The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Adventures In Leadership


Mrs. Debbie Gillam

In May 2005, Mrs. Debbie Gillam, one of my most beloved teachers of all time and the mother of one of my very dear friends, wrote the poem titled, "Be True to Yourself", and gave it to a group of us as we promoted from Southern Junior High onto our high school career in the newly consolidated West Central School District.

Numerous times over the past seven years I have read that poem and been extremely thankful for the role model that I am blessed to call one of my former teachers and my forever friend.

It seemed right to start off this series by going back to a favorite mentor of mine, yet again asking for her wise advice and input.

Q: What does leadership mean to you?

A: Leadership to me is stepping forward and saying that you will take on a task and follow it through. Being organized, committed to whatever the task is, and not sitting back and letting others do all of the work.

Q: To whom did you look to as a role model or leadership figure while growing up?

A: This sounds terrible, but honestly I've never really had any role models.

I admired Abraham Lincoln and what he stood for and JFK. I admired those two presidents the most. I also admired Billy Graham and what he stood for and represented...

While growing up there were not a lot of women in the public eye. I would say my Grandmother Hemminger would have been a good example for anyone:she was a housewife [and] I admired her because she just worked really hard. I also admire Jeanne Barber [because of] her faith for one-she walks the walk and talks the talk; and her teaching ability and how she dealt with people, students, parents, and colleagues.

Q: Can you tell me about your background and resume?

A: [paraphrased highlights] Graduated from Culver-Stockton with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. From 1980-2005, taught in the Southern School District, and from 2005-2010, taught in the West Central School District. Nominated seven times for the Teacher of the Year Award based out of Burlington, Iowa, and nominated on numerous occasions for the "Who's Who Among America's Teachers", Retired after 30 years of teaching. Taught all varieties of Literature, English, and Social Studies to Grades 5-8 at some point. Ran the library, coached volleyball and cheerleading, and was the fundraising manager for various grade levels.

For one year was even the Head Teacher for Southern Junior High in place of a principal and athletic director.

Now volunteers her time at the library, the school, church, Henderson County Fairgrounds, and the Family Outreach Community Center (FOCC) in Stronghurst.

Leadership positions held include: elder in her church, Sunday School teacher, Vacation Bible School leader, superintendent of the Eisenmayer building at the Henderson County fairgrounds, clerk of the town of Media, member on the Board of Directors for FOCC, and a member of the Culver-Stockton Parents' Association.

Q: What are three things you would say to someone about life?

A: 1) Be true to yourself and stand up for what you believe in. 2) Be grateful for every day that God has given you and make something out of each day.

3) Be a Packer Backer! Join us Packers! Go Packers!

As much as I love Mrs. Gillam, I must admit I cannot agree with number three! But, overall I think some major life lessons can be gleaned from her example. For simplicity's sake, the three main lessons from my perspective that I want to illuminate are:

1) Work hard and be reliable. Mrs. Gillam has always been the first to exemplify this life strategy.

2) Be involved! If you want to improve something, dig in and see where you can help out. This includes being available and open to input from others.

3) And lastly, wrestle, ponder, and philosophize over exactly what it means to be true to yourself. And, in doing so, realize that it may actually have nothing to do with you at all, but actually refer to something much bigger and longer-lasting than what this life can provide.

Thank you Mrs. Gillam for your time and hard work; you have touched many lives and have provided quite an amazing example of leadership to many!