Living the Dream

Posted by Colleen Pacatte on 2/23/2018 7:00:00 AM

Guest Blogger:  Mr. Phil Hintz, Director of Technology


How many adults today can say they are living the life that they dreamed about living when they were kids?  Unfortunately, I believe most adults can’t really, truthfully say that about their current careers.  I am one of the lucky ones though, and I honestly believe I am doing what my purpose of being has been all along.  You know that you are doing what you were meant to do when you find that the work you are doing is no longer work, but has become a passion—That is the sweet-spot of life!  Since the age of 9, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in music.  My elementary school Band Director said to me, “get a job you like, and you will never work a day in your life”.  I thought to myself, “I love playing the euphonium and tuba, and I love music.  I want to become a composer or a band director, or both!”  So there began my dream to pursue music as a career.  I worked hard in developing my musicianship, auditioning into a great music school, and learning to become a band director over the next 13 years.  In 1992, I married my wife and then started my teaching career as a band director in Brownsville, Texas.

Along the way, as I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, video games and computers were evolving and finding their way to becoming cost-effective for schools to have one or two available for students.  I still remember my first video game system, Intellivision by Mattel.  I also remember the Texas Instruments’ computer that our school library had when I was in 6th grade.


Computer 1  Computer 2

Then Timex put “the power within my reach” with their 2K (Kilobytes) Timex Sinclair 1000 computer for $99.00!  I saved up my allowance and then begged my parents to make up the rest as the next 3 birthday/Christmas presents for me so I could buy one.  That began my love for technology and my skills in coding using the BASIC computer language.    

Couple my problem-solving skills of beating Space Invaders and my emerging coding skills with my love for music technology with synthesizers and I eventually was able to code the Timex into becoming a digital music creation program, (not App), and composition tool! This is where, as Steve Jobs has said, “the intersection of Technology and Liberal Arts” collided for me as a human being growing into two of the biggest passions in my life journey.  I loved creating music, I loved creating computer programs, I loved creating something out of nothing,                             I LOVED CREATING!  

So how did I end up where I am today as Director of Technology for one of the world’s leading school district’s in integrating technology into educational process?  After directing middle school band for several years, using tech in my music teaching, I began to work on my Master’s degree in educational administration at the University of Texas.  Coincidentally, after earning my M.Ed., the Internet began emerging into the public school space after only being available to the government and higher education. I was asked by the university if I would be interested in trying their new degree program, Masters of Educational Technology, since I already had most of the credits for this degree from my M.Ed. program and just needed the tech part and instructional  design aspect of the degree.  I jumped onboard immediately.

It was at this time, that my 3rd child (of six) was born.  I was a high school band director during this time working with brass students, jazz ensembles using keyboards and synthesizers, and writing marching drills for our marching band show with an Apple Performa 5200 all-in-one computer. See, even Apple knew the relationship between creating performances and technology! Signs  

I realized after my wife and I had been married with 3 children and living in the mighty Rio Grande Valley of Texas that it was time that my kids needed to know their grandparents and their cousins.  So we packed up and moved to Gurnee and after a brief stint of trying my hand in the network cabling business with my father’s electrical company, I quickly realized that my passion belonged in education.  I also realized with my 4th child on the way, I needed to have a better paying job than a band director’s salary.  So, when a director of technology position opened up for the Zion elementary district, I applied and got the job.  Then I had to put my skills to the test of now being an administrator, but also a technologist, and no longer a music educator.  But did that really have to be the way?  Did I really have to drop one of my life’s passions to replace it with another?


Once a music educator, always a music educator!  Once an educator, always an educator!  Two years into my job at Zion, I got a call from my kids’ school district, Gurnee School District 56, to apply for their open position of Director of Technology.  I accepted the job offer, and quickly realized the huge blessing that I received.  Not only did I get to be in my own kids’ lives more often, but I also was given the freedom to explore many opportunities and possibilities of what  technology could do for our teachers and students and their teaching and learning.  Couple that with an outstanding fine arts program that District 56 has had for years, and voila, I was living the dream!  Thanks to opportunities from Mike Bandman, Jeff Worth, Ruth Moore, Karen Pionke, Mark Oestreich, Sarah Farster, Glenn Eikenberry, and Steven Boswell, I have been able to be included in many musical performance opportunities in District 56; band directing, ensemble playing, choir directing, and musical theater pit-band directing. These opportunities allowed me to also include my 3rd life’s passion, my family. Family

Thirteen years later, thanks to these many opportunities, I can honestly say, I am Living the Dream every day.