All her life, Ellen Cowley ’87 knew she wanted to be a teacher of small children. Looking back at her 20 years of teaching first grade, she wouldn’t trade it for the world. The great memories of going to her students ball games, forming special relationships and having the best parent helpers are all things that let Cowley know that she was able to make her passion her work.
“I loved teaching first grade,” Cowley said. “We did so many fun things such as perform plays and have circuses. I made great friends and collaborations; my best memories are the students.”
With the focus of knowing exactly what she wanted to do early on, Cowley began her schooling at Harcum Junior College in Pennsylvania and received an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education. After receiving her degree, she got married and worked in a church preschool.
“I enjoyed being a stay-at-home mother and volunteering,” commented Cowley. “After our third daughter was born, I began to do more volunteer work in the school and also started substituting.”
She had gotten the itch.
After a few long-term sub positions and with the encouragement of her principal and fellow teachers, Cowley decided to finish her degree. She completed a few general classes at Lord Fairfax Community College, but finished her degree at Shenandoah.
“I look back on it and don’t know how I did it,” Cowley said. “I had a lot of help from my parents and husband so I was able to take classes and have three children at home. I truly enjoyed my classes and loved working with Karen Huff (professor of education). The education I received was empowering.”
After she completed her degree in December 1987, she had a job lined up. She was the first grade teacher at Bass Hoover Elementary School in Stephens City, Va. and remained at Bass Hoover for her entire 20 years of teaching.
“I made so many special relationships,” Cowley mentioned. “One of my students is now at Clemson and calls me every year on my birthday; another one used to bring me special cookies.”
While raising a family and completing a degree at the same time, Cowley did not have much time to enjoy the campus life at Shenandoah. She is very excited to have that time now and is thrilled to be a member of the Alumni Board of Directors.
“I feel my fond memories are just beginning,” commented Cowley. “The alumni team is such an engaging group to be involved with!”