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Watertown Teacher Declines to Use Students’ Preferred Names, Gives Students Candy and DVDs to Push His “Spiritual Truths” at Public School

Stel Kline, formerly of South Dakota Public Broadcasting, finds this news on Twitter, courtesy of Watertown motorcycle aficionado Lee Bruns, of a Watertown High School German teacher who responded to students requesting that he call them by names differing from their official names on the school roster with this letter, accompanied with a DVD and candy:

Photo of letter from German teacher Calvin Hillesland, to unnamed students at Watertown High School, April 2022. Posted by Lee Bruns, Twitter, 2022.04.25.
Photo of letter from German teacher Calvin Hillesland, to unnamed students at Watertown High School, April 2022. Posted by Lee Bruns, Twitter, 2022.04.25.

Dear _____

I am hoping that by now you know me well enough from class to be able to trust me.

I respect you.

I support you.

I want what’s best for you.

If there were a rattlesnake under a pile of leaves on the path in front of you, I’m hoping you could easily imagine that I would run out ahead of you to warn you.

If your home were on fire, I’m hoping you could believe that I would try to help you get out.

That’s sort of what’s happening now.

When you asked me to call your friends by masculine names and I started trying to do that, I was wrong. It was a lie.

I didn’t warn you about the rattlesnake.

I didn’t try to rescue you from your burning house.

I hope you’ll forgive me—and I want to “turn things around” now.

And like I said—I’m hoping you’ll trust me.

I realize that what you feel is saying something totally different.

But feelings are like a mirage. You don’t dare trust in them to guide you. They’re not an accurate reflection of reality.

So what is the reality? What is the truth? How can you know the truth for certain?

Well, biologically, every cell in your body is ♀ —female—feminine. That’s the biological truth. The same is true for your friends.

And it’s the truth that I want to encourage you to pursue. That’s what a good teacher does, right?

The DVD will explain everything more clearly than I can—the spiritual as well as the scientific facts. The candy is a symbol of the sweetness that hope and pray you’ll discover.

Immer Alles Gute!

Dein Deutschlehrer—Mr. H.

[German teacher Calvin Hillesland, to unnamed students at Watertown High School, April 2022. Posted by Lee Bruns, Twitter, 2022.04.25]

Well, I suppose the teacher takes a step back from the Governor’s Office’s bullying position that transgenderism is like terrorism by simply comparing transgenderism to a deadly snake, or a deadly house fire, or a lie from which he must bravely save his emotionally deluded students.

Interestingly, this letter appears not to have been delivered to a transgender student; the text indicates Hillesland was writing to a female student, for whom he professes respect and support and whose trust and forgiveness he entreats. This female student apparently asked Hillesland to refer to her friends by masculine names even though Hillesland thinks their cells are female.

But Bruns says the above message was delivered in person on public school grounds and through public school email. The message indicates it accompanied a DVD conveying “spiritual… facts.” This teacher thus appears to have used his position in a public school to gain access to students and not only teach those students about a religion, something outside his assignment as a language teacher, but also encourage them to accept his own spiritual beliefs as fact.

So there’s something here to set off everyone’s alarm bells. Leftists can complain about Hillesland’s failure to respect individual gender identification. Republicans can freak out over the candy and grooming language. And everyone who appreciates the healthy separation of church and state can ask why a public school teacher is being allowed to proselytize on school time.

Mr. Hillesland’s signoff is a gentle German closing that translates as Always All the Best! But with so many errors in judgment in text and delivery (at school?! Calvin, what were you thinking?), Hillesland’s letter reads more like Always All the Worst… or dare I say for my QAnon readers, Immer Alles Wurst?

Related Religious Messaging: The First Congregational United Church of Christ in Watertown offers a religious message of its own in its proper place, on the church grounds:

Mike Henriksen, Twitter, 2022.04.26.
Mike Henriksen, Twitter, 2022.04.26.


  1. Josh 2022-04-26

    I can’t believe the Watertown School District is allowing a teacher to groom his students. Weird.

  2. DaveFN 2022-04-26

    How does Calvin know about “every cell” in anyone’s body? Did he do surreptitious genetic testing to find out? Hope he secured the consent of his human subjects.

    Was unaware that cells had any awareness whatsoever or “knowledge” that they were either male or female, let alone masculine or feminine. Sounds like animism is alive and well in our school system. Room for another house bill.

    Waiting with baited breath for the contents of the DVD and its author to enlighten me.

  3. All Mammal 2022-04-26

    Mr. Hillesland has never been trapped in the wrong body, let alone heard of Chimerism.

  4. DaveFN 2022-04-26

    The notion that identity and identification is supervenient upon the inanimate realm of chemical/biochemical processes bespeaks a naïve idea that attempts to dignify itself by resorting to science, bad science that it is, however, as well as a paucity of knowledge of philosophy.

