MT. VERNON – Belle Rive native Tosha Ellis hopes her new job as a physical education teacher will allow her to become a role model for students.
Ellis, 23, was officially hired Wednesday as the new girls PE teacher and girls head basketball coach at Casey Middle School. The job, she said, is the fulfillment of a long-time goal.
“Before I even went to college, it was pretty much what I wanted to do,” Ellis said of being a gym teacher. “Just being able to reach out to the children and be someone they can look up to.”
The District 80 Board of Education Wednesday approved two new hires for Casey Middle School – Ellis and custodian Dan Odom.
Ellis replaces Kenny Detmer, who resigned to take a position at Salem High School.
Both Ellis and Odom will be welcome additions to the Casey staff, said Superintendent Mike Green.
“We're excited about adding Tosha and Dan to our staff,” Green said. “We think they're going to do a great job for the district.”
Ellis' new position at Casey is her first full-time teaching job. She was an aide for the Opdyke-Belle Rive School District for a very short time, but then left that position when the opportunity arose at Casey.
She attended Rend Lake College for two years, then went to Millikin University in Decatur for another two-and-a-half years, where she earned a bachelor's degree in physical education for kindergarten through 12th grade. She graduated from Millikin last December.
Since she grew up in Belle Rive, finding a job in Southern Illinois was ideal, Ellis said.
“I like my family and a bunch of my friends are around here (so) I wanted to come back here to teach,” Ellis said.
Ellis said she hopes to foster a positive attitude in her students, and inspire them to keep trying no matter how difficult the task.
“I would pretty much (tell them) to stay committed,” Ellis said. “Try your best and if you fall, get back up. I'm going to be there to assist them. … Keep trying and you'll succeed.”
Having a strong PE program is vitally important for students, Ellis said. When kids are physically healthy, their brains function at a higher level as well.
“It's going to help them with their schoolwork, too,” Ellis said of PE. “If they stay active, it helps them mentally and physically in the classroom.”
Ellis currently lives in Belle Rive. The first day of classes for District 80 schools is Sept. 3.