“I remember sitting at the back of the class, daydreaming,” she recalls. “I was never a big fan of school, but at the same time, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher. I knew that I would never allow a student of mine to feel the same way about school that I did.”
Danielle Ellis’s passion for teaching touched her at a young age. “I have this wild passion for it,” Ellis says, “like it’s what I’ve been put on this earth to do.” A nationally-recognized educator who we’re extremely fortunate to call one of “ours,” Ms. Ellis teaches our fourth grade, and it’s unlikely that you will ever meet an individual with more energy and passion… for teaching, for learning… for just about everything. When not busily inspiring her students or teaching a space unit for the Academy kindergarten classes, she plays golf, writes articles and children’s books, works as a space camp instructor, and spends as much time as possible with her two children on the family ranch. She’s an avid runner – having proudly bested Oprah’s Marine Corps Marathon time of 4:29:15! – as well as a born star gazer, having inherited a love of space exploration from her stepfather, Apollo 17 Commander Eugene Cernan (incidentally, the last astronaut to set foot on the moon back in December of 1972).
Remember we said we were fortunate to have her? Well, here are just some of the reasons why. Ms. Ellis received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Texas A&M University, has twenty years of teaching experience, and has been with us since 2004. She has taught second, third, and fourth grade and while teaching at a Fairfax County Public School, she was named not only Outstanding Teacher of the Gifted, but Teacher of the Year, as well; the youngest teacher to have ever received that honor! Luckily, when she returned to Texas in search of a new teaching environment, that search led her to us. Now, more than fourteen years later, she feels blessed to be here… and so do we.
“I love making my classroom a happy place to come,” she says, “hearing my students laugh while they learning, and me along with them…for me, there is no greater reward in life.” Ms. Ellis has come to be known here for her out-of-the-box thinking, over-the-top work ethic, and unwavering commitment to doing whatever it takes to meet each student’s very individual learning needs. As a self-professed “horrible tester” who hated reading as a child, Ms. Ellis wants to give her students other options for assessment. She employs a variety of “open-ended technology where the students use their ideas to drive the technology instead of coming to a pre-destined ending”. Sometimes her students elect to make short movies with Animoto, test the waters of opinion with Poll Everywhere, or create their own plan for exploration. “Anything that isn’t simply drill and practice grabs my attention,” she says.
Most importantly, Danielle Ellis believes in showing respect and receiving it in return. In an article she wrote for Fort Worth Magazine, “The Power of Positive Teacher,” Ms. Ellis speaks to the influence of a teacher’s words and actions, and how “the power of believing in someone can change lives. Kids need positive words, smiles, handshakes, and high-fives. If teachers will only put the self-esteem of their students first, academic success is sure to follow.”