11 min read
Steve Hill: Inspiring the next generation
Steve Hill MBE, teacher, adventurer, bestselling author, motivational speaker and founder of the Team Hill Charitable Trust is the subject of our latest case study. Author of What’s Next Sir?, he has been chatting to us about how, among other things, the reason he wanted to write his bestselling book was to help inspire the next generation.
Tell us a bit about yourself and the work you do.
First and foremost I’m a teacher and I have been teaching now for 27 years and been Deputy Headteacher for 20 years. I feel very privileged to be in the teaching profession - to be in a position where I can hopefully inspire the children, instil confidence in them and help enable them to develop themselves both academically and physically and to go out into the world with confidence and hopefully achieve to their full potential in life is something very special indeed and this is what I strive to do every day.
I try and lead by example and practice what I preach with the children I teach as I continually strive to inspire them to be the very best that they can be. I’m continually telling the children that anything is possible and that they should never settle for anything less than their very best as they pursue their dreams.
As a result of this, each year during my school holidays I embark upon what has become known as “Mr Hill’s Challenges” – adventures in some of the most remote and extreme parts of the world which push me beyond my limits and which I hope help to inspire the children way beyond the classroom.
These self-funded personal challenges have also been the catalyst for my Charity Fundraising, in which I always involve the children I teach, and over the last 15 years, these Challenges have helped to raise over £200,000 for a wide range of good causes. I hope this helps to inspire the children further and adds an extra dimension to their lives. When time allows, alongside my teaching commitments, I like to deliver talks to other schools and youth groups about my Challenges – to try and inspire the next generation to have the confidence to Dream Big, to develop resilience and to show them that through self-belief, hard work and determination and never giving up when things get tough anything in life is possible. This has led to me becoming an Ambassador for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award resulting in me giving talks and presenting Awards at Schools. I have also been invited down to Buckingham Palace and St James Palace to be a Gold DofE Awards Guest Presenter which has been a huge honour. I have also, more recently, become an Ambassador for the Scouts.
Over the years these personal Challenges have included:-
2009 - Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania – the highest mountain in Africa.
2010 - Climbing Mont Blanc – the highest mountain in Western Europe.
2011 - Trekking 200 miles through the Sahara Desert.
2012 - Climbing Mount Elbrus in Russia - the highest mountain in Europe.
2013 - Completing an expedition through the Arctic wilderness with huskies.
2013 - Trekking through the Jungles of Borneo.
2013 - Climbing Mount Kinabalu – the highest mountain in South East Asia.
2014 - Trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp.
2014 - Completing the Tenzing Hillary Mount Everest Marathon.
2015 - Completing the UVU North Pole Marathon.
2016 - Completing the Petra Desert Marathon.
2017 - Completing the Amazon Jungle Ultra Marathon – 230km self-supported race through the Amazon Jungle
2018 - Completing the Arctic Ice Ultra - 230km self-supported race through the Arctic Wilderness
2018 – Completing the London Marathon
2018 - Completing the Uganda Marathon.
2019 - Climbing Mount Toubkal – the highest mountain in North Africa.
2019 - Completing the Uganda Marathon
2021 – The Great Norse Run – 9 Marathons in 9 Days running the length of Iceland.
2022 – The Highland Ultra – 125 miles across the Scottish Highlands
2023 – 14 Marathons Challenge – Running 7 Marathons across Costa Rica and then 7 Marathons across Tajikistan
We’d love to hear more about your MBE. What led to you being awarded it?
I was nominated for an Honour by some of the parents at school for Services to Education and Charity. I knew nothing of this at the time! In mid-November 2014 I received an envelope in the post that looked like a tax demand, except that it was from the Cabinet Office. Inside was a letter from a man who signed himself my Obedient Servant, suggesting that “The Queen may be graciously pleased to approve that you be appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)”. The Prime Minister, he said, would be glad to know if this would be agreeable to me - if so I needed to fill in a form stating my ethnicity, disability, background etc. The citation was, “For Services to Education and to Charity”.
I finally heard, in January, that my investiture would be at Buckingham Palace on 19th March 2015. On the day of my investiture, my family and I drove up the Mall and I could see that the Flag was flying over Buckingham Palace so I knew that the Queen was in residence and there was therefore a chance that the Queen could be leading the investiture that day. On arriving at the Palace, I overheard an elderly lady ask one of the footmen who was presenting the medals – he replied, “You’ve got the Queen.” That put a big smile on my face – it was the icing on the cake! The Queen would be presenting me with my medal!!
My guests, my dad, my brother, my sister-in-law and I, were ushered up a magnificent staircase past a line of household cavalry guards all dressed in full uniform. Then we were separated from our guests and guided into a room with refreshments and I then mingled with talked to the other recipients. Then one of the Royal Household entered the room, all hung about with plaited gold braid, full of medals and wearing spurs, and he briefed us on what we had to do - walk to Mr Foster and stand at his chest then turn 45 degrees and walk towards the Queen, stop and head bow – a demonstration was given - then forward to Her Majesty who would say a few words. We were to address her as Your Majesty the first time and Ma’am to rhyme with jam the second time. Then step back three paces, another head bow, and leave the room. “One warning,” he said, “Don’t forget to let go of the Queen’s hand”.
