After working at three different central Iowa school districts, Jill Pickell knew where she wanted to plant her roots.
Pickell grew up in central Iowa and graduated from Madrid Community High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a reading endorsement from Iowa State University in 1989 and began teaching second grade at Woodward-Granger Community Schools. After subbing at W-G, Perry and Dallas Center-Grimes for a year, she decided she really liked the DC-G Schools.
“I worked really hard to get into DC-G,” she says — 22 years later at Dallas Center Elementary.
“Fifth grade is my ‘niche.’ I’ve been teaching this grade since 1991,” Pickell says. “The kids are just learning what they can do, and they are not afraid to do it yet.”
Over the years there have been a lot of changes, a lot of recurrences.
“Teaching is cyclical; what goes around comes back around,” Pickell says. “Technology today has certainly changed the way we do things. A major change in teaching is that it is much more research based. We spend more time analyzing data, instruction strategies. We must be accountable for what’s happening in the classroom.”
Her favorite subject to teach was language arts in the beginning, but her likings have expanded over time.
“Over the years I’ve grown to love all subjects,” Pickell says. “It would be really hard for me to give up any of the six subjects. It’s like tying everything together, like weaving this great big tapestry.”
Pickell has always had live animals in her classroom.
“I used to have ferrets for many years,” she says. “I have a tarantula now, and we are reading books about them. I believe having animals here teaches responsibility — not all kids have pets at home.”
Pickell says she loves to read. Her day doesn’t start until she’s read the entire morning newspaper and doesn’t end until she has worked the New York Times crossword puzzle.
“I like reading aloud to the class,” she says.” I can use different voices and try to bring the story to life. When school is out in the summer I like reading something not class related.”
After 22 years at DC-G, Pickell says she is very satisfied here.
“If I wasn’t having fun here, I wouldn’t stay,” she says. “We have an outstanding district. I wanted to work here because we are on the cutting edge. After subbing at some of the other schools I could see that.”
Now she is receiving graduation invitations from some of her former students.
“I’m now starting to have the children of former students. It’s kind of neat, when it comes full circle that way,” Pickell says.
When she isn’t teaching, Pickell enjoys her three grandchildren, plus her Labrador retriever and four cats.
“They pretty much run the house,” she says.