Lyle teacher surprised by honor

Lyle Elementary School kindergarten teacher Linda Ellingson (sitting) admires the plaque she received Friday as the first Dallas Most Distinguished Educator. She was nominated by Dawn Rocak (left), whose daughter Rebekah (standing) was a student of Ellingson's last year. Superintendent Christy Perry (right) presented the award.

DALLAS - Linda Ellingson was finally brought to tears when her kindergarten class at Lyle Elementary School learned for the first time what a standing ovation was.

Ellingson on Friday became the first recipient of the Dallas Most Distinguished Educator Award.

"When someone does something really special or spectacular, adults like to do something called a standing ovation," Superintendent Christy Perry explained to the attentive 5-year-olds.

"I think Mrs. Ellington deserves one today, don't you? So why doesn't everyone stand up," Perry said.

The children complied, as did the dozen or more adults present for the ceremony.

When the children stood and began clapping for their teacher, Ellingson let the tears of pride go.

The new award was created by Dallas businessmen Mitch Ratzlaff of State Farm Insurance and Jeff Laeng of Avenue Mortgage in cooperation with the Dallas School Board. Other award partners include Roger Pope of Visual Media and the Itemizer-Observer.

The award is meant to highlight one outstanding teacher in the Dallas School District every month, culminating in a year-end overall winner.

Teachers can be nominated by anyone in the community and are selected by a committee comprised of district board members, staff and community leaders.

Ellingson has been teaching in the Dallas area for 16 years. She has spent time on the staffs at Bridgeport Charter School, Morrison Alternative School, Whitworth Elementary and currently Lyle Elementary, where she was surprised with the award on Friday during storytime with her kindergartners.

Ellingson was nominated by Lyle parent Dawn Rocak, whose daughter, Rebekah, 6, spent last year with Ellingson.

In her nomination letter, Rocak called Ellingson "gentle, nurturing and kind ... she treats every child in her classroom as if they were her own - with love, compassion and discipline."

To add to the surprise, Ellingson's grown children and close friends were present to see her accept the award, presented by Ratzlaff and Laeng.

Laeng's son, Connor, was in Ellingson's class two years ago and Laeng said Connor still talks about his kindergarten teacher.

According to Perry, the goal of the Dallas Most Distinguished Educator Award is to highlight those teachers who are working hard everyday to teach the district's children in creative and caring ways.

"This first award was so easy to give," Perry said. "As soon as I saw that Mrs. Ellingson had been nominated, I knew it had to be her. She is just so good."

Ellingson received a plaque and a gift certificate for a family dinner at Washington Street Bar and Grill.

Those interested in nominating a teacher for this award should contact the school district or a sponsoring business..

Ellingson welled up when she realized why so many people were wandering into her classroom that afternoon. At the end of the small ceremony she said she was honored and moved by the recognition.

"I think I speak for all teachers when I say we all just really love our kids and want to do our best for them," Ellingson said.

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