Teacher Interview – Ellyn Lykins

Hey Everyone!  So it’s been almost two weeks since I last posted on here.  The reason for that is that we’re now in the middle of something known as testing season.  Theologically, I’m not sure what I believe about the concept of purgatory.  However, if there is such a place, then any teacher sent there will spend their time doing nothing but proctoring standardized tests until they have received penance for their sins…or until 85% of the class has tested at a proficient level. Either way, it can be as soul draining as it is time consuming.  However, in the midst of all that, Ellyn Lykins took the time to be the subject of the next teacher interview.  I found her responses to the questions to be thoughtful, heartfelt, and passionate.  I want to start by thanking her so much for spending her precious time doing this.  Enjoy this insight into an amazing and passionate teacher.

Erik – First of all, thanks so much for taking the time to do this.  I know that now we’re in the middle of testing season (an unfortunate reality for us these days) and you’re probably really busy but it means a lot.

Erik – Can you start by just giving a history of your teaching experience?  Like where you’ve worked and in what grades?

Ellyn – For one year after college, I worked for Americorps as a literacy program specialist and tutor in neighborhood centers on the East side of Cleveland. During that time, I worked with mostly elementary and middle school students. The next year, I worked as a high school English teacher in a private school serving 9th-12th grade students with Autism. Currently, I am teaching 7th-grade language arts for my fourth year at Visintainer Middle School in Brunswick. I’ve liked working with all age groups for different reasons, but 7th graders are especially awesome!

Erik – Do you have any plans for the rest of your career?  Do you plan to continue teaching or do you think you might want to go into admin at some point?

Ellyn – As of this year, I cannot see myself working in a setting that doesn’t involve being in the classroom and working directly with students. I have considered going back to get a license in administration, but I cannot honestly imagine being a principal. It seems really stressful, and I don’t think I’d sleep at night. Plus, I feel most fulfilled when I’m teaching; time is irrelevant when I’m in the middle of a good lesson.

Erik – What inspired you to be a teacher in the first place?  Is there any kind of a story there?

Ellyn – There is no “aha” moment for me. I can’t say that teaching was something I knew I was going to do growing up. Most of teenage years, I wanted to become a hairstylist. When I started at OU, I declared my major to be East Asian Studies. Sometime during my sophomore year, I decided to take a teaching course, then soon chose to teach English because it seemed like the best option. I’m not really sure why I chose to pursue teaching, but I do remember thinking many of my teachers growing up were the happiest adults. They were people I wanted to emulate.

Erik – Who were some of the teachers that really had an impact on your life when you were in school?  Why do you think they had that impact?

Ellyn – Elaine Taylor was my art teacher at Medina High School. I am friends with her on Facebook now, so she may see this! I always wanted to be in her classroom. Even if I had a study hall, I would find a way to spend it in her room working on my art projects. It was my happy place. She created an environment that was warm and comfortable; I felt like I could be myself. Likewise, Pat Werger, my art teacher from A.I. Root Middle School, was incredible. I remember thinking of her as my teacher but also thinking she was the coolest adult ever. She had so many interests that she shared with us, and she embraced everyone’s weirdness. I always wanted to be in her classroom, too. If I wasn’t a language arts teacher, I’d want to be an art teacher. I also remember my 7th-grade team of teachers at A.I. Root Middle School. The teachers were fun and energetic, but more importantly, they seemed to really like being at school everyday. It was my favorite year of school. Oddly enough, I am now a 7th-grade teacher, and I hope my students think that I like being at school!

Erik – What are some of your best memories as a teacher so far?  Are there any students you’ve had that stand out specifically?

Ellyn – I will never forget the students that I worked with at the school for Autism. That was my first year with my own classroom, and I only had 14 students, so I got to know them all very well. Many of the students had been removed from their home school districts. The school was– in a sense– a last resort for them. They needed supportive adults in their lives so badly, and I wanted to support them in every way I could. During my time at Visintainer Middle School, I have had so many experiences with students that I will cherish forever. Language arts is a special subject to teach because I get to talk about so many interesting aspects of life with students all the time. This year will be memorable to me; it is the first year I have really slowed down enough to enjoy the little moments with the kids. In previous years, I was working on (and stressing over) many new teacher requirements. Now I realize that I’m helping kids grow up which is an awesome privilege, and I have to treasure it!

Erik – We’re now about six weeks away from summer break.  Any big plans?

Ellyn – Usually over summer break, I take on extra jobs (tutoring, babysitting, etc). This is the first year I will not be doing that! I am very excited to be going on a trip to Norway with my husband, my brother, and sister-in-law at the beginning of June. I am also signed up to take tennis lessons! My goal is to master the art of relaxing more so than I have in the past. Last summer (and pretty much my whole life), I have constantly felt the need to be busy. To encourage myself to relax, I’m going to buy a hammock.

Erik – I’ve found a lot of times that teachers always have a lot of side projects going on like writing, art, music, crafting, being a teacher-author on teacherspayteachers.com, etc.  Do you have any of those?

Ellyn – At the moment, I don’t have any side projects going on other than trip planning. I would consider that a hobby. I have written and shared pieces of writing a few times in the past, and it is something that I’d like to keep doing. I’ve also done some freelance editing. Writing is definitely a passion for me. You also mentioned teacherspayteachers.com. I have thought about submitting curriculum materials to the website many times. I think this summer I may submit a few! Why not?