    Philosopher of science Nancy Cartwright taught us as much in terms of science itself: sociology doesn’t supervene on psychology, nor psychology on chemistry, nor chemistry on quantum physics. The world of knowledge is not concentric, but rather a “dappled” world akin to a patchwork quilt.

    As far as supervenience, “The core idea of supervenience is captured by the slogan, “there cannot be an A-difference without a B-difference.” It is important to notice the word ‘cannot’. Supervenience claims do not merely say that it just so happens that there is no A-difference without a B-difference; they say that there cannot be one. A-properties supervene on B-properties if and only if a difference in A-properties requires a difference in B-properties—or, equivalently, if and only if exact similarity with respect to B-properties guarantees exact similarity with respect to A-properties. Supervenience claims thus have modal force. ” See

    Calvin needs best stick to teaching German.

  5. Fairburn 2022-04-26

    I imagine he’ll need to quit teaching German, now that he’s seen the light. German has three genders when speaking about things: Der (masculine), Die (feminine, pronounced dee), and Das (neutral). He’ll only be able to use Der and Die, so can no longer speak of many things auf Deutsch.

  6. Diana Slyter 2022-04-26

    Besides being a great guy, Lee Bruns has attached sidecars to a lot of motorcycles so disabled riders can keep riding… Great work, Lee!

  7. Donald Pay 2022-04-26

    That’s a weird letter, for sure. Lot’s of things in there are really questionable, but this statement really got me: “But feelings are like a mirage. You don’t dare trust in them to guide you. They’re not an accurate reflection of reality.”

    Sure, feelings can be misguided, and it’s fine to ask students to ponder deeply on things, but to make that kind of statement is dangerous. That young ones emotions need to be acknowledged and understood, not just thrown in the dumpster, ignored or discredited. This guy is not qualified to be making such statements, and if he were qualified, he wouldn’t be making them.

  8. Ryan 2022-04-26

    i know it’s not the point of this article… but i sure would love to watch whatever was included with this weird letter haha

    i can only imagine how accidentally hilarious the video would be.

    (unless somebody knows what it was so i can find it online?)

  9. Mark Anderson 2022-04-26

    Calvin, I will pray for you as you prey on students. God has told me too and boy is she mad at you.

  10. Pat Bilek 2022-04-26

    Remember back in February when a reporter asked K. NOem why she thought nearly 90% of LBGTQ+ teens reported being depressed, and she said she thought it was sad and that “we should figure it out?”This was after she signed the bill restricting sports participation to a student’s designated gender at birth. Yeah, well we need not look any further than than people like this teacher who claim to have a student’s best interest in mind, but who in reality are exacerbating the problem.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-04-26

    Ryan, I’d like to see the DVD, too, and learn just which spiritual truths it teaches.

  12. Paul Severson 2022-04-26

    What ta hell was he thinking?

  13. Jenny 2022-04-26

    That letter was so creepy to me I can only imagine what those girls thought.
    Run girls, run fast.

  14. Rob 2022-04-26

    Do we know exactly what the DVD was? And do kids know how to play a DVD

  15. Caleb 2022-04-26

    I’m in line with Donald Pay here. Hillesland claims emotions, which we know certainly exist, are a mirage distracting kids from the truth of their biology, then claims spiritual fact exists. Perhaps I’m living under a rock, but I’ve never heard of a biologist isolating and thereby identifying anything known as a spirit with any certainty. Meanwhile our emotions, while often misguided like Donald said, literally affect our behavior, sometimes to our demise, but often to our survival and betterment, as well. Seems he’s likely to stoke inner turmoil more than ease it.

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-04-26

    Good question, Rob! Who hands out DVDs any more? Why not just put a link at the bottom of the email?

  17. P. Aitch 2022-04-26

    Q ~ “Who hands out DVDs anymore?”
    A ~ “Hillsdale College”

    Herr Hillesland – “DU BIST GEFEUERT!”

  18. grudznick 2022-04-26

    What is this DVD thing? Like an STD, or is it one of those little record album things that play music?
    grudznick finds it offensive that this Mr. Hillsdale fellow goes by the name “Mr. H”. And he’s a teacher, too. No matter the outcome of this letter business, which seems fairly heinous, he should be stripped from using the name “Mr. H” for life.

  19. JoAllan 2022-04-27

    I’m a former student of this teacher. I actually respected him back when I was in high school, which was 8 years ago, but now. I don’t know if I really can anymore. I’m a member and ally to the LGBTQIA+ community and this doesn’t sit right with me. All I can really say is that he can not be disrespecting someone wishes to be called something else. Let alone shoving his own religious and spiritual views down someone else’s throat like that. All I can really say to him is this. Das ist schlecht, das ist sehr schlecht. Shäm dich Heir Hillesland. (This is bad, this is very bad. Shame on you Mr. Hillesland.)

