other way around. Can’t say enough good things about Mark and the work he does.

Gayle Tomson Posted over a year ago

I am Mark's first grade teacher. I am so proud of the young man he has become. He is a devoted husband,father, and teacher. I enjoyed watching him grow up and staying in touch with him all these years.