Lela Gillmann Finds Fulfillment Teaching and Coaching in Tipton Schools
Writer & Photographer / Natalie Platt
It’s hard to decide if Lela Gillmann was more successful in the classroom, on the basketball court or on the golf course. She is the epitome of an outstanding student-athlete.
Gillmann graduated from Tipton High school in 2014 and was top 10 in her graduating class, ending her four years with academic honors. She lettered every year in both varsity golf and basketball, and was a three-time regional qualifier and four-time All-Hoosier Athletic Conference recipient in golf. On the court, Gillmann was two-time all-conference, and named all-area in her junior and senior years on the basketball team. She capped off her high school athletic career with three basketball sectional championships and one regional championship.
Gillmann headed to Indiana University Kokomo after graduating from Tipton High School, where she continued to excel academically and athletically.
“I graduated with academic honors from IU Kokomo in 2018 and received the Outstanding Future Educator award during my student teaching,” Gillmann says. “I played basketball my freshman and sophomore years, and was on the golf team my sophomore, junior and senior years.” Women’s basketball and golf were in their inaugural year when Gillmann played.
“This was a challenge because we started from the ground up,” she says. “We had to lay the foundation for what we wanted the programs to be. In my three years on the golf team, we had three different coaches. It was a challenging few years, but I think those years helped me become the coach and person I am today.”
Tipton High School prepared Gillmann to be competitive. “Graduating from Tipton made me strong, high-achieving, and independent in the classroom and within athletics,” she says.
Gillmann went on to obtain her masters from Western Governors University in 2021 in curriculum and instruction, and in 2022 was named an Outstanding Career Educator from the IU Kokomo School of Education.
Currently, Gillmann is in her fifth year of teaching second grade at Tipton Elementary, is the women’s varsity basketball coach, and is in her fifth year of coaching middle school golf. Her drive and success as a coach started when she coached middle school volleyball, sixth-grade basketball and, eventually, junior-varsity basketball.
Above all, Gillmann loves giving back to her students and athletes, and instilling values of what it means to be a Tipton Blue Devil. “Having pride in our community, working hard and creating relationships is important at every level,” she says. “I have my first group of students that are now in sixth grade that come back and chat, and I really enjoy seeing how much they have grown.”
As a coach, Gillmann has enjoyed working with athletes on the mental and physical aspects of the game. “Talking and understanding that both sides of the game are extremely important – I hope that if I can help a middle schooler or high schooler understand that, then they can carry that into life and do big things,” she says.
Gillmann notes that her parents, along with Paul Stowers, have been a huge influence on her life. “My mom coached me since I was in kindergarten and I’m not sure my dad missed many, if any, games growing up,” she says. “They have made me the person I am today. Paul Stowers also made an impact on my return to coach and teach at Tipton. From a young age I watched him coach, love the game of basketball, the town of Tipton, and invest in the athletes of Tipton schools. I admire him in all aspects of life as his encouragement and support is something I will never forget.”
It has always been a dream of Gillmann’s to teach and coach, but it was ultimately the Tipton community that brought her home. “I want to give back to all the people that invested in my academic and athletic career,” she says. Gillmann’s family was also a draw to stay local.
“My parents are Mike and Laurie Crawford,” she says. “They both graduated from Tipton High School and own a golf course in Tipton County. I also was married on that golf course last October to Austin Gillmann. Tipton is my home and what made me who I am, and I hope I can instill those same values into kids now. I want to help them be a better person and prepare them for the next step in life, whatever that may be.”