  20. M 2022-04-27

    How interesting about the German language with 3 gender references.

    Wow, this teacher would not last a year in this area of S.D. With so many talented teachers in our state, this guy sticks out like a deviant in sheep’s clothing. Get him out of the teaching profession please.

    If I received this letter/DVD from ANYONE, I would hand it over to the police and file for a restraining order. This goes beyond what is normal or acceptable.

  21. P. Aitch 2022-04-27

    A German offering advice about emotions is like an Irishman giving advice about sobriety and passivity. So far from the right side of nature to be misplaced and useless.

  22. Jenny 2022-04-27

    This teacher would fit better in a private Catholic school setting where there is anti-LGBTQ support along with mysogynistic priests creeping around.

  23. Dicta 2022-04-27

    Hey now, we Germans give perfectly fine advice about feelings: stuff them down and ignore them!

  24. Egg 2022-04-27

    Love this! The shoe is finally on the other foot and look at the outrage! This doesn’t even come close to how there’s of us feel when a teacher steps over the line to teach their beliefs that you can be anything you feel like. Heck be a unicorn toaster if that’s what you want and how dare anyone think that’s weird. Good news is both sides have finally come to the agreement that teachers should stick to the subjects they are supposed to be teaching and leave the rest to the parents.

  25. P. Aitch 2022-04-27

    Dicta nailed it. South Dakota schools are modeled on German sociology. Everyone who grows up in SD, no matter their families’ ancestors, are surrounded by German culture and it’s impossible not to absorb it. Students are influenced to believe that all people are the inherently the same, no matter their heritage. That creed is dog whistle for “If you’re not like me, you’re wrong.” If you’re not emotionless and production driven your way of thinking MUST be suppressed. Thus, “Brain Drain”.
    e.g. German operas are cold, emotionless and grand in production. Italian operas are overly emotional and tragedy driven. French operas are sensory driven and quirky.
    When the Watertown German teacher actually revealed his thinking on why trans people are misguided, he encapsulated the small mindedness of the SD school system. And, the narrow mindedness of Governor Noem and her chosen administration.

  26. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-04-27

    Really, Egg? Please cite examples of when your children’s teachers have pushed their spiritual beliefs on your children on school time.

    But if you are drawing equivalents to your perceived grievances, you are at least agreeing that Hillesland stepped over the line, right? You agree that he should face discipline for this inappropriate behavior, right? Please respond to this specific, evidenced incident.

  27. V 2022-04-27

    Doesn’t the school have policy in place that prevents teachers from becoming personally involved with their students? No Facebook friends, letters, texts, phone calls, pictures etc. Anything sent from the school should have been checked before being sent. I live in the boonies, and we have Hawk Eye Sharon who sends all the mail. Nothing gets past her unless it follows policy.

    Maybe other letters and packages have been sent and the recipients haven’t reported it. Whatever, nip it in the bud.

  28. Ryan 2022-04-27

    Cory – egg is obviously referencing the nationwide trend of scary transgender terrorists writing letters to young impressionable students telling them to become unicorn toasters. it’s everywhere. surprised you hadn’t heard.

    egg – i have successfully browned the bread. now i just need guidance on the hoofs and mane. i have the horn covered, if you know what i mean. please direct me to the unicorn toaster people for final instruction.

  29. Mark Anderson 2022-04-27

    Which came first, the chicken or the egg. In this case it’s both.

  30. Mark Anderson 2022-04-27

    You know Cory, Calvin has obviously been influenced in his writing by John Dale. For what it’s worth.

  31. O 2022-04-28

    We will see more of this — not less, I’m afraid.

    The religious right has been getting more bold with their “religious exemption” catch-all to impose their political will not only in the private sector (think wedding cakes for homosexual couples) into the the public sector (think refusal of mask mandates). This all seems to be the long game of the GOP paying dividends. The infiltration (perversion) of religion with politics has been an on-going movement of the right/conservative/GOP. “Religious” objections need not offer backing of a church doctrine, but can be claimed on individual levels.

    Remember, Mr. H did this in a public school that by state statute MUST display a plaque that states “In God We Trust” (not even the state motto, but what instead we put on our money); he did this in a public school that begins each day with a pledge of allegiance recognizing “one nation under God.” Schools narrowly avoided mandatory prayer (moment of silence) this legislative session. SD emboldened him.

    It is time to cut the assumed tie between “religious” and moral and call out this new theocratic discrimination for the political posturing that it is.

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