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Longtime Educator Gets Nod from Congressman

Mike Bilirakis paid tribute Friday to Walter Hilgart, who continues to substitute at age 90 and doesn't plan to stop anytime soon.

Congressman Gus Bilirakis, whose district includes Wesley Chapel, spent some time Friday giving recognition to a longtime Tampa Bay educator who calls New Port Richey home.

Walter Hilgart has worked as a substitute teacher at Gulf High since 1988. He celebrated his 90th birthday this past October. Gulf High celebrated the 90th birthday of the school that same month.

Hilgart grew up during the Great Depression. He enlisted in the Army and had flown 22 combat missions in the Army Air Force by the end of World War II. He left the service but later re-enlisted in the military and served in the Air Force through the Cold War.

Hilgart later worked as a teacher in Hillsborough County for 16 years.

After retiring, he started his current lengthy run as a substitute teacher at Gulf High. He also substitutes at Anclote High.

Bilirakis honored Hilgart this past November 15 with an extension of remarks  entered into the Congressional Record.

“Mr. Hilgart's dedication to country and community are truly inspiring,” he said  in the journal. “Throughout his life, he has selflessly demonstrated qualities of putting others before himself. His legacy will certainly live on through the many students he has inspired for years to come.”

On Friday, Bilirakis honored Hilgart at a ceremony a Gulf High and  presented him with with some gifts, including a copy of his extension of remarks and an American flag. He also said “doing so was the coolest thing I’ve experienced really.”

Bilirakis says he would have loved to have a teacher like Hilgart. Hilgart communicates werll, and he has a wealth of experience to share.  

“He’s a walking history book,” he said. “They’re very fortunate and he keeps giving and giving and giving.”

“This isn’t a retirement party, is it?” he asked Hilgart.

Hilgart doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon. Hilgart’s students love him. He also has a wealth keep doing this as long as he feels up to it.

“The reason I keep on doing this is because learned from my father that if you keep on going, you live a longer, life and a healthier life, and so far that’s turned out to be true,” he said to Patch.

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