Students matter to Gambill

Denise Gambill, English teacher at Olentangy High School, not only cares about her job, but the kids she’s teaching. She enjoys learning about her students and encouraging them to find a place that fits them. After having a difficult high school experience herself, Gambill wants kids in her classroom to feel safe and happy.

“If I had my way, I would have every kid find a place to be and feel loved and not feel isolated or left out or picked on or bullied,” Gambill said.

Gambill said she was unsure of what she wanted to do when she was younger, and became lost during her time at high school. This is one of the forces that drives her towards helping others find direction and a place for them to belong.

Gambill works to create safe spaces for kids at Olentangy by being one of the teachers involved in the Gay Straight Alliance and Young Feminists clubs. She hopes to empower young girls and help students in the LGBTQ+ community know they are accepted.

“I feel like I want to be a soft place for them to fall, and I want them to feel comfortable when they’re here. If there’s no other safe place in the world, I want this to be a safe place for them,” Gambill said.

Gambill said she hopes to be a good role model for her students, as she believes that is one of the most important ways she can impact kids in her classroom. Gambill has open discussions with her students, allowing them to speak freely in a safe environment where their voices can be heard.

An shared opinion is teachers do not seem to care about what’s going on in students’ lives, and they only focus on their material. Gambill wants her kids to know she is listening and what they say matters.

“I think sometimes [the curriculum] is the first focus, and I’m not saying it shouldn’t be, but I think that if our kids are suffering, that comes first,” Gambill said.

When Gambill’s 35 years of teaching are up, she hopes to have a positive impact on her students.

“I want to look back and I want kids to say, ‘Ms. Gambill cared about me,’ Not that, ‘she taught me what personification was or a simile’ but, ‘She cared about me,’” Gambill said.

She will continue her work to make kids feel safe and loved at Olentangy if nowhere else.