Photo by Mike Alzamora/Arp ISD

For Arp Junior High reading instructional coach Tiffany Ellis, Arp, America is home.

She was raised in Arp, went to school in the district, and graduated from Arp High School in 1994.

And she came back.

She is now in her 21st year teaching at Arp Junior High School.

And she can now add a second teacher of the year plaque to her collection.

Since the 2019-20 school year was cut short due to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she did not get a chance to formally receive the honor that was bestowed upon her in May of 2020.

Until now.

Finally receiving her award as KTBB's Arp ISD Teacher of the Year for 2019-20, gave Ellis a an opportunity to reflect.

"It makes me feel like, honestly, that I shouldn't be the only one getting that plaque. I feel like everybody on this campus was teacher of the year, that year.  So it's even a bigger honor to have gotten it for that year, because it was a hard year for everyone," Ellis explained.

She adds that thankfully she was prepared for the challenges that rose from having to finish the school year online.

"I was just really happy that I was already using a lot of technology.  I was already proficient with Google classroom.  My students were already in Google classroom when we left.  And so we really didn't miss a beat when we didn't come back for spring break. All of my students already knew what to do. They were already in Google classroom. There was, everything was set up and all I had to do was push it out to them," she said.

However, Ellis describes the beginning of the following school year being more difficult with many students returning to the classroom, while some stayed home, choosing to do remote learning.

"I wasn't having to teach anything new. Luckily, the end of the year, wasn't terrible.  But when we started back, I was worried with the remote learning.  That was tough.  That was rough because it was new teaching," said Ellis.

At the time of the shut down in March of 2020, she taught eighth grade English and language arts, a subject she taught for two decades until this school year.

"But I miss my kids from that year.  Because I didn't get to get full closure with them.  It was one of my favorite groups of eighth graders that I've ever had and to not get to finish out the year with them was really hard.  For a lot of people, we miss that group of eighth graders," she exclaimed.

Over the years, Ellis has been able to see some of her former students return Arp ISD just like she did, and join her as an educator to their alma mater.

"Teaching with students that I taught has been a really, really neat I've. I've taught with several people that I actually taught when they were in eighth grade that have come back here to teach. And some of them have said, you know, that part of, one of the reasons they wanted to teach.  And that's why you get into teaching.  It's not for the paycheck.  What's rewarding to me is to see them be successful in no matter what they decide to do.  And when they decided to teach, that's even better.  It's the icing on top of the cake," Ellis explained.

"Arp, America is family.  And when they say all related people, I really am related to a lot of people here.  But even though I'm not really related to everyone, I feel like I am, because I feel like it's just one big family," said Ellis.

Her other teacher of the year award came in 2007-08.

Ellis had also been the Arp High School Twirling sponsor until this year when she handed the reins to her head twirler from a year ago Macy Maxwell.