Leeanna Ellis

Leeanna Ellis

The 2019-20 school year has come to a close. I'm sure it's not how anyone envisioned it ending, with empty classrooms, students learning from home and parents stepping in as impromptu teachers.

No doubt the Class of 2020 is reflecting on what had become of their senior year. Prom, spring sports and graduation all cancelled or changed due to coronavirus.

During the last two months I've spent reporting on all these changes, I've also taken some time to reflect. I feel for those graduating seniors and can't imagine what it's been like for them.

It's been 20 years since I walked across that stage at Durant High School with the Class of 2000. But I still remember that day. What also stays with me are the teachers who inspired me along the way.

Yes, their senior year may have been cut short, but the coronavirus doesn't take away those memories that linger from kindergarten on. The experiences during elementary, junior high and high school can leave a lasting impression, provide inspiration and even give direction to their future plans.

While there were others who guided me later in life, my career as a newspaper editor — or specifically a writer — can be traced to one experience.

As a kindergartner, I was chosen to attend a writing workshop. The requirements included writing a short story, which I fondly recall was about a rabbit named Clarence. I wrote the story, complete with pictures, and it was stapled together with a cover to make a nice little book. Somewhere in my parents house, that book still exists.

After a daylong workshop, I returned to my kindergarten classroom just in time to be interviewed by a Wilton-Durant Advocate News reporter asking every student in the Class of 2000 what they wanted to be when they grew up. My answer was easy: a writer.

Until that point, I hadn't really thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up. But then, what 6-year-old has? However, the seed was planted.

Along the way, my career choice evolved from wanting to author books to becoming a journalist, but I never outgrew the notion that I would be a writer someday.

If I had not attended that workshop, who knows what career path I might have taken. I give credit for this choice to my kindergarten teacher Mrs. Trede, who must have seen some potential in me to consider choosing me for this special event.

Other teachers encouraged me throughout my high school years, whether it was Mrs. Ibeling, who taught me the basics for a good news or feature story as my journalism teacher; or Mr. Smith, who taught me to appreciate history, which I love to write about.

While the Class of 2020 looks toward the future and what career path they might take, I encourage them to look back, too. Think about all of the experiences they've had throughout their school years and those who have inspired them. Thank those teachers who have made a difference in their life.

Leeanna Ellis is the managing editor of the Washington County Pilot-Tribune and Enterprise and the Arlington Citizen. She can be reached at editor@enterprisepub.com or 402-426-2121.

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