Vanessa Ellis

Columbus, Georgia Muscogee County School District

8th Grade Social Studies Teacher

Why you chose to be an educator?

I did not become a teacher when I graduated from Columbus State University in 2011. I have ALWAYS been a teacher. As the oldest of six younger brothers, I helped with homework and taught them basic life skills such as how to tie their shoes and how to play and share with others. I was fortunate to be able to teach vacation Bible school to small children in a rural part of Jamaica where I was born at just 11-years- old. My parents saw that spark in me from a young age and gave me a platform to change lives deep down in the bush. I tutored my friends throughout middle and high school who were “too cool” to ask the teacher for help but felt safe and secure asking me for assistance. Teaching has been my passion for as long as I can remember. And as a professional educator, I have the honor and privilege to work with children, help them, inspire them, enlighten them and most importantly love them.

What inspires you?

To teach and to teach well, in a way that is transformational, inspirational and impactful, is not easy. You need many sources of inspiration to keep you going. Ron Clark of the Ron Clark Academy, Dave Burgess (#TLAP), my former teachers and college professors, my husband who is also a teacher and of course my squad of teacher friends are among my biggest motivations. Societal problems and current events also motivate me. As a social studies teacher, I have the perfect platform to combat ignorance, hate and prejudice to shape a more tolerant, humane and
informed citizenry. But my continual spring of inspiration, my educational sustenance, are the 800 + students I’ve taught, coached and mentored in my seven years in education. They are everything to me. They give me life. The light bulbs that go off when students make school-to-life connections just makes my day! To see the happiness that fills the room when I introduce a new educational raps makes me want to write 100 more songs. The awe that captivates my
students when they engage in a virtual reality simulation encourages me to find other ways to incorporate technology into my lessons. My students inspire me to continue to work hard and do whatever is necessary to provide a fun, exciting, engaging, immersive and memorable social studies education!

What you would like to see from the Krystal Foundation?

I would like to see the Krystal Foundation participate in the Donors Choose organization. In this capacity, the foundation can contribute matching funds to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics), culinary arts, music, and sports projects and professional development for teachers.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are all the rage in education right now. From Google Cardboard to HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, students can engage in the world from the comfort and safety of the classroom. I would like to see the Krystal Foundation provide funding
for VR labs as well as professional development for teachers on how to implement these technologies in STEAM lessons. Lastly, I would like to see the Krystal Foundation sponsor field trips. I teach 8 th grade Georgia Studies and it would be amazing for not only my students but students across Georgia to visit our state capital, in which the Krystal Foundation was founded. Atlanta is the perfect showcase for STEAM, culinary arts, music and sports. The best way to learn about these things is to experience it for yourself.