August 9, 2022 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

Learning lessons: Hilton gives back through teaching and village trustee role

Timbra Hilton moved back to Royal in 2016.


She and her husband, Paul, both grew up the small town and always dreamed of returning.


“We always saw Royal as the simple little town it is, and we wanted our son to experience Royal like we had as kids,” Hilton said.


Within a year of moving back, Hilton — who is an eighth-grade social studies teacher at St. Joseph Middle School — heard there was an opening on the Royal Village Board.


“I felt like it was fate,” she said. “I have a natural interest in civics and politics.”


Hilton said she not only wanted to teach the government process, she wanted to become a part of it, too.


Her aunt, St. Joseph Mayor Tami Fruhling-Voges also helped her spark her interest in local government.


Hilton got in touch with the other village board members and was appointed to the position within a few months.


This past April, Hilton participated in the election process. She described running as a trustee as simple.


“From the nomination at the caucus to seeing my name on the ballot in April,” she said, “I was amazed how smoothly the process flowed.”


Hilton said she tells her students she is a trustee during the Constitution unit in her eighth-grade classes. The classes then discuss the Illinois Constitution and its role in local governments.


Hilton said that while some students give her inquisitive looks when she mentions she is a trustee, most don’t think it is a big deal.


“In time, maybe they will look back and recognize that it doesn’t take anyone special to serve their community,” she said, “but serving can be pretty special.”


Hilton said she teaches her students that civic engagement is important in the world, across the nation and right in our backyards because it is a bridge that connects citizens to our governments.  


“When our citizens and our government work together to make compromises and negotiate change, we all stand to better the greater good of society,” she said. “The impact can be only local or it could be monumental across the globe. As a social studies teacher, I understand that even a small event can inspire something revolutionary. Civic engagement, even as simple as being a village trustee of small town, makes a difference now and in the future.”


Hilton said that the Royal Village Board is making the future of Royal a priority.

They are currently working on a project for the downtown businesses that will keep the traditions of Royal going and also bring the opportunity for new ones in the future.

The village also launched a new website — www.villageofroyal.com — and a Facebook page. 


“I think both have been wonderful assets to our community,” she said.

Some people may wonder how Hilton balances work, family and being a village trustee. Hilton said that over the past 13 years, when she was teaching and occasionally coaching volleyball, she has learned to balance everything.


“My role as a village trustee only adds another branch to the tree,” she said. “During the school year, my classes are my focus and during the summer months I can dive into village duties a little more intensively.”


Despite enjoying serving on the village board, Hilton’s first love is teaching and the “ah-ha” moments students express throughout the years.


“My main goal as a teacher has always been about exposure. I want my students to be exposed to as many different concepts and ideas, facts and opinions, experiences and trials, so that they can make a connection to themselves and the world around them,” Hilton said.  “When that happens, I get to see those “ah-ha” moments that lead to a lifetime of learning.”

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