Ready To Be or Not To Be…An English Teacher


Lucy Martinez

“I am clearly an extrovert. I am wild in the classroom,” said English teacher Krista Ellis. “Being a teacher feeds that part of my personality.”

Lucy Martinez, Staff Writer

Creeping into the classroom was the afternoon sun highlighting the homework assignments listed in green dry erase marker on the whiteboard. Had things gone differently, Krista Ellis, an English teacher with eighteen years of experience may have followed in the footsteps of the brilliant veterinarian she’d once shadowed and had had a practice at a local animal hospital.

Ellis never regretted her decision, disappointing as it may have been for her parents. She was too busy in the warm embrace of literature which she says was intimately inspired by her father who was a passionate reader.

Where does your passion for literature stem from?

In high school it was not my favorite subject, Math was my favorite. In college something shifted, I had professors that selected really awesome texts. Hearing the professors talk about literature in a different way, the details they would notice–it’s fascinating. I realized English and Math aren’t so wildly different. You can respond to both analytically and that’s the part I like: the dissecting, the hunting, making connections. Yes, I can appreciate the beautiful prose, but I love discovering those patterns. Teaching English, look at all these cool things that you can see. Look what that’s showing us. Look what it’s doing.

Do you have an ultimate goal or aspiration within your career? 

I like being with the students, otherwise what’s the point? I like to be in the trenches. To me that is what a teacher is, it’s an insane amount of work. It can be incredibly stressful, but it is so rewarding. I had a colleague once who described it as being a rockstar. If you’re putting on a show and the crowd is lackluster and not into it, it’s got to be pretty painful to be up there playing your music and no one is cheering. But those good lessons, it’s like being on a stage and people are yelling and screaming, and the energy is tangible. That, to me, is always the goal. 

How did the pandemic make you question your abilities as a teacher, if at all? 

That analogy I used about being a rockstar, you tend to have a few of those lessons throughout the year, but I felt almost every day during the pandemic, “There’s another one that went down in flames.” You couldn’t do anything to stop it. One of the things you have to do as a teacher is be able to read the room and make adjustments. If you’re feeling that the temperature of the class is dropping, there’s a lack of interest, kids are fatigued, okay–get them up on their feet. You have to be able to make those quick adjustments so that you can keep the learning going. Online didn’t allow for that.

Part of my teaching philosophy is, what’s the point if you don’t have a relationship with your students? If you make people feel seen, show them that you respect them, but also that you have clear boundaries and expectations–I think students want to know it’s not going to be an easy A. If you can set all of that up, it’s worth it because that’s going to help the learning happen. Having to be real and human. 

Do you find purpose in your teaching? 

Purpose? For sure. To a fault. I very much define myself and identify myself by and as a teacher, within my work. I have always been a bit of a workaholic.When I started teaching I poured myself into this job. I easily worked sixteen hour days, I probably still do. It is so much of the fabric of who I am at this point. To teach well you have to put in the time not only to plan the lessons, to grade. I don’t know how to grade without putting feedback all over the paper. I absolutely find purpose in teaching, it is what drives me, what gets me excited, it keeps my mind fresh. I feel I am doing a great service to the world because I am teaching kids. I am helping to hopefully better society in the future.