Spotlight on Mary Ellis
Social-emotional learning is anything but an “extra” when it comes to teaching children what they need to know, says Mary Ellis. They need to learn social and self-management skills as well as they do reading, writing, math and science.“It needs to be infused into the classroom culture, into the relationships between teachers and their students,” Ms. Ellis says.
A longtime classroom teacher, first at Rye Country Day School and later in the Carmel and Mahopac schools, she moved into administrative roles after her superintendent asked her to attend a Future School Administrators Academy designed to meet a shortage in school leaders.
“It took three times for him to ask me to leave the classroom,” she says. “By the end of the program, I wanted to.”
Her leadership experience came first as Supervisor of ELA and Social Studies and later Director of Fine Arts, both in Harrison, and then as Director of Curriculum and Instructional Services in Mount Pleasant. Accomplishments there include supporting an early literacy program, moving to block scheduling at the high school, and bringing the International Baccalaureate program to the middle school.
Ms. Ellis believes in investing in classroom culture and says that during her time in the classroom, 20-minute morning meetings paid huge dividends throughout her school days.
“I found when I really attended to the social-emotional needs of the class, I spent much less time refocusing kids or managing conflict,” she says.
She brings the perspective of a classroom teacher to her workshops and wants participants to come away with tools they can use immediately and in the long term. She wants them to understand that social-emotional learning does not need to occur separately from academics.
“I also hope participants will leave with techniques and strategies that will impact themselves personally and how they manage their own emotions. We all have them,” Ms. Ellis says. “Teaching is an emotionally exhausting job. Helping them manage that will make their classrooms happier and more productive.”