By CATHY MOUNCE, Register Staff Writer
Jill Linnell, kindergarten and first grade fine arts teacher at Edison Elementary, wanted to be a teacher from an early age. During the April Gainesville Independent School District (GISD) board of trustees meeting, she was named teacher of the month for the GISD.
“When I was in first grade, I came home one day from school and told my mother that I wanted to be a teacher like Mrs. Robinson,” she said. “I was also able to student teach with Mrs. Robinson before she retired so it was like coming full circle. I still stay in contact with her.”
Linnell, a 1999 graduate of Gainesville High School attended North Central Texas College before earning her teaching certificate and bachelor of science in education at Texas Woman’s University. Initially Linnell did not plan to teach the fine arts classes consisting of art, music and drama, but agreed to do so for one year with plans to teach first grade the following year. She did not know then that her passion would keep her steadfast in fine arts.
“I thought I knew what I wanted,” she said. “Here I am in fine arts years later and I still love it.”
Linnell credits her passion for the arts to her seven years working with the Boys and Girls Clubs in Gainesville.
“I was also a Campfire girl and leader with an aptitude for teaching arts and crafts,” she continued. “ I still go by the Boys and Girls club and take supplies when I can. They are always needing art supplies or any other kind of donations.”
Linnell is married to Gainesville police officer Mark Linnell and their new baby, Ella, will turn one in June.
“We thought she might be a twin,” Linnell laughed. “Both Mark and I are twins. I have an identical twin sister and Mark has a fraternal twin.”
“During the sonogram I told the doctor to make sure there wasn’t another one hiding,” she added, laughing. In her classroom Linnell believes each of her students are artists in their own way.
“Sometimes it may come out awful but I teach them to be proud of what they have done.”
Linnell brings arts to a level where even five and six year olds can understand and be creative. Erasers are not allowed in her classroom as the kids learn that mistakes are ok.
“It is not only about what they create,” she continued. “It is about believing in themselves and their abilities. This builds confidence and hopefully this confidence will stick with them wherever life takes them.”
Her students have studied many of the old masters of the art world such as Van Gogh, Manet and Monet. Many works were displayed during the first annual “Night of the Arts” Linnell coordinated during the winter. More than 350 people attended.
The class room in which Linnell works is highly textured with pictures, colors and an occasional polka dot, one of her favorite things.
“Sometimes when I am standing in the class room, I feel that I am in structured chaos, “ she said. “But despite the distractions that can exist in a room of young children, I think how lucky I am to be a teacher even though I may find myself covered in glue or paint or whatever project we are working on.”
Edison principal Sharon Norwood said Linnell is always willing to help.
“We all have staff who are our ‘go to’ people who will take on any project, help with any idea, or find resources for you to do whatever you are trying to accomplish,” Norwood said. “Jill is that person for me.”