VERDE VALLEY EDUCATOR OF THE WEEK: Ellen Dehnert
Fifth grade teacher, American Heritage Academy, Cottonwood
COTTONWOOD – After 12 years at Cottonwood’s American Heritage Academy campus and 16 as an educator, Ellen Dehnert is moving on.
Eric Evans, the school’s principal, says his fifth-grade teacher “will be sorely missed,” as she begins her Master’s program at Arizona State University in the fall to pursue her Speech Language Pathologist credentials.
While he worked with Dehnert, Evans saw that she is in the “upper echelon of any teacher I have ever seen or worked with.”
“Her attention to detail, her loving and compassionate classroom environment, and her ability to progress monitor and align her instruction to the state standards is of the highest quality,” Evans says.
Evans says that one of Dehnert’s “biggest gifts is her ability to teach her students respectful and courteous behaviors.”
“When walking into her classroom, students stop what they are doing, stand, and say ‘good morning (or afternoon) Mr. (or Ms.) so and so,’” Evans says.
Dehnert says that she knew she wanted to become an educator “when I saw the mothers at my church homeschooling their children.”
“I thought to myself that I wanted to be able to do that someday, so I declared an education major to prepare myself for the lofty task of educating my own future children,” she says. “But God had different plans for me. It is 20 years later, and I have never been married or had my own children. However, my career as an educator has brought me so much joy through so many different children over the years.”
What has Ellen Dehnert liked the most about teaching?
“The relationships that blossom between teacher and student,” she says. “I love the smiling child that runs to my car as I pull into the school parking lot in the morning, greeting me and asking if there is anything she can carry.
“I love the chats I have with students, who would rather hang out in my classroom with me than play outside before school begins,” Dehnert says. “I love the hugs from the girls and the fist bumps from the boys as they enter my classroom each morning. I love the high fives when a struggling student succeeds on a test or task.
“Or the exultant announcement when a child returns from the principal’s office, having just recited the two-page long Declaration of Independence and passed,” she says. “I love those relationships because they are sacred and special, and they are the key to educating any child.”
Dehnert says that she “love[s] discussion-based teaching, where I may give background information through spirited reenactment or role play, and then students respond with questions, additional information, or pose what-if scenarios.
Dehnert’s favorite subjects of discussion include American History (especially surrounding the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War), and classical literature (like The Island of the Blue Dolphins or Banner in the Sky).
Her favorite style of teaching includes letting the students teach each other through modeling and explanation
“Teaching has taught me countless lessons,” she says. “I have learned patience, as I discovered that teaching isn’t all teaching, but mothering, nursing, counseling, and coaching. “I have learned perseverance, as I first tried one approach and then another with a child struggling to understand. I have learned compassion, as I walked with children through some of their hardest and most heart-wrenching days. I have poured my heart and soul into a profession with so much reward. I have had the privilege to speak into the lives of a few students and the immeasurable joy of them speaking into mine.”
“I can’t get enough of children,” Dehnert says. “On the weekends, I tutor and do speech therapy with kids. I regularly babysit my pastor’s children, and I have taught children’s Sunday school for 20 years, since I was 17 years old. Being with children keeps me young and happy.”
DID YOU KNOW?
In 2017, Dehnert was recognized as a Staff Member-of-the-Year Nominee for Edkey, Inc. Schools, the parent company of American Heritage Academy. In 2009, she was Teacher-of-the-Year runner-up for the county’s Small School Districts.