English Teacher Elizabeth Willis attended the University of Illinois, where she began her undergraduate career by majoring in engineering, which she quickly realized was not the major for her.
In high school, one of Willis’s teachers mentioned to her that she would excel as an English teacher.
“I kind of blew him off because I was going to be an engineer and make a lot of money and make my parents proud,” said Willis.
However, in a moment of crisis, Willis realized that she had been in it to win it for all the wrong reasons.
She left University of Illinois and headed over to Illinois State University, where she found her love for education and English, just as her high school teacher had predicted.
“I thought, ‘Well, why not?’”, she said. “If somebody else thinks I can do it, at least it’s something that I like. I tried it, and I loved it.”
Willis currently teaches English 2, AP Language and Composition as well as the elective class called Science Fiction and Fantasy, but she has also taught mythology in the past.
“She really cares about what she’s teaching, and she really cares about the world, and she cares about her students, and she wants all of them to succeed, which is something I hope every teacher has, but Mrs. Willis is very strong in that aspect,” said Junior Ricky Rodriguez.
Willis said she is a firm believer in the idea that it is important to create bridges with students and build personal relationships with them first. Having a special bond with students helps her focus on the strengths and efforts of each student coming into the class.
As a result, she has stuck to her word and taken responsibility to truly connect with her students. She finds it interesting how the kids work in the classroom, and it is more helpful to her and the students to understand their best strengths and capabilities in order to essentially seek individual growth in her classes.
“When she’s teaching, she’s very passionate about literature and about teaching students, and so, she makes a personal connection with whatever we’re reading or writing but also with each individual student,” said Senior Julia Loverde.
For Willis, knowing what motivates people and looking at their interests outside of the four walls in the classroom makes the job easier for her.
“I want them to feel like it is okay to question why we do the things we do and then come to their own conclusions,” said Willis.
While some students might think Willis is deserving of teaching awards and plaques, she has not won any. Instead, she said her greatest reward is seeing students succeed in her classes.
“Then I’m proud,” said Willis. “I couldn’t be more proud when they can find success and when students graduate, and they go on, and they do awesome things.”
Being a teacher, volleyball coach, and mother of two, Willis finds trying to keep a good balance and excel in all three “jobs” a bit of a struggle.
However, Willis said she has a supportive husband and children who are understanding about her time during work.
“I love what I do for my job because I love my family, but you can’t put both first at the same time,” said Willis.
Family time, as she said, is very important to her on the weekends, and she values it like no other.
Despite the balancing struggle, for Willis, it is all worth it. Even on days where she feels she can’t find time to juggle family commitments and her job, Willis doesn’t regret one second of the work she has ahead of her.
“Every job, every career you choose will have its ups and downs,” she said. “For me, though, even on my worst days as a teacher, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”