Bill Hankins taught scholastic photojournalism for 26 years, advised student publications for 29 years, and instructed more than 1,600 photojournalists, mostly at Oak Park High School in Kansas City. In 1988, he began the Heartland Photojournalism Project, pairing his students with those of his wife Marcia at Park Hill High School. For 15 years, the combined 70-90 shooters would document a day in the life of a small town in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa or Nebraska. The documentary project was developed in the spirit of the Missouri Photo Workshop, which he and Marcia attended in 1989.
Hankins was instrumental in advancing recognition for scholastic photojournalism on the local, state and national levels. He helped expand the annual high school photojournalism competition, creating a top award to a Kansas City area student — The Bill Garrett Photojournalism Award. In the Missouri Interscholastic Press Association competition and the annual national competition, Hankins helped introduce new photojournalism categories.
For 20 years, he taught at the Missouri Summer Media Workshop and before retiring introduced the first entirely digital photo workshop. Borrowing an analogy from photography, Hankins always saw his students much like the latent image in exposed film. They had the potential to become something great. Many of them did.
Hankins received the Missouri Journalism Teacher of the Year Award, the Taft Award, and the Knight Award from MIPA, the Pioneer Award from the National Scholastic Press Association, the Certificate of Merit from the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund, and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 from the Journalism Education Association. He retired and works as a part-time photographer and writer for The Platte County Landmark weekly newspaper. Winner of numerous awards from the Missouri Press Association for both his photography and writing, he has published a book of his work entitled Landmark People, Stories from Platte County.