Two years after marrying Tom Wallin, Linda Wallin and their young son, Tommy, moved from the Phillippi Creek area to Siesta Key, where they had purchased a 1950s-style house near where her husband used to vacation.
“It was very jungle-y back then,” Wallin remembers.
She and Tom raised their three children in that house, and Wallin still lives there today. Most days, she rides her bike or walks to and from to her job as the art teacher at The Out-of-Door Academy.
“I knew since I was in the seventh grade that I wanted to be an art teacher,” she says. “I don’t think a lot of people can say they knew what they wanted to be in the seventh grade.”
Wallin grew up in Bradenton and attended Florida State University, where she received a degree in art education and visual arts.
Wallin married in 1976. Not only did she marry a man she loved, she married into what is now a four-generation local seafood business. At the time, Tom, and his father, Walt Sr., ran Walt’s Fish Market in downtown Sarasota. Tom and Walt Sr. were involved in the fishing community. They would bring the fish they caught or had bought off fishermen at the old docks on Siesta Key, to the market to process and sell. Wallin became involved in almost every aspect of the business — from marketing to waitressing to delivering fish to local restaurants. However, there was one line she would not cross.
“I said I would never learn how to fillet a fish, and I still don’t know how,” she says.
Walt’s Fish Market grew over time. At one point there were seven markets and restaurants throughout the area.
Wallin’s three children, Tommy, Brett and Megan, all attended ODA. Wallin taught art at W.D. Sugg Middle School in Bradenton before taking a hiatus to raise her children, but that hiatus was coming to an end.
During her daughter’s final year at ODA, Wallin got a call from the school, inquiring if she was interested in filling a soon-to-be-open position as the art teacher.
During the past 15 years, Wallin has developed fun and exciting projects for the students of ODA. She tries to ensure the art projects are not only fun but also tie into the curriculum they are working on in their other classes.
One of her art philosophies involves mixing art and nature. For a few years, she included marine science lessons with her art lessons. She still brings in shrimp and fish from the market for the students to work on for various art projects.
“The most rewarding part of my job is when a little kid says to you, ‘Wow! I can do art!’ and they light up,” she says. “Or, ‘I made green!’ Just little things like that. They can come in here and take some of the stress out of their day. They can talk and work freely and be creative.”
Although teaching keeps Wallin busy, she still finds time to kayak, walk the beach every Friday after school with colleagues and work in her garden at home.
“I love the whole feeling of the Key,” she says. “You feel a different presence of tranquility. A good week is when I don’t have to go off the Key.”
In 2006, Wallin lost her husband to a five-year battle of head-and-neck cancer. In 2010, Wallin married Steve Schember, an old family friend and former ODA parent. Schember lost his wife to cancer six months prior to Tom Wallin’s death. The two now live on Siesta Key and enjoy hiking and traveling.
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