Mary Mac Elliott

Trinity Valley School

What she teaches: 5th grade ancient history. Has taught every grade from fourth through 12th, in English, humanities, and history

How long she’s taught: 38 years, 21 at Trinity Valley

Education: Bachelor of arts, history, and master of arts in teaching (history emphasis), TCU

Why she teaches: It is a supreme honor to be a part the lives of middle and high school students, to be trusted by them, and to help them see their potential. Seeing the light of understanding come on as students warm to the subject matter is exhilarating! I find the energy of middle and high school students to be stimulating and catching! I had wonderful experiences in school and hope to pass on the love of learning to my students. As one who loves history, I want my students to develop a passion for it, too. I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of finding the best way to help students master new material and to be involved in their own learning. I am able to bring my own life experiences into the classroom. The rapport that builds from being together five days a week is something I cherish. It’s, simply put, fun!

How she connects with students: I believe that students learn best when they feel valued, that they each matter. From day one, it is important for me to show them respect which in turn they will show me as well as their fellow classmates. They need to know that I can be trusted and that I will be fair. Laughter and fun are integral classroom components. Their involvement through questions and through sharing their own life experiences makes our time together priceless! Through class discussions, storytelling, role playing, simulations of actual historical events, games, projects, writing, research, etc., students become a part of their own learning. I have found that I need to stay flexible in my planning to accommodate ideas and needs they might have. What works with fifth graders might be different from what works with eighth graders, but the common denominators of student involvement, mutual respect, and flexibility are underlying aspects of teaching any grade level. When teaching history, I want students to begin to ‘think in history’ just like one might think in a foreign language. By that I mean that it is important for students to make connections between historical happenings and to understand that things in history don’t just happen, that there is always a cause that can be found in the past that has an impact on the present. Students are challenged to understand the why and how of history, not just the what, who, and when. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be a teacher!

Why she’s a Top Teacher: “She is an amazing ‘child-whisperer’ who magically reaches kids to learn to write and explore history.” – Parent, in nominating Elliott