Ellsworth starts and ends with 17 kids
By ELISA SAND, Staff Reporter
Cindy Ellsworth can rattle off numerous changes that have taken place in education since 1975, but two factors have come full circle: the size of her class and the grade she teaches.|
Ellsworth will retire this year from teaching third grade at Madison Middle School -- a post she's held for nine years. Prior to that, she taught fifth grade and the Gifted program. Though her career in Madison started in 1991, she began teaching in 1975 in O'Neill, Neb. She had 17 third-graders -- the same size number as in her class this year.
In 1976, Ellsworth married Bob and they moved to Rock Rapids, Iowa. They both taught for a year before moving to Dallas, Texas, so her husband could attend mortuary school. That year she was a librarian and the following year they moved to Dell Rapids, where she deviated from education and worked for Northwestern Bank.
The Ellsworths moved to Madison in July 1979 and took over the Hallenbeck Funeral Home.
"I returned to teaching in 1991," Ellsworth said.
By then she was a mother of two and Madison was looking for a teacher for the Gifted program. Ellsworth got the job and worked with students from first grade to high school seniors.
Students took an IQ test to qualify for the program, and Ellsworth was tasked with finding challenging materials for them.
The Gifted program disappeared in 2000 when school boards started looking at budget cuts.
"I feel No Child Left Behind killed Gifted programs in South Dakota," Ellsworth said, adding that the Gifted programs were the first cuts made. Today, the few programs still in place are in the larger school districts.
"Everyone thinks Gifted kids will be fine, but they have their own set of problems and challenges," she said. "I've had teachers say they can tell; they (students) don't think outside the box like they used to."
Ellsworth then slipped into a fifth-grade position vacated by a retiree, and three years later she started teaching third grade.
"I like third grade," she said. "They're a little more independent and they still think the teacher's cool."
Although teaching elementary students requires more preparation because teachers cover more subjects, Ellsworth said she enjoys the variety and would find it more difficult to teach the same topic all day.
Getting students hooked continues to be a challenge, though.
"If one student says that's cool, you've got it," she said. "Other years, they don't care for it at all. Every year is different."
Technology has evolved to the point where computers, televisions and projectors are common in a classroom. But Ellsworth can remember using a mimeograph machine to make copies of materials. Showing a film strip in class was a big deal as televisions were a rarity.
Family demographics have also changed quite a bit.
"My first class in O'Neill, Nebraska, had 17 kids. One mother worked, 16 moms were at home and no one was divorced," she said.
Today, the majority of mothers are working and a stay-at-home mom is rare. As many as half the students in her class have divorced parents.
"I have a ton of teachers in my family," she said, listing parents, grandparents and cousins. "I just thought everyone taught."
After retirement, Ellsworth said she plans to volunteer, but she'd also like to visit her grandchildren and spending more time at the funeral home.
An open house will be held for Madison Elementary School retirees Ellsworth, Doug Sims, Jill Stearns and Principal Dan Walsh on Monday from 3:30-5:30 p.m. in the school library. Refreshments will be served.
©Madison Daily Leader 2013
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