Holly (Lewis) Hillard

Holly Hillard graduated summa cum laude from Bellarmine in 2011 where she was the recipient of the Wilson Wyatt Fellowship Award. She also holds a master’s degree in Literacy Education from Western Kentucky University. She is certified as a secondary English teacher and as a K-12 reading specialist. She currently works as a reading intervention teacher at George Rogers Clark High School in Winchester, Kentucky. She lives in Lexington, Kentucky with her husband and daughter.

What other majors/minors/tracks did you have beyond English?

While at Bellarmine, I was also a secondary education minor and an honors program student. Once I began my teacher career, I went back to school and pursued a master’s degree in literacy education.

What is your current job?

I am a reading intervention teacher at George Rogers Clark High School. This year, I work exclusively with sophomores. All of my students do not read on grade level, so it is my job to help them improve their reading. It is also my personal mission to help them find things they enjoy reading. It’s a lot easier for students to improve their comprehension if they are reading about things they like. So, I get to teach a lot of young adult literature and I let my students choose the topics we read about during our non fiction units.

In what ways was your degree valuable in preparing you for your career?

I began my teaching career as an English teacher, so the connection between my English degree and my job was pretty obvious. I was getting to teach my students all the great literary works I loved. Unfortunately, they didn’t share my passion for Shakespeare and Mark Twain. In fact, almost all of my students said they hated reading. I pursued an English degree solely because of my love for literature, so seeing my students’ apathy toward what I loved most made me pretty sad. So, I dug a little deeper and I realized most of students did not read on grade level, so everything I asked them to do was incredibly difficult. I figured the best way to get my students to love reading as much as I did was to help them read better. That pursuit led to my degree in literacy education and my current job as an interventionist. My English degree provided a love for reading and literature that permeates everything I do.

What was your favorite experience as an English major?

There are too many to count! I enjoyed spending time with my other English major friends during class and outside of class when we did our best to study. I still talk about Dr. Gatton’s Shakespearean action figures that he would bring to class. I think my favorite class was Dr. West’s “Native American Literature” course. It was here that I was introduced to Louise Erdrich and I’ve since read every book she’s written.

Any advice for current majors or those considering an English degree?

You won’t regret it! Regardless of what job you want to pursue, an English degree will be a great foundation. I can’t think of any profession that doesn’t value critical reading, eloquent writing, and thoughtful analysis.  That’s what I learned from Bellarmine’s English program and if I could go back in time, I’d do it all exactly the same. I was introduced to so many more worlds through my study of literature and I’ll be forever grateful for that experience. I went into college with no thoughts on my future beyond “I like to read, so I guess I’ll be an English major.” Study what you love and you won’t be sorry!