The storytelling lady has her own tale

·3 min read

Sep. 3—HERMITAGE — People all over Mercer County know her as the "storytelling lady."

Victoria Rivetti Lingner has been telling stories for more than 20 years at nursing homes, elementary schools, and as the in-house storyteller for Buhl Park.

"I want children to love reading as much as I do," Lingner said. "I think I instill that when I walk into the classroom. Even if I'm just reading a book, I don't read it, I act it out."

Lingner is a 2022 Buhl Day honored guest. She joins retired Shenango Valley Urban League CEO Michael Wright and state Rep. Mark Longietti, D-7, Hermitage, as this year's honorees.

Working as the in-house storyteller for McKeever Environmental Center in the early 2000s got her started on the road to becoming the "storytelling lady."

She enjoys instilling a love and a passion for reading.

"You experience wonderful things, you experience painful things," Lingner said. "But it's a human experience that sparks your soul."

The best aspect about volunteering with children is that they applaud before she starts.

"They know I'm coming, and I love them," Lingner said. "It's a mutual admiration with the children and me."

Lingner tells the children that storytellers do not memorize their stories word-for-word, but they memorize them by heart.

"The kids will say, 'Isn't that the same thing?'" Lingner said. "And I said no. You love the story and you want to express the love you have for the story, so you have to do it by your heart."

Lingner lives in Brookfield, Ohio, with Richard Lingner, her husband of 49 years.

After graduating from Edinboro State College with a B.S. in secondary education and English, and doing graduate work at Slippery Rock College, Youngstown State University and Penn State Shenango, she worked as an English and creative writing teacher at Mercer for three years.

Lingner went on to work at Sharon City School District as a teacher and program specialist for the gifted program for 27 years.

Shortly after retirement, she started volunteering with storytelling sessions.

She started out telling stories at the Bentley House, Juniper Village, Shenango-On-The-Green and Nugent Convalescent Home.

But her storytelling quickly branched out beyond assisted living facilities. She told stories at several schools including Sharon, Sharpsville Elementary, Farrell Elementary, Brookfield Elementary, New Wilmington Elementary, Neshannock Elementary, New Wilmington Elementary, Jamestown Elementary and St. John Paul II Catholic School.

Lingner serves on the Buhl Day Committee, chairing "Children's Theatre," and serves on the Sharon High School Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame Board.

During the pandemic, Lingner recorded 14 online read-alouds on Facebook. She read about Earth Day, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Russian Orthodox, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Black History Month.

While teaching in Sharon, she was awarded the Outstanding Secondary Educator of America in 1974 and she was elected by students to win the Elizabeth McMullen and Anna Grace Smith Teacher Appreciation award in 1994.

"(Students) do remember if you're a special teacher," Lingner said. "You're only special because you just respect them as people."

Follow Melissa Klaric on twitter @HeraldKlaric or email her at mklaric@sharonherald.com