Longtime arts instructor is Women in Business honoree

Release Date: April 9, 2009    

PLAINVIEW – If Jeanie Pennell had a dime for every twirling lesson she’d given or gymnastics meet she’d attended, she’d be a rich woman. Instead, she has stars for each student in the Plainview community who has come through her doors, learned at her feet, and grown up to bring their own students to her studio.

Pennell, recently retired as longtime owner of The Barnyard Academy, will be one of three women to be honored with the Women in Business Award from the Students in Free Enterprise team at Wayland Baptist University. The awards will be presented in a 6:30 p.m. banquet on Thursday, April 23, in the McClung Center.

Born in Seagraves, Pennell was raised in Plainview and started playing cornet in the summer band program under longtime Plainview High director, O.T. Ryan. She then became a baton twirler in the junior high band. She twirled with the PHS band under Chief Davidson for three years and was a twirler at Texas Tech for two years following.

She began teaching twirling in the local YMCA summer program in 1956, and taught twirling at Dumas High School as well as through private lessons from 1966-72. She taught twirling and flags for the PHS band from 1979-2005, and also taught and gave clinics at Hale Center and other Panhandle towns beginning in 1973.

Pennell spent 17 summers at the Lake Brownwood Christian Retreat and five summers at the University of Texas at Arlington and another five at West Texas A&M University, all sharing her talents with rising stars. She hosted ten baton competitions for the National Baton Twirling Association from 1973-83, attended by approximately 200 competitors from the region.

After building a reputation for strong teaching, Pennell opened The Barnyard Academy in Plainview in 1976, which offered lessons in dance, gymnastics and twirling. Pennell received the NBTA honor of Texas Twirling Teacher of the Year in 2000, called the Tex-An Award. She retired from full-time work in 2009 but still gives private baton lessons and judges baton twirling competitions and pageants. She is a NBTA certified judge and teacher and was a former U.S. Gymnastics Association judge for gymnastics and trampoline.

She and husband Harvey, who died in February after a 30-plus year career in education, have three children and six grandchildren. She is a member of First Presbyterian Church and is a Meals on Wheels volunteer. She is in Soroptimist International of Plainview, participated in Leadership Plainview, is an alumna of Kappa Alpha Theta and serves with the Plainview Downtown Association.

Other honorees to be recognized at this year’s event are Lena Faye Hill and Jennifer Marley. Tickets for the banquet are $22.50 and are available through any SIFE member or by calling the School of Business at (806) 291-1020.