Brianne Kelly, Middle School Physical Education Teacher

They say you have to see it to be it, and that’s exactly what Brianne Kelly, new Middle School Physical Education Teacher, is doing for Ellis girls. A former Division I athlete, Ms. Kelly is modeling to her students how teamwork and perseverance can take you places both on the court and off. Prior to Ellis, Ms. Kelly spent six years overseas playing professional basketball in Germany, Slovakia, and Italy. She was also a four-year letter winner on Penn State’s women’s basketball team and earned Big Ten Conference honors each year of her collegiate career. Now in her first year of teaching, Ms. Kelly is sharing the lessons she’s learned about being active, committed, and determined through sports with Ellis girls.
Years at Ellis:1
Title:Middle School Physical Education Teacher
B.S. Human Development and Family Studies, Penn State University
How do your experiences playing basketball in college and professionally influence your teaching style?
Those experiences definitely play a big role in how I approach teaching. Like Ellis girls, I was once a young girl with dreams and aspirations, too. For me, I knew at a young age that I loved basketball. I was lucky enough to have a gym teacher in Middle School who helped develop that passion in me. I hope I can do the same thing here—help Ellis girls reach for their dreams and set big goals by sharing my experiences with them. I want to show them just how much you can learn about life from being active and being on a team. Athletics are in my blood, so teaching P.E. feels like second nature to me.

How do you think sports and physical activity empower girls and set them up for success?
I recently heard a statistic that 90% of female CEOs played sports in high school and 55% of them played sports in college. Athletics sets girls and young women up for success—it teaches them teamwork, leadership skills, collaboration, resilience, time management. All of these skills can be applied not just in gym class or on a sports team, but in the classroom, in college, and in their future careers.  

How do you believe the all-girls environment benefits your students?
The all-girls environment is a game-changer for girls. It’s an even playing field that gives them the opportunity to grow and learn outside of their comfort zone. Here, they have the opportunity to try new things and see what they’re good at—and also fail at things, try again, and get better at them. There’s no one judging them, no one stronger, no one better. I’ve noticed that Ellis girls are all similar in the way that they seem unafraid to take risks. 

What is most important to you that girls learn at Ellis? What kind of qualities do you hope to instill in them during the Middle School years?
I want them to learn to be self-motivated and self-disciplined, to know the importance of hard work and determination. I hope to instill in them a sense that they can take on any challenge that comes their way. You can play football one day and choreograph a dance routine the next, just be willing to get out there and try something new. Not every activity or sport will be for every girl, but I want my students to use their time with me to figure out what they like and don’t like. P.E. class is an opportunity for them to be active and have fun. 

What is something that you are excited about in your P.E. classes this year?
Of course, I’m most excited about the basketball unit, but surprisingly, I’m also really looking forward to the dance unit. I hear them talk about the dance unit almost every day and some are already in the beginning stages of creating their own routine. Their excitement and energy have made me excited for it. I’m looking forward to seeing their creative side. 

If you had to describe Ellis to someone who didn’t know anything about the School, what would you say? 
As soon as I came to campus, I could feel the sense of community here. Everyone looks out for one another and cares about one another, whether it’s faculty to staff, faculty to faculty, students to students, or teachers to students. Everyone here is trying to make an impact on our students' lives in the best possible way. I knew when I first came for my interview, it was something I wanted to be a part of. Ellis is a place where girls are able to excel in so many different avenues. These girls are fearless. They’ll get up and speak in front of anyone. They’ll try a new sport or do a funny lip sync dance. They are pushed here in ways that are really great for them. 

What does leadership mean to you?
You have to not only know how to be a leader, but how to serve and be a follower. Because if you haven’t been in that position before, you can’t relate to your team and lead them. Leadership means being motivated, self-disciplined, and having empathy. You have to be able to relate to people, whether they’re on your team, in your class, or your partner on a group project. Leaders build respect, relationships, and trust. 

If you could interview anyone living or dead, who would it be and why?
Serena Williams. She’s dominated her sport for so many years and done it with such humility and grace. She’s an incredible role model for girls and women across the world. She continues to go after it, she never quits. She’s superhuman. 

What is the last book you read?
Chase the Lion: If Your Dream Doesn't Scare You, It's Too Small by Mark Batterson. One of my mentors who I worked with at Pitt suggested it to me and it’s all about how you have to set your goals high so you’re constantly chasing after them. 

How would you describe Ellis girls?
Energetic, full of life, fearless. 

How would you describe yourself in three words?
Compassionate. Loyal. Driven.