The songbird of Leavenworth

Photo courtesy of Amanda Brault.
Bill Wiles, better known as, Mr.Bill spends time teaching in Leavenworth hall.

Have you ever been walking down the first floor of Leavenworth Hall and heard a booming singing voice coming from a classroom?

If you have, then you have witnessed one of “Mr. Bill” Wiles’ wonderful ways of connecting with his students.

If you have taken an English class with “Mr. Bill,” you already know that he chooses to do so out of pure joy for the job.

“Mr. Bill always puts a smile on my face anytime I run into him. He always carries the same great energy day in and day out,” said senior Josh Hanson.

While most people have had him for a class or two, not many people know about Wiles and his life before Castleton.

Over the past 47 years, Wiles has taught in middle school, high school, public school, catholic school, private school – and even jail.

He has been teaching in the Vermont State Colleges system for 40 years in total, starting at the Rutland site for the Community College of Vermont campus where he was one of the two original CCV instructors in 1981.

For a short time starting in 1996, for two years he worked as a private investigator in the state, primarily doing pre-employment background investigations. To no surprise to most of his students, he handeled all the written documentation, being the editor, writer, proofreader and supervisor.

A classic line students often hear Mr. Bill jokingly say to unruly students is “don’t make me come out of retirement,” referring to his 14 years spent working for the Vermont Department of Corrections, as a teacher and a probation and parole officer.

“He has such a presence as he walks down the hall or across campus, with his classic hands folded behind his back as he walks,” said senior Abby Gray who has had him for several classes.

In August of 2005, four days before classes started at Castleton, Wiles got a call from professor Dennis Shramek in his “inimical drawl” asking if he would like to teach a course in writing.

“My life was forever changed,” Wiles said.

So were the lives of students.

“My favorite memory of Mr. Bill was when he gave us a nontraditional 12 days of Christmas song to sing at the end of every class, the whole persona of how he teaches his classes are a great time,” said senior Aliyah Edmonds.

Shramek said his decision to hire Wiles was obviously a good one.

“During his teaching career at Castleton, Bill Wiles has been an unusually popular teacher.  He is well versed in classic literature, he is an engaging speaker, and he is very witty,” Shramek said. “As a result of these attributes, whenever Bill walks to and fro down the halls of Leavenworth, a student chorus of good cheer seems always to follow him: ‘Hi, Mr. Bill!’”

Often at the end of classes Wiles will either read a poem, and if he doesn’t have one ready, he sings.

“I did it the other day in the honors class, and they were completely blown away,” Wiles said.

Students say his unique and inspired teaching methods make a difference.

“He turned boring books into exciting topics,” said Gray.

If you are interested in seeing Mr. Bill perform outside of the classroom, he can often be seen and heard singing the National Anthem at hockey games, like he did at the at the men’s opener on Nov. 8.

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