Ellie McDowell is trying to spread her love for writing one student at a time


Ellie McDowell

A photo of Ellie McDowell

Senior Ellie McDowell realized her dream job at one of the most unlikely times: one of her sophomore-year presentations.

Every year, English teacher Ken George instructs his Honors English 10 students to teach about an informative topic that they are passionate and knowledgeable about through a three to five-minute TED Talk presentation; it was in this long process of choosing a topic that Ellie realized what she wanted to do in life: teach.

“I wanted to be a teacher since I was really little,” Ellie said. “But then, when we were doing TED Talks sophomore year, I couldn’t come up with a TED Talk topic. I don’t remember how it came up, but Mr. George was talking to me about my topic, and finally, I was like, ‘I’ll do mine about how I want to be a teacher.’ He was like, ‘What?’ Then, I explained it, and I realized I really did want to be a teacher.”

Ever since Ellie was young, she had maintained somewhat of an idea of what she wanted to do in the future, but still, this idea remained a cloudy haze of uncertainty until her sophomore year. A newfound epiphany surrounding teaching cleared some of that haze; however, as that haze dissipated, a new set of questions came rolling in close behind.

With Ellie’s diverse array of interests, it made it all the more challenging to decide what subject would be the right fit for her to teach. Throughout her high school career, she had gone back and forth between various subjects, but her love for writing always seemed to prevail.

I like the voice it gives and the voice it will give students. I like that it’s kind of like a window into who someone really is.

— Ellie McDowell

“For a long time, it was between English and History,” Ellie said. “Then, when I started high school, I switched between English and Music. I was kind of set on music, and then, when it started coming time to apply [to colleges], I was like, ‘I don’t really know if I want to do music in college.’ So I ultimately switched to English because I love to read and I love to write and I like teaching people and helping people learn to write better.”

Reading and writing are an integral part of who Ellie is—she has a love for literature that she is constantly sharing with the world. And through teaching, she will be able to spread that love to those that will be in her classes.

Teaching will allow her to help students find their own voice in their writing—the voice that allows others to see a little bit deeper into who they are and what they’re feeling; that voice is why Ellie adores writing so much.

“I like the voice that it gives you [when you] write,” Ellie said. “I like that when someone writes and you read it, you can learn a lot more about them than if you just had a conversation because you tend to put a lot more emotion into your writing. I like the voice it gives and the voice it will give students. I like that it’s kind of like a window into who someone really is.”

Writing enables people to express themselves in ways that they may otherwise have not been able to—it is part of the reason that Ellie loves English so much, part of the reason she wants to teach it to others.

Even so, being given the ability to help students learn how to express themselves through their writing was not the only component that drew Ellie towards teaching others. Rather, it was that, on top of teaching, she can lend support and guidance to those who need it the most—just as her teachers have done for her.

“I think that teenagers are really impressionable,” Ellie said. “They’re at a point in their life where they [may] need the guidance, and they need adult figures who can help them through things that aren’t necessarily [their] parents because sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone else. I think that [teaching] high schoolers gives [the high schoolers] that space where they have someone that can support them that isn’t their parents.”

Teaching is a door to endless possibilities. Some moments of it shine brighter than others, but nothing can compare to knowing you’ve made a difference in someone else’s life.

“I like it when I’m teaching someone something and then they finally get it,” Ellie said. “You can see it click in their head, and then they smile and get really excited. It’s the knowing that I have played some part in them finally being able to understand it.”