If you were to guess which of our district’s 27 principals is a motorcycle enthusiast who has traversed the country on the back of a Harley-Davidson, Frederickson Elementary’s Ellen Eddy probably wouldn’t be your first choice.
As a matter of fact she probably wouldn’t make the top 20, but Ellen Eddy is full of surprises.
Eddy comes from a family of teachers and is without question one of the most experienced educators in our district. She began as a substitute teacher during a bleak period in Bethel history after the district adopted a year-round school schedule in the mid 1970s.
Her first permanent job was at Elk Plain, where she spent nine years teaching fifth and sixth grade. She later moved on to Graham Elementary, where she taught for four more years before taking her first principalship at Rocky Ridge Elementary.
After 15 years of leading Rocky Ridge, in 2009 she moved to the brand new Frederickson Elementary to become the school’s first principal. She’s been there ever since, and even after all these years she’s still passionate about what she does.
“It’s a calling,” Eddy said. “It’s not a job, really. It’s something you are, not something you do. You look for strengths in people. You encourage them to take on a task they love because it’s their strength, and then they have joy in doing it.”
Eddy comes from a long line of educators. Both her grandmothers were teachers. Eddy’s father was a pastor and her mother was a first grade teacher, and the family moved around a lot for her dad’s work. They lived in Toppenish, Auburn, Tacoma, and Wenatchee, and in their spare time the whole family helped out at her grandparents’ pea and dairy farm in Skagit County.
It was a fun, carefree childhood spent riding bikes with her sister and playing the piano.
Eddy always enjoyed helping her mom in her classroom, which led her to consider a career in teaching music. In high school, she began to teach flute lessons at Ted Brown Music, in Tacoma. She followed her musical dreams to Pacific Lutheran University, where she studied music theory and sang in the Choir of the West.
Though she loves music, she decided to get her teaching degree in elementary education, which turned out to be a decision that completely shaped her professional and personal life.
She taught students during the day and began teaching adults professional development classes in the evenings. While she loved her years as a classroom teacher, Eddy found a deeper calling to become a principal. It rounded out her passion for people — working with children and adults. In her teaching days, Eddy could take satisfaction from her students improving in math or science, and now as a principal she takes similar pleasure in working with a whole school of students, as well as her staff and students’ parents, to help students be successful in the classroom. She sees the job as the best of both worlds.
“It’s really inspiring to see children light up because they have learned something new. It is equally inspiring to celebrate with teachers when they see how they’re making a difference,” she said. “That’s what gets me excited, because others’ success is also my success.”
When she’s not at school, Eddy loves to spend time with family. She and her husband have two sons and a granddaughter. Her extended family also lives in the area. She has some typical hobbies, like knitting (see photo), and some hobbies that might surprise parents at her school.
Eddy and her husband have been avid motorcyclists, and they love nothing more than hitting the open road on their Harley-Davidson. One summer they put 5,000 miles on the bike, driving to South Dakota to see the Badlands and Mount Rushmore and back home through Colorado and Yellowstone.
“Motorcyclists understand why dogs put their head out the window of the car,” Eddy said. “Just that air, being outside. The stress just flies away.”
Despite working in education for 40 years, Eddy says she still can’t wait to get back to school at the end of the summer. The relationships with people make all the difference.
“It’s interesting,” she said. “We always have new kids and new adults — new parents, new staff — it’s never the same or boring. Ever!”