TOSS April Feature on Dr. Linda Gilbert

“[People climb mountains] to move boulders out of the way so those who follow won’t stumble and can climb higher.”

Dr. Linda Gilbert has been superintendent at Murfreesboro City Schools for the past 5 years. Before stepping into the role of superintendent, Dr. Gilbert was a teacher for 26 years. During this time, she was a professor at MTSU where she taught such classes on curriculum and instruction, school/community relations, and leadership for the graduate school.

After spending so much of her career as a teacher, I asked Dr. Gilbert about her favorite teacher when she was a student. “My favorite teacher was a music professor who cared about his students and cared about his profession. He expected a lot from us. But he knew how to actively engage us – linking art, music, history, and literature together. He expanded our world. And we loved it! I am better because he was my teacher.”

Now in a different kind of leadership position, I asked Dr. Gilbert the greatest rewards in her job as superintendent as well as the biggest challenges. “Greatest rewards: watching the magic that happens between children and teachers, seeing the leadership of others grow, being part of a professional family that does whatever it takes to ensure children reach their potential. Greatest challenge: helping colleagues remain positive and motivated – while politics seem to be engulfing the most important profession in the world.”

Dr. Gilbert shared that it is “hands down, the children [that] drive [her].” She is inspired by “hearing their stories, seeing their faces, and watching them learn.” She continued. Children drive me. The professionals I work with on a daily basis inspire me. Their work ethic, dedication to children, and honest conversations keep me focused, learning, and energized.”

I asked Dr. Gilbert to relate to us her thoughts on the approach to education and the specific ways students need to be encouraged compared to when she was a student. “Today, all means all.” She replied. “That was not the case when I was a student.  Children with disabilities were isolated, ethnicities were separate.  Diversity was limited, at best.  But, today, diversity is celebrated.  Today, we have the privilege of working with all children—finding what motivates each individual child and working collaboratively to address the needs of each child—so that all children learn.”

My favorite day of the year is when we take all of our 1st-6th grade students (7,000+) to an MTSU basketball game. The Murfreesboro City family comes together in one place at one time!  Remarkable to see the smiles and hear the cheers of students who have never seen a basketball game or been on a university campus.  It’s a day when students can visualize their future.  The energy, excitement, and learning are palpable!

Click above to hear, Rainbow Fish. By Marcus Pfister. Read by Ernest Borgnine.

 Some of Dr. Gilbert’s favorite books to read to the students when she visits their schools include Jamberry (she enjoys taking raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries to the Pre-K children), Rainbow Fish, Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon, and The Little Engine That Could.

What are some of the things going on in Dr. Gilbert’s district that she’s looking forward to? “Wow! Tough to settle on only a few things!”

  • Recently, we received a Farm to School grant which will expand experiential learning for our children and teachers. 
  • We are changing our special education Pre-K model to be more inclusive. 
  • Over the next five years, we will expand two of our schools and build another. 
  • We are intensifying our technology initiative, expanding our gifted program, and broadening our partnership with postsecondary institutions.  More than 100 of our students travel to MTSU monthly for Saturday activities sponsored by different university departments.  This summer, in partnership with MTSU, we will offer a Gifted Academy for our teachers. 
  • Also, this summer, our partnerships with the faith-based community will provide summer literacy, sports, and technology camps in federal housing projects and mobile home parks. 
  • We continue to serve the whole child, as evidenced by the Junior Chef Program, community eligibility, Comprehensive Integrated 3-Tier Approach to Behavior (CI3T), and the mobile feeding unit (The CHOW Bus).   

When Dr. Gilbert isn’t working to improve her district and encourage her students she likes to read, garden, and go on “grand mommy” adventures with her three grandchildren. She found it tough to think of doing any profession but the one she’s in now, but if she had to choose she’d choose farming. “Maybe.”

Thankful to Dr. Gilbert for taking the time to share with us about her school system. Here’s to a great remainder of the school year to Murfreesboro City Schools!