Diamantina (Tina) Ellis was nominated by Jonathan Price, her former assistant principal.
Ms. Ellis fits the definition of a LifeChanger in more ways than one. She is not only a kindergarten teacher, but a mentor, an innovator, and a preacher as she helps her husband pastor their local church. Ms. Ellis teaches her students in both English and Spanish, and her job can be especially difficult. Many of her students come to her only speaking Spanish, and some of them have rarely been in the presence of anyone who speaks English. On a daily basis, she switches back and forth between the languages a countless number of times to help her children begin to master the difficult task of learning the English language and customs that will help them succeed in life.
Ms. Ellis uses her platform as a teacher to help her students form relationships with local law enforcement officers. She wants to make sure students and the police don't view each other as enemies.
"I witnessed Tina bringing in local police officers and state troopers to read stories to her students," said Price. "Many of her children, especially those in lower socio-economic areas, are being raised in environments where law enforcement officers are seen as the enemy, and as people who want to tear apart their families. Tina works hard to change that perception."
Ms. Ellis routinely invites officers into her classroom to read stories and participate in activities that will form a bond with the students. When students see a uniformed officer put on a silly hat and a pointy nose to act out a character in the book they are reading and they see him sitting with them on the floor of the classroom, the officer becomes something more. When the entire class participates in an activity to create a giant birthday card for the campus School Resource Officer, it helps the students understand he is more than a badge, that he is a person with a family and that he has a birthday just like them.
Each school year, these officers become a regular presence in Tina’s classroom, forming bonds with students that will hopefully carry forward from year to year and from the campus into their homes. Her work is helping more families feel comfortable with local law enforcement officers, cementing the understanding that they truly are here to protect and serve.