Getting Personal: Barbara Gillespie-Washington

Getting Personal: Barbara Gillespie-Washington

Each week, we offer an email Q&A with a local personality. Today, Paul Wood chats with 67-year-old Urbana resident Barbara Gillespie-Washington, an inspired educator "in a relentless pursuit to bring out the best in our youth." The retired teacher taught in the Urbana school district for 36 years. She is still involved in education as a substitute teacher and as a mentor/teacher coach.

What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the day?

Usually I am up about 6:30 a.m. or earlier. My prayer and devotion time is 7 a.m. daily, so I have to be up and ready.

What do you consider your greatest achievement or accomplishment?

Greatest is difficult to really assess. Perhaps my greatest achievements have been in the educational realm and community service. I have received numerous awards from educational, religious and community entities at various levels.

What do you regard as your most treasured possession?

My family is ultimate in my life.

Do you have a guilty pleasure and what is it?

I indulge in giving too much of my time to others because it is a pleasure to see others happy.

What book are you reading now? What is your favorite book ever?

I am reading "Quotable Women, A Celebration." It is great reading with striking art images throughout. My favorite book now and always is the B-I-B-L-E.

Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?

For some time now, I have been bugging my travel planner, my son, to make plans for Brazil or Australia. Australia is probably out because his university sent him there a month or so ago on business. I love new, exciting cultural experiences, novelty and festivities. I think Brazil is full of all of that.

Tell me about your favorite pet.

My favorite pet is a giraffe. I can't have a live one, so I just collect them from all over.

What's your favorite sports team?

The Fighting Illini is the favorite team for me.

What would you order for your last meal?

Pan-broiled teriyaki salmon, baked sweet potato, Hawaiian spinach salad, green tea with lime.

If you could be reincarnated after you die, what would you like to come back as?

My heart would rejoice to come back as a renowned pianist.

Who are your favorite musicians and why?

Mahalia Jackson, Nat King Cole, Andy Williams, The Clark Sisters.

What's the happiest memory of your life?

I would have to say having my first child.

If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite? What would you serve?

A family member, a church member and a devoted friend. I would serve seafood and soul food with a choice of delectable desserts.

Which historical figure do you admire the most and why?

I admire Harriet Tubman for her sacrifices in helping others to become free of slavery and mental bondage.

What personality trait do you most hate in other people? Most hate in yourself?

It really ruffles my feathers to see people take advantage of others in vulnerable situations. With myself, I am often reticent when I should be more vocal.

What's your best piece of advice?

Live life to the fullest as you allow God to order your steps.

What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?

My first real job after college was teaching. My salary was $6,900 a year. I did not calculate the hourly wage.

What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?

My principal, at viewing the science I taught in my class, finally convinced me that I should conduct science workshops for teachers. I was too shy to think of anything like that. I grew weary of his prodding, so gave in. Oh, that one plunge opened many doors to engage in what I truly loved: deeper science involvement.

Do you have any regrets in your life? What are they?

I regret that I sold some rental property that could be bringing in some additional income at this stage in my life.

How do you handle a stressful situation?

I strive daily to be an upbeat person. So I try to think situations through before reacting. Prayer always helps me to make better decisions and not trip out at times of stress.

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