Turning dreams into reality

MINOT, N.D. – Heather Ell turned the dream of becoming a teacher into a reality.

“I have always had a passion for teaching and learning,” said Ell. “Growing up, I always wanted to become a teacher, so much so that I made my sister and brother play school with me. I would be the teacher and they would be the students. We would meet at the picnic table in the backyard every Saturday morning after we finished our chores. I drug the chalkboard out along with a wagon full of ‘school stuff’ that I had gathered from my teachers and hauled home to use to teach my siblings.”

Those early schoolhouse sessions were nearly as detailed as her current teaching schedule.

“We had lunch count, show and tell, math, reading, and science. We even had music — on my wonder woman record player. I taught my siblings to play my recorder,” she said. “I know this would have made my elementary music teachers proud. Little did I know at that time, I would one day fulfill my own dreams of actually having the opportunity to become an elementary school teacher.”

While she was fulfilling her dream of becoming a teacher, Ell turned to Minot State because of its flexible schedules, affordability, location, and low teacher/student ratio.

“Being an older than average student when I decided to go back to school, I appreciated the opportunity to meet with professors when I needed advice or extra help in a content area,” she said. “I was not a number; I was a student with a name. Most faculty whose classes I took, knew me by name. I don’t think you get those same experiences in a very large university setting. To this day, many former professors still know me by name and still make me feel connected to the university.”

Throughout her time at MSU, Ell states that she received real-world experience and knowledge from the professors and classes that she took.

“Minot State helped prepare me for my career by giving me opportunities to learn from seasoned educators who have been in the elementary classroom and understand the life of a teacher,” said Ell. “They never painted a picture of rainbows and butterflies — they truly helped me see that in order to be an outstanding educator, you have to be willing to put in the work. They instilled in me the value of great educators and how I can be one of them.

“Attending MSU also prepared me by providing practicum and student teaching opportunities in both rural and urban school settings. I especially enjoyed the opportunities to provide preschool on campus and the various hands-on clinical experiences on and off of campus. Finally, MSU helped prepare me to be a collaborative and innovative educator in the elementary classroom. I attribute my success to the influence of great educators from MSU and beyond and the many lifelong friendships and professional relationships I have formed over the years while attending MSU.”

After graduating in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education, a Kindergarten Endorsement, and Reading Credential from Minot State University, Ell spent some time working as a first and second grade teacher before becoming a K-5 math interventionist at Minot Public Schools. She enjoys working with elementary level students because they love school and their teacher, and their curious minds crave attention from their teachers and classmates.

“I believe I have the very best job in the world! I understand and appreciate that relationships are essential in education, both the teacher-student-family relationship and relationships with colleagues and the greater community,” she said. “I am thankful for the many relationships I have built over the years. It is these relationships that make me better — as an educator and human. Another thing I enjoy about being a teacher is watching children read a book for the first time and get so excited when math begins to make sense to them. I enjoy the hugs and smiles children bring each and every day, especially on the days when I might feel stressed or a bit down. They brighten my day and teach me so much. They have no idea the impact they have had on me. The joy teaching brings me is the best feeling and it is these little people that keep me loving my career choice!”

Because of her dedication to her job as a teacher and to her community, Heather won the 2020 Minot Education Association's Teacher of the Year Award. She also won the 2021 Ward County Teacher of the Year and was recently named a finalist for the 2022 North Dakota Teacher of the Year.

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 11/18/21   

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