Far too soon, I found myself at the head of the queue. I could see this little figure with white hair, and I became rooted to the spot. My name was announced – Mr Stephen Hill – for Services to Education and to Charity. I did my head bow and moved forward. The Queen popped the medal onto me (they pin a hook on beforehand to make it easier) and said “You’re a teacher?” To which I told Her Majesty about the fantastic children that I had the great privilege to teach! The Queen then asked about our Charity Fundraising and she said that my Challenges were inspiring and she hoped that they inspired the children too! I told her that the Challenges grabbed the children’s imagination and that they loved being involved in the fundraising. I mentioned to the Queen that I was travelling to the North Pole for my next Challenge – she replied that would be very cold and asked why – my reply was “to be honest with you Ma’am I think I may be a little bit bonkers!” She laughed, shook my hand and wished me luck! I thanked her. I took 3 steps back, head bowed for the second time, and I was done!
So, it’s happened. I had been invested and it was awesome. What an experience it had been – so very special indeed. Having the Queen herself present me with my medal was just the icing on the cake. It was then time for lots of photos in the Inner Quadrant. We had a lovely walk down the Mall and then enjoyed a lovely afternoon tea at the Savoy together.
The photo of the actual medal pinning arrived by email that evening. It was the end of a perfect and very special day indeed – all the more special having met the Queen, making her laugh and having been able to share the whole amazing experience with my family. I often take the medal to school for the children to see as they’re also a big part of this honour.
What made you think about writing a book in the first place?
Writing a book was never something I had ever envisioned – not even in my wildest dreams! It still seems very surreal now to have a best-selling, published book that people are enjoying and which is having a positive impact on their lives.
As I mentioned earlier, I often give talks and presentations in schools etc. and after one particular talk, I was approached by Ian Blunt, who had heard my talk. He said that he’d enjoyed it and he went on to say that he felt I had a great story to tell and that I should write a book about my life and my many adventures around the world. Initially, I laughed and responded, “Me, write a book – never! I just haven’t got the time and I wouldn’t know where to start.” Ian mentioned that he’d written a few books and that he’d love to help me turn my story into a book. This sounded like a very exciting opportunity and a challenge of a different type so I decided to give it a go and I’m so glad that I did!
How long did it take for you to go from first word to publication? Did you have a writing process?
The whole process took about 2 years from deciding to write the book to getting it published (predominantly during Lockdown). There was a lot of work involved but it was so worth it! It was great working with Ian Blunt – who was a huge help and support with everything!
What did you decide what your main publishing goals were (if you had any at all!)?
My main hope was that people would simply enjoy my story and that having a published book would enable me to get my dream big message out to a much wider audience and hopefully inspire others, both young and old to have the confidence and motivation to follow their dreams and have their adventures.
Why is inspiring and nurturing the next generation so important to you?
Being a teacher I see first-hand many children with very low aspirations and this is something I am determined to change as much as I possibly can. I want every child to be excited about their future and to believe that they can achieve whatever they set their hearts on. The message I give to all children is that anything is possible but that they have to first of all believe in themselves and work hard for it! I tell them that they are all entitled to Big Dreams - Dreams that excite and even frighten them because they are so big - and that no one has the right to tell them that their Dreams are too big!! But they have to believe in themselves, work hard and not give up when things get tough!
A couple of my mantras are:
Dream Big - Aim High - Never Give Up!
I Can & I Will – Watch Me!
Why did you explore the self-publishing route?
Self-publishing was always going to be the route taken as it meant that the Book could be just as I envisioned it and with Ian’s advice and experience and the great support from Troubadour Publishing this was a very straightforward process. I’ve been so happy with every step of the experience of self-publishing my first book!
What were the biggest challenges with self-publishing your work?
With the support of Ian Blunt and by self-publishing through Troubadour Publishing it was an extremely smooth process.
What about the biggest rewards?
One of the highlights of publishing my book was the Monday morning following my Book Launch, which many of my pupils and their parents had attended – it was an amazing night! As I was taking the register in the morning I looked up from my desk and the majority of my class was reading my book – ‘What’s Next Sir?’ It was such a very special moment and I just thought “How many teachers get to experience this?” I then went on to ask the children which chapters they were up to and their responses just blew me away!
“Sir, I’ve just climbed Mount Kilimanjaro!”
“I’ve just met the Queen!”
“Sir, I’ve just run through the Amazon Jungle!”
It was amazing to hear these responses from 9-year-old children! They were living my adventures themselves and getting very excited about it!
This was so much more than I could have ever imagined and it’s something I’ll never forget! Since then I have received so much positive feedback and reviews from people saying how much they have enjoyed reading my story and many telling me that it has changed their life and reignited their dreams! A local High School have also contacted me and asked if it would be okay to use my book as a text for their Year 7 English Curriculum. My response was “Wow – of course you can!” How amazing!! Many people have also been sending me photos of my book which they have taken with them on their travels around the world – my book has now visited hundreds of countries! It’s been amazing seeing how far the book has travelled!
So, What’s Next Sir?
I intend to continue taking on my extreme challenges around the world and pushing my boundaries to help inspire others to have the confidence to follow their dreams and have their amazing adventures. I hope to continue promoting my book and my dream is to get a copy of ‘What’s Next Sir?’ into every school in the United Kingdom. I’ve already managed to get a copy into every school in Oldham – my home town. Hopefully, at some point, I’ll write another book entitled, ‘What Sir Did Next?’
Finally, If you could give your fellow authors one bit of advice, what would it be?
If you are considering writing a book my advice is to go for it – you definitely won’t regret it! Start writing that first paragraph and enjoy the journey it takes you on – it’s a truly magical journey!