• Bon Voyage, Miss Ellie: Teacher Retires After 50 Years at PPS

    Miss Ellie helps students hold a chick.

    The first things you notice when you walk into Ellie Jensen’s classroom at Boise-Eliot/Humboldt Elementary School are peace and warmth. Then you hear the laughter of children. Then you just might see two posters hanging on the walls that tell you a great deal about the kind of teacher she has been for the past 50 years. The posters simply say, “Leave a little sparkle wherever you go” and “Be a friend.”

    Jensen, known as “Miss Ellie” to the hundreds of students she has taught in her half a century as a Portland Public Schools educator, can’t help but light up a room. And she is a friend to all children. 

    “I love my job,” she said. “I come in everyday excited and ready to have fun. I’m basically a kid myself. I’ve never quite grown up. Maybe that’s one reason I’ve been able to do this so long. I’m like a six-year-old at heart.”

    A product of Portland Public Schools herself – she attended Peninsula and Roosevelt – Miss Ellie got her start at James Ball Elementary in 1972. She’d just graduated from PSU and describes her first job as a “blessing.” Eight years later, she transferred to what was then Eliot Elementary School. Years of moves and mergers followed – Eliot became Boise-Eliot which became Boise-Eliot/Humboldt – but change has never bothered Miss Ellie.

    “I just go with the flow,” she said. “There’s no reason to fight change. You can’t fight it really. It’s best to accept it and go with it.”

    And she has always focused more on making sure her students are happy and feel confident than on test scores and other strict measures of academic achievement.

    “You just have to get to know the kids and be real,” she said. “Kids and parents can spot a phony a mile away. I’m always real and honest with my students. Of course, it’s easy here. This is a very loving school. We have a wonderful principal and the teachers are amazing. Our parents trust us because they know we care and that we do a good job.”

    John Meskimen is one of Miss Ellie’s fellow kindergarten teachers. He said it’s pretty common to see parents of current students in Miss Ellie’s classroom, chatting with her about the time they had her as a teacher. 

    “Everyone knows and loves Miss Ellie,” he said. “She’s such an important part of our school and community.”

    But, like Miss Ellie says, you can’t fight change, and this year, at the age of 73, she is retiring to spend more with her three children and five grandchildren. She also hopes to travel and maybe do some volunteer work, too. 

    As much as she’s looking forward to having a little more time to herself, Miss Ellie said retiring is definitely bittersweet. 

    “I’m going to cry. I know it. I’ve already started getting weepy. I’m just lucky to have done what I’ve done all these years. Portland has been very good to me.”