McCandless' Alpha School hires director of academics

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Patricia Hiles, 50, of Pine expects to become a student of the latest teaching tools as new director of academics at Providence Heights Alpha School in McCandless.

“As academic expectations increase and we try to keep up with changes in technology and curriculum and standards, I think it's good to have an air-traffic controller,” Hiles said about her new job. “Every day, there are new Internet programs that need to be looked at and evaluated.”

The school created Hiles' new job to ensure continuity in curriculum and instructional methods for its nearly 200 kindergartners through eighth-graders.

“Mrs. Hiles will help ensure academic excellence in our teaching and learning environment,” said Margaret Ruefle, principal.

“Mrs. Hiles is a knowledgeable, dedicated, student-focused educator. I am thrilled to be working with her as we continue to implement 21st century learning at the Alpha School.”

Hiles — wife of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh chief financial officer Kevin Hiles — formerly taught language arts, spelling, cursive writing, creative writing and literature at the Alpha School, an independent, Catholic elementary school sponsored by the Sisters of Divine Providence.

“We pride ourselves on a small student-to-teacher ratio,” said Hiles, daughter of former schoolteacher Margaret Donovan of McCandless, and the late Dr. Robert Donovan.

Hiles, an alumnus of Providence Heights Alpha School, now will spearhead the school's selection of textbooks and online resources while helping serve students with special needs.

“Sometimes, what happens is, when you make the switch from an elementary to a middle school textbook, there's a little bit of a leap, and we want to make sure that we're bridging those gaps,” Hiles said.

Such gaps can occur with a shift from one textbook publisher to another, according to Hiles.

“Some of the textbooks integrate their English program into their reading program,” Hiles said. ”We have to decide — are we going to use a language arts program where the English, the reading and the spelling are integrated into one program? Or are we going to use ‘stand-alone' programs?

“With our class sizes being small, we have the unique opportunity to give kids individualized assistance.”

A graduate of North Allegheny Senior High School and John Carroll University, near Cleveland, Hiles is a parishioner of St. Catherine of Sweden Catholic Church in Hampton.

Hiles, who has a bachelor's degree in elementary education, taught second grade at the former St. Richard School in North Olmsted, Ohio, before she got her master's degree in education at the University of Pittsburgh and became a certified special-education teacher and reading specialist.

Hiles taught young patients with depression, anxiety and other disorders at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic and the Allegheny Neuropsychiatric Institute before she temporarily left teaching to raise a family.

Hiles returned to teaching in 2003 as a substitute teacher at the Alpha School. She became a full-time teacher at the school in 2005.

Hiles and her husband, a North Hills High School graduate, have two daughters, Colleen, 18, and Shannon, 20, both graduates of Pine-Richland High School.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

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