Ellie McGinnis

“My time as a WFS student built a foundation of curiosity, empathy, and determination that I will always carry with me, but the most important lesson I learned as a WFS student comes from the George Fox quote in the front entrance of school: ‘Let your life speak.’
At so many personal and professional crossroads in my life, I’ve come back to that quote for guidance. Because of my time at WFS, I’ve been able to choose a path that reflects my values, do work that represents what I believe in, and find so much happiness in helping others find their own voice…

To the Class of 2022, Don’t be afraid to take a different path, even if you don’t know where it will lead. WFS graduates don’t just know how to study for a test; they know how to learn, and that is a skill that can take you anywhere. I never taught special education before I started my current job. I also didn’t speak any Vietnamese before I moved to Vietnam, and I had never really hiked before I trekked to Everest Base Camp. Trust that you have the skills to learn what you need to know, because taking those risks and veering off the path I thought I needed to take brought me so many opportunities, and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.”
Ellie McGinnis ’14 graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2019 where she double-majored in Psychology and Political Science and minored in Public Health. Before she transferred to University of Colorado, Ellie contributed to twelve published reports as a research assistant for the United Way ALICE project, led by Dr. Stephanie Hoopes ‘82. A recipient of the East Asian Studies Scholarship, Ellie spent two years in Vietnam while pursuing her undergraduate degree at Boulder. During her time overseas, she studied Vietnamese, conducted economic development research in rural villages, and worked as a Translation and Fundraising Assistant for the Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam. As a Translation and Fundraising Assistant, Ellie taught at Sapa O’Chau and worked with local government officials to develop an English language curriculum in rural Ha Giang Province.

It was there, working with the small, community organized nonprofit Sapa O’Chau, where she got her first taste of the teaching profession. In this small mountain village, Ellie was conducting a research study on economic development among ethnic minority communities and began teaching English to a group of 26 students between the ages of 15 and 27. After finishing her research, Ellie stayed in Vietnam, traveling to many remote, rural villages where she learned Vietnamese and worked for different nonprofit organizations and local schools as a translator, teacher, advisor, and curriculum developer.

Ellie, who earned her M.Ed. in Special Education from National University, has spent the past two years as a Teach for America corps member in the Bay Area. Currently, she is a 3rd Grade Special Education teacher in an inclusion classroom at Los Arboles Elementary. The best part of her day? “Watching my students make themselves proud. It is so exciting helping a student who barely knows the alphabet learn to read, and when that lightbulb goes off for them, when they look around and can read the words on signs or can write a letter to a friend, I feel like I helped them open a huge, heavy door to a world of new things to explore.”

As for where she continues to draw inspiration from? “Being in a classroom with dedicated, inspiring teachers for ten years at Wilmington Friends School was the best possible training I could have had when I started teaching. I can’t even count the times that I’ve modeled a lesson plan on my memories of Mrs. Scott’s 3-4 vertical class or Ms. Bulk’s French class. When I’m worried about my students, I think about the times my teachers supported me- whether it was the perfectly hopeful quote Ms. Kenney wrote on my paper in 11th grade or a book recommendation from Annie Monari or a pep talk from Coach Paul or a new idea to explore from Mr. Ergueta. So many teachers modeled how to be a supportive, passionate educator.”

We’re so proud of you, Ellie!

WFS Alumni Spotlights