Writer/artist/teacher, Nancy Gill, spent more than thirty years as a non-traditional college English professor in Pennsylvania before she returned to her home state of Washington to live in what she had always imagined as a beautiful, pristine Puget Sound wilderness. She found a little cabin on half an acre of Douglas fir trees about her age, across the road from a small, quiet lake, half a mile from spectacular views of the Olympic Mountains.

Every day, that first week, she took a break from unpacking and arranging books, papers, furniture, art supplies, to take a long walk out the nearest highway, and every day cars pulled up alongside her, and drivers rolled down windows and asked if she was all right. “Sure!” she called out cheerfully–but she began to wonder. Why wouldn’t she be all right? Finally, on the fifth day, she asked a driver: “Why is everyone so concerned about my safety?”

“You must be new to this area,” he said. “You really shouldn’t be walking here. All these little roads around here are full of meth labs. If you needed help, thre wouldn’t be anywhere to get it.” After that, she drove ten miles into the nearest town, and did her walking on a wetlands trail, where, in addition to ducks, and geese, and blue herons, and coyotes, and deer, people of all ages walked from sunrise to sunset.

Her quiet little lakeside community, she learned, where she had planned to establish herself as a full-time writer and artist, was actually filled with children and teenagers who weren’t happy in school, weren’t productive in school, didn’t feel at all hopeful about school, and didn’t much like their personal lives either. She realized that she couldn’t just make art, and write about students three thousand miles away. She needed to “do something” for the kids who were just down the street and across the lake, and in the next town, and the next county.

In other words, she realized that the students she was beginning to know in Washington were not that much different from those she had known all her adult life. She offered to work with students of all ages in their homes–and then in their friends’ homes, and then in their schools, and then in their communities, all around the Puget Sound area. She offered to stay with them,keep on listening, keep a dialogue going, with each one, for one to four years, at least, until they felt more able, and more hopeful about their lives.

Nancy blogs about teaching and learning issues that have no easy, one-size-fits-all solutions, and about the need to look, to listen, to reflect, to connect, and to create–which are needs we all share, and struggle with. As an artist, teacher, and writer, she is always searching for ways to see and listen better. She is the author of two books: HELPING KIDS HOPE: A TEACHER EXPLORES THE NEED FOR MEANING IN OUR SCHOOLS AND IN OUR LIVES (Scarecrow Education Press, 2003) and SHINE IN YOUR OWN WAY: INSPIRATION FOR PARENTS OF FAILING KIDS (Down-To-Earth Books, 2008.) Find her on Facebook as Nancy E. Gill, Ph. D. See some samples of her art at artsolympia.com, a short bio on Amazon, and a few samples of her work on Etsy at NancyEGillArt.


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