D-155 restructuring leads to new Prairie Ridge athletic director

When District 155 restructured the way it regards department heads – changing job descriptions and even the name to division leaders – it meant an opening for the athletic director position at Prairie Ridge.

Mark Gilbert jumped at that opportunity.

Gilbert already was familiar with D-155 because his wife, Kathy, is Prairie Ridge’s math division leader and their children attend the high school, so it was a natural move. Gilbert officially took over this week for Patti Hie as the Wolves' athletic director and division leader for wellness, which covers driver education, physical education and health.

Hie will remain at the high school as a part-time P.E teacher. She did not have the proper administrative certification to remain as AD because it now combines with division leader.

“It was kind of the best of both worlds for me,” said Gilbert, who was the science department chairman at Barrington, where he also coached basketball and track. “I still get to do curriculum development and work with teachers. And I stay with my passion, which is athletics.”

Gilbert was Barrington’s science department chairman for 12 years. He graduated from Hampshire in 1987, played basketball at Elgin Community College for former Jacobs coach Jim Hinkle, and then graduated from Illinois State University.

The Gilberts have a daughter, Lauren, who is a sophomore at Iowa State and two sons, Ryan and Kevin. Ryan is a senior at Prairie Ridge, Kevin is an eighth-grader at Hannah Beardsley.

“I want to continue with things Patti started and ideas she had,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert said one thing he would like to see is more teachers involved as coaches. Many of the coaches are hired from outside the high school.

“That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I want to try to get more teachers coaching,” Gilbert said. “There’s a lot of value to kids seeing their teachers after school coaching. You develop relationships with students that way. They see you differently, and it can help you in the classroom.”

Hie moves to teaching after nine years as AD, a period during which the Wolves won state championships in baseball and football, and had runner-up finishes in girls volleyball (twice), girls gymnastics and girls soccer.

“You look at our banners in the gym, and what we have for a school 16 years old is amazing,” Hie said. “It’s the hard work the students and coaches put in and the leadership we got from [former principal] Paul Humpa.”

Hie enjoyed Prairie Ridge’s run to runner-up in Class 2A girls soccer this spring. It was her last state trip with assistant athletic director Kevin Koeppen, who also is assuming a different job at Prairie Ridge.

Hie was a four-sport athlete at DePaul, playing basketball, volleyball, softball and tennis. She will remain as girls golf coach. She is proud of the things Prairie Ridge students have done under her leadership, with off-court activities, such as the Captains Council she formed. Students do not have to be captains of their respective teams to join.

“It’s for athletes who want to give back,” Hie said. “We do things for the community and the school, charity-type things. That’s one of my favorite things I’ve started.”

The Captains Council baked and sold cookies and raised money it gave to the Crystal Pines Nursing Home this year. It also bought Thanksgiving dinners for a few Prairie Ridge families who were in need.

Hie will teach in the morning and looks forward to continuing the Captains Council and possibly doing other volunteer work at the school.

“I’ll miss a lot of things [about AD],” Hie said. “I’ll miss mostly working with Kevin. We’ve had a wonderful relationship and worked countless hours for the last nine years. Working for the students and the coaches. Kevin and I really thought our role was to make their experience better and be a help in any way.”

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