CMS teacher honored
Cassville Middle School Family and Consumer Science teacher Ann Ellis was named Teacher of the Year for the district's middle school and high school. Ellis was nominated for the honor by her peers and was chosen by the Cassville Community Teachers Association (CCTA).
"It's an honor to be recognized by my peers," Ellis said. "It's very humbling. There were several teachers eligible from both schools combined.
"Ironically, I came from a large family of teachers and swore I would never be one," Ellis said. "But God has a sense of humor, so here I am. I guess I have a genetic disposition for teaching."
Ellis credits having an amazing family and consumer science (FACS) instructor when she was in school who inspired not only her, but five other students to seek degrees in family and consumer science with a minor in science.
"Her name was Elizabeth Scott," Ellis said. "She was kind and generous. I wanted to see if I could do the same."
Ellis taught at Ava for five years after she completed college, but her military husband, Spencer, was stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany, so Ellis started working for the Department of Defense schools, teaching military dependents on the base.
"I actually taught science and then he was transferred to Lakenheath Air Force Base in Norfolk, England," Ellis said.
"Again, I was working for the DOD, teaching military dependants at Feltwell Air Force Base," Ellis said. "I actually taught family and consumer science there, as well as science.
"There was a lot of cultural diversity between military dependants," Ellis said. "There were also a lot of kids in and out when their parents received new orders."
When the family returned stateside, Ellis' husband was stationed at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene Texas.
"While there, I worked for a Sylvan learning center as both an instructor and as director," she said. "After Spencer retired, we looked for a place closer to family, and I was able to go to work for the Wheaton School District as their FACS teacher.
"It was after that I became employed by the Cassville District," Ellis said.
Ellis enjoys the challenge of teaching basic skills to her students.
"I get jaded," Ellis said. "But when you see a student sit down at a sewing machine and make something for the first time, I get to see it through their eyes. It renews my sense of excitement.
"My students teach me everything," Ellis continued. "They teach me I need to learn something new every day. They teach me that I don't know all the answers.
"But they also let me see through their eyes, and hear their stories," she said. "They share in the highs and the lows of their lives. It's humbling that they trust me with that information. Some of it is very sad. I get to be a part of their lives, and that's kind of neat."
Ellis said the skills she teaches students in middle school will be those that carry them through high school and into their adult lives.
"Leadership skills they learn here will be carried into high school," she said. "A student might decide to learn the culinary arts or fashion design because of something they learned here."
Ellis takes students several times during the school year to Haven of the Ozarks, where they learn about volunteering. Students also host an annual supply drive for the Haven, donating everything they have collected to the no-kill shelter.
"We do visitations and parties at local nursing homes," Ellis said. "We host fundraisers for the Children's Miracle Network, and this year, we also hosted a fundraiser for a student with a genetic condition and donated funds to the association in her name."
Ellis also teaches students to be thoughtful about their environment, urging them to continually find ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.
"In the last week of school, the kids all helped load trailers and big bins from [All Points Recycling]," Ellis said. "Kids helped load the supplies, and in that last week alone, we recycled 7,000 pounds of paper out of the middle school alone."
Students also enjoy learning fun and unusual things in Ellis' class.
"Biscuit pizzas and peanut butter Play-Doh," added Ellis' daughter, Sara. "Everybody loves the biscuit pizzas."
"I teach kids to take a can of biscuit dough and flatten the biscuits out to make individual pizzas," Ellis said. "I've had students come back to tell me they still make those."
Another project that brings a smile to her face is the baby eggs.
"Students are responsible for taking care of a hard boiled egg," Ellis said. "Sometimes we use a bag of flour or a bag of sugar. But students will go all out to decorate their baby eggs and bags. Some even put baby clothes on the bag babies.
"But often a baby egg will come back cracked, or a bag won't make it through the week," she continued. "Other teachers are so patient when we do this project. Students not taking part in it will sometimes kidnap the babies and hold them for ransom. You can imagine what a disruption to another teacher's class it can be when a student gets their baby kidnapped."
In addition to her classroom duties, Ellis is active on the board for The Den in Monett, on various church committees, serves as a volunteer for the church youth program and works at the Community Kitchen.
"We are very into giving back," Ellis said of her family. "Many people have helped us out, so this is our opportunity to lead by example."