Skip to main content

Davis Journal

LHS teacher uses his own struggles to help kids through tough times

Apr 08, 2022 09:55AM ● By Becky Ginos

Layton High teacher Dustin Hawkins has some fun showing his students the proper way to lift weights. Hawkins is a recovering addict who has started a gym extension health lab at the school. Courtesy photo

LAYTON—Dustin Hawkins quit his job as a hospital administrator at Huntsman more than 10 years ago and started a recovery gym in 2010, a nonprofit in inner city Ogden. The recovering drug addict is now sharing what he’s learned with kids he teaches at Layton High.

“I was an opiate substance abuser,” said Hawkins. “I knew I had to get sober. I had a couple of kids and my wife was going to leave. I joined the Mormon church and found God. I got sober and quit my job at Huntsman. I dumped my 401k to start SOAR (School of Addiction Recovery).”

In 2019 Hawkins started donating his time at Layton High helping players in the weight room. “They told me there was a position open as a P.E. and health teacher,” he said. “At first I wasn’t interested but spiritually I thought it was the right thing to do. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done – having a job working with kids.”

Hawkins went to school in Wichita and was in student athletics. He also played pro baseball for the Astros.

 “I started partying and got bit by pills,” he said. “It came close to ruining my life. The church saved me. I couldn’t get sober until I found God and Christ. It made it easier. I had something else to believe in.” 

Hawkins has used his spiritual journey to write four books, combining addiction recovery with his beliefs. He’s also started an after school program for kids who are struggling with anxiety and depression.

 “This gives them a safe place to come after school,” said Hawkins. “These are tough kids. They’re using weed, acid and mushrooms. They’re not doing well in school and they’re disrespecting their parents. I teach them to lift weights and get into that to find a good outlet through fitness and give them coping skills. It’s a really good program.”

He’s used his knowledge to start a program at Layton High too. “The first year I was here I applied for a $30,000 grant to create a gym extension called a health lab,” Hawkins said. “They gave me the money. It’s similar to my gym in Ogden but in a public school. The curriculum is up to standard and its SEL (Social Emotional Learning) approved for health class. I’m thankful for Layton High and Davis School District—they gave me everything I wanted.”

SEL – that’s what kids are struggling with, he said. “A lot don’t talk and keep it trapped inside their head. By using movement outside we can have good conversations and lift their thoughts and improve their moods.”

Other high schools have expressed interest in his program. “I’ve created a Canvas course and video training so we can get into other schools and help a bunch more kids.”

Hawkins said everyone thought he was crazy when he quit his job at Huntsman. “It was hard to leave my job. I have a master’s in business administration and I was making a lot of money. Financially it was hard. I lost my house and my credit went bad.”

Looking back it was impulsive, he said. “I had a comfortable life but I don’t think I would have stayed sober and I wouldn’t have gotten into the church. I never regret doing it. It led me to my calling in life.” l