Sara Frazer Ellis founded The Ellis School back in 1916 to prepare young women to attend the best colleges available to women in the United States at the time. While the country, and Ellis, have certainly changed significantly since that time, our school’s commitment to providing an outstanding education for girls and young women remains at the core of our mission. I couldn’t be prouder of the ever-evolving, thoughtful way in which we live out that commitment at Ellis.
It begins, of course, with attracting and retaining exemplary teachers. We’ve been delighted to welcome 10 new teachers to Ellis this year—all with significant prior teaching experience, and five of whom chose to relocate to Pittsburgh because of their excitement about the opportunity to teach at Ellis. They are joining a dedicated faculty that includes some teachers who have been at Ellis for more than 20 years, providing a wonderful balance of seasoned mentors and fresh perspectives. All our teachers have access to numerous professional development opportunities—some done in community as a whole faculty and others designed by individual teachers to meet their specific areas of focus and growth. All teachers also participate in our teacher evaluation and professional growth process, which includes annual goal setting, reflections, and observations.
Our curriculum is kin to a healthy living organism, with a steady core but ever evolving. One key to that evolution is our curricular review process, which asks each department to do a self-study every seven years to take a fresh look at the scope and sequence of courses taught and the pedagogical approaches used within those courses. This process began in 2019 with our English Department, which made some exciting updates to courses and course materials as a result. Computer Science just completed their review, and our Math Department is in the midst of their self-study.
I am particularly proud of the ways in which our curriculum provides the following for all our students:
Focused work in a broad range of core disciplines that allow all our students to develop their knowledge and skills around critical reading, written and oral expression, problem solving, scientific inquiry and experimentation, historical analysis, world language and global perspective, effective use of technology, computer science, engineering and design thinking, visual and performing arts, athletics, health and wellness, and cultural competency.
Development of strong skills as a student, including organization, time management, and meta cognition (i.e. how they learn best).
Opportunities to dive more deeply into areas of particular interest.
Significant research projects (both group and individual), many of which are interdisciplinary and involve real-world problems and community partnerships.
I stroll throughout our campus most days just to see and hear what our teachers and students are doing and discussing. The level of intellectual curiosity and joy is palpable, whether it be third graders digging for items as part of their study of archeology, Middle School scientists growing milkweed bugs, or seniors discussing an Ibsen play and comparing the societal norms it presents to those of today. Excitement about learning is in the air at Ellis!