Consider him the oldest senior at Gulf High School. Walter Hilgart is 90, and says working as a Pasco County substitute teacher is his secret to staying young.
"I think by staying active, I'll live longer and have a happier life," Hilgart said Thursday.
His grade preference might surprise you: he subs exclusively in high schools.
"High school, they're more mature. They know they're going out in the world," he said.
After 25 years of wrangling rambunctious students as a sub, you better believe Hilgart knows what he's stepping into.
"I know when I get freshmen, all freshmen, I'm going to have a tougher day," Hilgart laughed.
But Hilgart's background makes him one of the most requested, and respected, subs among Pasco teachers.
"I was a fighter pilot in World War II. Flew 22 missions over in the Pacific," the Air Force veteran said.
These days, Hilgart prefers to take on a different kind of battle -- in the classroom. He's booked almost every day, each week.
"He thrives on it. He'll call us if we need extra help. If he has a day off, he'll call. 'Do you have any subbing for me?" said Gulf High School Principal Kim Davis.
He's not just popular with teachers. Hilgart's also a hit in the high school hallways.
"He's just a phenomenal man. Our kids learn so much from him. He shares stories and brings history to life when he talks about his past and his experiences," Davis said Thursday.
Hilgart says his attitude will always trump his age. As for hanging with high schoolers, that only helps keep the 90-year old young at heart.
"I forget I have gray hair!" Hilgart laughed.
Walter Hilgart never really retired. He served in the Air Force for more than 26 years. He was also a shop teacher in Hillsborough County before he started his quarter-century career as a substitute teacher.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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