Excellence in Teaching: Clark-Shawnee teacher found calling while in law school

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Joanne Gilley didn’t initially want to be a teacher because she had educator parents, but that quickly changed when she was in law school.

Gilley, who has taught for 18 years in the Clark-Shawnee Local School District, started at Rockway and currently teaches seventh-grade math at the middle school.

Gilley and three other teachers will receive the Excellence in Teaching award on March 27. The 34th awards program is sponsored by the Springfield Rotary Club, First Energy, The Springfield Foundation, the Greater Springfield Partnership and the Springfield News-Sun.

Each recipient will be introduced and will give a short presentation on what teaching has meant to them and the importance of being a teacher. Recipients will also receive a $1,000 check, a recognition plaque and an etched paperweight.

Gilley has always been around teaching since her mom was an English teacher and her dad was an accounting professor.

“Due to this, my rebellious younger self decided that I wanted nothing to do with it. However, while I was practicing law, I did some volunteer tutoring and sensed that it was indeed my calling,” she said.

Gilley practiced healthcare law for about three years, which she said she liked but not enough to do it forever. After doing some volunteer tutoring, she decided to go back and get her master’s degree in education and has been teaching since.

To her, Gilley said teaching means the ability to influence the path of young minds. She has taught sixth, seventh and eighth-grade math.

“Teaching allows me to be a lifelong learner and to convey to my students how important it is for them also to be lifelong learners in order to be productive members of society,” she said.

Teaching math and middle school students is something Gilley loves to do. She said she feels math is a very creative and interesting subject that “too often gets short-changed with an emphasis on repetitive and unengaging computational/procedural skills.”

“One of my favorite parts of being a teacher is when I see students evolve into problem solvers and get motivated by the problem solving process itself as well as the correct answer,” she said. “Another one of my favorite parts about teaching is watching my seventh grade students grow into amazing people with multiple talents by the time they graduate.”

Gilley was nominated by nominated by principal Adam Billet, along with letters of support from colleagues Natalie Koukis and Darcy Leis, and former students Elijah Vince, Kyndall Shope, Maddie Stevens and Scarlett Crawford.

Leis said she and Gilley started working more closely together at the middle school and have shared classes of students.

“Partners in crime, sisters in scholarships, a ride-or-die teaching team: at the new middle school, Joanne and I joined forces to make seventh grade matter for our students,” she said. “I have observed the multitude of strengths Joanne possesses. The woman is an educator through and through, and her goals for students are not solely mathematical. This, I believe, sets her apart from other skilled educators.”

Koukis added that Gilley’s enthusiasm is contagious as she presents information and connects it to real-world situations that are relevant to students’ lives, and recognizes that each learner is unique and encourages creativity in problem-solving.

Gilley said she is humbled to get this award, and feels all the teachers around her deserve it as well.

“This award means that I will continue to attempt to reach every student and dig in on the hard days to make sure that I live up to this honor,” she said.

Gilley earned her master’s in education from Wright State University in 2005.

2023 Excellence in Teaching Award

This is the third story in a four-part series by the Springfield News-Sun on the teachers in Clark County receiving the 2023 Excellence in Teaching Award.

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