Joe Wyatt
Published March 21, 2019

Jill Gibson’s office door is always open, and her students quickly discover they are welcome to visit, to vent, or to share thoughts and experiences that oftentimes are far more personal than academic.


“I think the successful educator is someone who cares about a student’s academic and personal achievements, someone who will listen to everything they want to talk about and help guide them,” says Gibson, chair of the Matney Mass Media Program at Amarillo College.


“Just getting straight A’s is not the goal. Being committed to the college experience is the goal. I feel it’s a professor’s job to facilitate that commitment and be part of a student’s life outside as well as inside the classroom.”


Gibson, adviser for AC’s nationally recognized Student Media program, brings a great deal more to the table than a sympathetic ear. She brings a prowess developed while graduating with Distinction – and a bachelor’s degree – from venerable Stanford University, presently ranked 7th nationally by U.S. News & World Report.


She followed that up by earning a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, which is on virtually every national short list of exceptional journalism schools. While there, Gibson received a prestigious McCormick Fellowship and gained a wealth of knowledge she imparts daily.


“I had the opportunity to learn from world-renowned professors,” Gibson said, “faculty who were tremendously well respected in their fields. My graduate program, especially, emphasized hands-on, real-world training, getting in there and doing it, not just hearing about it, and that’s the way I teach my students.


“When I start my broadcast news class, I say ‘I am going to teach you the way I was taught in graduate school’ and believe me, that scares them, but you can’t learn how to do something unless you actually do it.”


A steady stream of the highest-possible national accolades is ample evidence that Gibson’s hands-on strategy works. AC’s student-produced magazine The Current has won Pacemaker Awards – commonly called college journalism’s Pulitzer Prize – for three years running (2016-2018).


AC’s magazine competes against similar publications from both public and private four- and two-year institutions from across the United States and Canada.


“Seeing students succeed at something that was hard, to master skills that they weren’t sure they could do, that’s really exciting for me,” Gibson said.


“One of the most rewarding things about teaching is the ‘light bulb moment’ when a student finally gets a concept, when they feel proud of what they’ve learned, when they can demonstrate it.”


Gibson has been teaching mass media and speech classes at AC for 15 years. She also serves as a co-coordinator of AC’s Honors Program, which encourages well-prepared students not only to excel academically, but also to undertake new opportunities in civic engagement, leadership and global travel.


Nevertheless, she consistently makes time to keep up with the almost day-to-day changes of her fluctuating field.


“Mass media is an incredibly dynamic field,” Gibson said. “I’m constantly reading and learning new technology. I attend online classes and seminars, some national and statewide conferences, and I talk with a lot of other educators and professionals.


“But nothing I do as an educator is more important than forming a bond with students. There’s something very special about it,” she said. “I think I have just as many former students in my phone book now as current students. They text me to ask for advice or to tell me about their promotions and their jobs, and that’s really rewarding for me.


“I can’t help but believe that a successful educator is someone who puts students first.”