Community offers support as beloved South Bay teacher battles Parkinson's Disease

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A middle school community in San Jose is doing what it can for a beloved teacher.

Outside Dartmouth Middle School (DMS), school signs are bright and bold. Inside, the community is dimmed without its beacon of light, Mr. Dave Hill.

Hill retired in late-October 2018 after 23 years on staff. His retirement came much sooner than planned because of his battle with Parkinson's Disease.

"He's been a trooper, it's been tough," DMS teacher, Jen Austin told ABC7 News. "For the last year, year and a half or so, he's just kind of plugged on like nothing is going on."

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However, the debilitating disease is taking its toll. Now, the DMS community is honoring Hill.

Former student, Luke Sayre said, "He was one of those teachers who was always pushing you."

"I'm glad that Mr. Hill was tough on me because it helped me throughout high school and college," former student, Kevin Le said.

Respect for Hill is being reflected in a GoFundMe campaign, created by the DMS community. In just one month, more than $10,000 has been raised.

"I think our primary purpose is to make sure that he and his family can do some family trips," Austin explained. "Spend some real quality time with each other before things get to a point where they can't travel."

The hope is shared by Hill's extended family, including DMS staff, the student body and the surrounding community.

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"I think you just see how much one man can really help and shape a whole community," Sayre said.

"It's obviously tough on his family. So, I think everyone in the Dartmouth community, whether it's parents, students, or faculty, they're just here for him because they know how much he means," Sayre continued.

Austin said she was already teaching at DMS when Hill first arrived. She described him as young and ambitious, all those years ago.

"Kids love him. He's stern, he's tough," Austin described. "He was hard on them because he wanted them to be successful and they knew all of that was coming from love."

Over Hill's 23 years at DMS, he's taken on various roles. Aside from teaching mathematics, Hill was also involved with yard duty, Washington D.C. trips, Homework Club, among other activities.

"He did all of those things tirelessly for years, and years, and years," Austin said. "He was really doing all of those things up until, pretty much the end, when it was just getting too hard."

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The GoFundMe explains Hill is up against an "aggressive and unusual form of Parkinson's." Colleagues tell ABC7 News, Hill's mobility has become increasingly impacted by the disease.

Hill retired on October 31, and his absence has impacted the DMS community.

"He's been such an institution within an institution," Austin said. "Mr. Hill is beloved and has been a part of so many kids' lives and families over the course of 23 years. So, it's been hard."

"And even for myself," Austin continued, "I speak for all of my colleagues, he's an inspiration."

On January 25, the Dartmouth community is celebrating Mr. Hill. The community will present Hill with the collected travel fund in appreciation of his lifelong commitment to enriching students' lives.
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