Once a Student Here, Mrs. Gilson Glad to Be Back

Clare Ravizza, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

If you asked any of the NDA seniors where they thought they would be in ten years, I doubt any of them would say, “Right here.” The majority of students are ready to move on to bigger and better things, onto their future.

Sometimes, unexpectedly perhaps, their future lands them right back where they started.

Obviously, all the NDA teachers went to high school. It seems kind of ridiculous to think of some teachers at our age, sitting through some of the same classes we sat through.

It seems even more ridiculous to think that one of them was in the exact same classes, taught by the exact same teachers, walking the exact same hallways, even attending the exact same school events.

For NDA English teacher Mrs. Gilson, this is just the case.

In 1997, Gilson was walking these hallowed halls, studying for Mrs. Nelson’s science tests, breaking a sweat in Coach Nowak’s gym class, ripping her pants in a Cabaret Night rendition of “I Will Survive,” and even attending the very first Mr. NDA.

Mrs. Brown, who was Student Government adviser as well as a first-year English teacher at the time, remembers it well. “It was our first year without homecoming, and the principal (Sr. Pat) said we could do anything to make the kids forget about homecoming.  We came up with the idea of Fall Fest Week.”

The hit of the very first Fall Fest Week, according to Brown, was Mr. NDA, a boys’ pageant like the one that had taken place at the school where she taught previous to Notre Dame.

“It was fun, entertaining,” Gilson said, remembering the pageant brought that very year by new teacher, Mrs. Brown. She recalled that Mr. NDA “really brought the school together.”

Since then, Mr. NDA has greatly evolved and grown out of Fall Fest Week, now a December affair big enough to easily stand on its own two legs.

In fact, Gilson was a judge at this year’s 2014 Mr. NDA, 19 years after she witnessed the first one. “I’ve been beyond impressed with how much the school has grown,” Gilson commented after watching the first Mr. NDA crowned (Jeff Lutsey) and now the nineteenth winner, Greg Young.

“It was kind of neat to have her as one of our judges this year because she could REALLY appreciate how the show has progressed and changed over the years,” commented Brown.

Brown remembers a specific Mr. NDA contestant who ate 22 goldfish during his talent portion, and Gilson can attest to that — not only because she was there, but because she dated him!

Nowadays, of course, Gilson is married (to a non-goldfish eating husband) and has even become a mother. After graduating from UW Eau Claire with a degree in advertising, then working in business for a few years, Gilson realized her true calling was in English.

“I thought about [studying English] when I had Father Gilsdorf for College Credit English,” said Gilson. Although she wanted to pursue a career in business,  Gilson still ended up minoring in Creative Writing.

Gilson earned her teaching and English degree from Concordia, now teaches English here at Notre Dame, and is loved by both her fellow teachers and her students.

“She is always in a great mood, has a great sense of humor and is willing to help,” said freshman Ashlyn Fitzgerald about her English teacher.

Brown shared similar feelings about Gilson. “She’s one of those teachers who is ‘alive’ in the classroom; I can tell her students really like her since I share a room with her.”

“I’m thrilled [to be back at Notre Dame],” said Gilson. She appreciates NDA’s professionalism and positive environment. “I love it here.”