After 30 years as an educator, in 2002, I retired from teaching in Texas. I taught high school English and coached eight to ten University Interscholastic League events, getting up at 5:30 a.m. to travel to practice competitions on my weekends (often getting home around midnight)—it was hard to keep up.
Over the course of those years, I was the curriculum coordinator, worked with special programs, and was instrumental in writing our site-based plan and getting our gifted/talented program in compliance. I also spent a good deal of time dreading the District Effectiveness and Compliance (DEC) visit.
Being knowledgeable about programs, Texas Education Agency mandates, the TEKS, TAKS, and Essential Elements (some non-essential elements) required spending several days each month at the Education Service Center where I was a “student.” Being good at my job was time-consuming, and it wasn’t easy.
But nothing I did was as important to me as teaching my students. I loved teaching English—from eighth-grade writing to twelfth-grade dual credit. Put me in a classroom, and I find my voice. Working with students, either in class or coaching UIL, taught me so much about teaching, coaching, and caring.
My goal when I started my career was to teach subject matter. I knew I didn’t want to get too invested in individual students. But when I looked at them, heard them speak, learned about them, cried with them, and laughed with them, I was hooked.
When I walked for the last time through those two big plated glass doors, I felt relieved, but not happy. It was easy to let go of all the expectations and to-do lists; it was much harder to say goodbye to the students I cared so deeply about.
Jolly Ann Ellis taught high school and college English and sponsored literary UIL. She is now the president of the Seguin-Guadalupe County Friends of the Library, a member of Delphian Study Club, and an avid bridge player.
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