November 2021: Ms. Gillis

November 2021: Ms. Gillis

By Brooke Ehmann – Jones & Lidya Teklebirhan

November 23, 2021

November’s Panther Spotlight is Ms. Gillis, an amazing art teacher at Glasgow. She has been teaching for 15 years, coming on her 5th year here at Glasgow.  She started her career teaching middle school in Prince George’s county for 5 years. Then, she taught at Herndon Middle School for another 5 years. Ms. Gillis grew up in a small town of 2,500 people in Alaska and remembers that it was strange because her parents were friends with her teachers, however it was also a comfort to know everyone. “It was a very small town, so a totally different experience than what you guys have,” says Ms. Gillis. 

Ms. Gillis vividly remembers that she did not want to stay in Alaska for college because she wanted to go somewhere bigger with more opportunities. She earned extra credits and was able to graduate high school a year early, starting her freshman year of college as an architecture major.  However, she explained that she enjoyed the art part of the architecture curriculum, but it became clear that most architects just create other people’s designs. She realized that just wasn’t for her. She says that “I don’t know how I magically came upon ‘oh I want to be an art teacher’, but during my sophomore year of college I changed my major to be an art teacher and here I am now.” She got her interdisciplinary master’s degree in macro photography (the art of zooming in to images making them appear more abstract), and fine crafts where she did a lot of handmade bookbinding. Ms. Gillis stated that, even though it sounds ridiculous, “The monotony of it is pleasing to me. In the end you have any size or shape of book which doesn’t necessarily have writing, so I did some really cool ones where the pages had holes in them, and they were sculptural.” She did other fine crafts like jewelry classes as well. 

Ms. Gillis loves being an art teacher and thinks that the best part of being an art teacher is seeing the students enjoy their work. She says that “I’m not going to say I like all {projects} because that sounds blasé. I do enjoy when we make clay projects because even though it’s really messy, it’s really engaging. Seeing {the students} be creative with it and having fun with it is fun. So is painting. I think those messy things tend to be more fun as a teacher.” She remarks that she likes that art changes, and the cool thing about teaching is the students and projects are always different, so it is never boring. When asked what other jobs she would do besides teaching, Ms. Gillis responded that “It sounds really pretentious, but I think I could be good at a lot of things.” However, she said that her second favorite subject in school besides art was math because math can be memorized and there is always an answer, compared to art where the answer is never clear. Therefore, she thinks she could do a job with numbers like accounting. 

Ms. Gillis is a busy mom with a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old at home, so she has not been doing a lot of art at home. However, she loves crocheting and enjoys making hats for her kids. Her number one favorite thing to do is running. She is not a sprinter but still runs about 20 miles a week and has done many races, including six marathons. Ms. Gillis is an amazing art teacher, and her passion for art inspires her students.