The Hettingers and Drutens on Relationships and Working at West High
March 1, 2023
Have you ever looked at previous West High yearbooks? Scan closely (hint: 2014 and 2016) to find two sets of couple-coordinated yearbook portraits –– one of several small perks held only by the Hettingers and Drutens, West High’s resident faculty and staff couples.
How did their stories begin? In 1995, the West High faculty was joined by new social science teacher Mr. Hettinger. After former math teacher Mrs. Horsey coincidentally could not attend a planned staff hike, Mr. Hettinger was left to go on the excursion only with math teacher Ms. Reich –– the future Mrs. Hettinger. They began dating six months later, got engaged nine months after, and are now celebrating their 25th anniversary in 2023.
Teaching different subjects in separate buildings, the Hettingers do not see each other during school hours very often. Still, they have been driving to campus together since the return to in-person learning and sometimes eat lunch together. But it’s truly the “little things” that bring joy to working at the same school, said Mrs. Hettinger.
At rallies, you might catch them singing the alma mater together (which can become a bit of a “show for the kids,” Mrs. Hettinger noted). Additionally, having one of their children attend West High brought its fun: Watching their son play dodgeball at a school Glow Rally was one of their “proudest moments,” they beamed.
Like the Hettingers, the Drutens also met at West High. As current Athletic Director Mr. Druten admitted, he would send students to the office of Mrs. Druten, one of West High’s counselors –– a way for him to casually stop by. “After several attempts,” he recalled, “she finally said yes.” Now, they have been together for about 16 years –– with Mr. Druten still making Mrs. Druten laugh just as much.
Since their daily schedules at West largely differ, the Drutens do not carpool together and usually eat separately, with the exception of the occasional small lunch date. Still, Mrs. Druten noted that “him coming by and making me laugh here and there is helpful . . . if I’m having a rough day.”
For every relationship perk that comes along with being at West High together, there are work-based benefits that strengthen the Drutens’ and Hettingers’ abilities to support their students.
According to Mr. Druten, by communicating with one another, he and Mrs. Druten get to see aspects of each other’s work that are otherwise unknown to them. “She gives me a little perspective from a different viewpoint,” he explained, allowing them to “make a better decision about where we want to go with things with the kid.”
Mr. and Mrs. Druten often collaborate to support the same students in their respective areas of expertise. The result is a powerful combination of academic and athletic support, stemming from their love of helping students: “Somehow I feel like opposites attract sometimes. I think we definitely play off each other’s strengths,” Mrs. Druten expressed. “We both love West High . . we both have knowledge of students in different ways.”
In addition to teaching government and economics and precalculus respectively, Mr. and Mrs. Hettinger both serve as department chairs of their fields and are heavily involved in other aspects of West High academia. Mr. Hettinger is West’s GATE Coordinator, while Mrs. Hettinger is a coach for Academic Decathlon. Their responsibilities throughout West are reflective of their commitment to students: Mr. Hettinger shared, “We feel the classroom should be a place with energy and a place [where] you get excited about the subject matter.”
Mr. Hettinger also noted how having their own children changed his perspective on teaching: “After being a parent myself, I realized that students are people with a whole lot going on in their world beyond just what happens in my class.” Similar to Mrs. Hettinger in philosophy, he offered the big takeaway he hopes to impart on students: “Whether or not you leave in June knowing government and economics,” he wants students to “have joy in life and [be] equipped to accomplish your goals.”
Looking for relationship advice this season? Mr. Druten analogized relationships to sports: “You got to practice that . . . don’t lock yourself down for three years.” He also mentioned, with considerable passion, “Don’t get in a fistfight over a boy or girl.”
To encourage students to make educated decisions and craft a well-balanced high school career, Mrs. Druten advised to “[stay] focused and [stay] true to yourself.” Along similar lines, Mr. Hettinger believes “friends first” is always better. “Romantic feelings, they’re like waves, they come and go,” he expressed. While most high school relationships may not end in success, the Drutens and Hettingers are keeping the love alive at West High.