Serving the community since 1922

Principal Ellis switches to Teresa Burke

After a long career as an educator, Palm Avenue Middle School Principal Dr. Zachary Ellis will move on to serve Teresa Burke Elementary School as its new principal.

Dr. Ellis began his career in education 19 years ago, first as a teacher at various schools and then as a principal.

He left education for a period of time because of the severe budget crisis in 2011-12, when thousands of educators were laid off.

After that, he entered the private workforce, which he said allowed him to financially support his family in a way he would not have been able to in education.

But after a severe illness, he began to reflect on what was important to him – goals and life lessons he wanted to teach his children. "Pursue what you are passionate about," he reflected. "Don't allow money to drive the focus of your life."

Then, he ran into an old college friend, Stephanie Pollard, the principal at Palm Avenue.

"She began to profess more things over me that were inspirational for the feelings I had felt working in the private sector. She said, 'You have a gift for need to come back... ... education needs you.'

"Those quick little conversations forever impact people; at least they did me. She was not the only one I had run into during that time, but much of what she said stuck with me."

In 2017, he re-embarked on his path as an educator at Palm Avenue as a fifth-grade teacher.

"It was like I was home. My administration was so incredibly supportive; the teachers rallied around me. The parents were so friendly and welcoming. And the students, well, let's just say, they were what I needed."

That summer, he became the summer school principal at John L. Prueitt Elementary School. He later became the assistant principal at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

"Again, I was the new guy to the campus. Teachers, staff and students all had to get to know me. Danny Arellano (principal) and Patrick Acosta (co-vice principal) were like a second family to me. I learned so much from both of them."

He said that Arellano is an amazing example of a servant leader and that he was so blessed to have had the chance to work for him.

"I became so closely connected with everybody there that it was difficult when I would end up transitioning back to Palm Avenue the following year in 2019 to assist in opening its doors as a new middle school for the Wasco community."

"Because of the growth of the Wasco community, an additional middle school was needed."

In 2019, Palm Avenue was converted from an elementary school to a middle school, and an additional elementary school was built (James A. Forrest).

He served as assistant principal at Palm Avenue and later joined as principal.

"For the last year and a half, the principal role at Palm Avenue has been my dream job. I got to continue working for a team I absolutely love."

"The staff, the students, the parent community of Palm Avenue has been so loving and supportive."

This fall, he will transition to work for another staff at Teresa Burke as principal.

The current principal is taking on a position at the district office, and Dr. Ellis was asked by his bosses to move.

"They felt that I had certain characteristics that would serve the students, staff, and community of Teresa Burke well."

He added, "I have heard nothing but amazing things. And so, I will take those learned experiences to the next chapter of my life."

He said he will forever miss and cherish the experiences that have brought him to where he is today.

"But I will look forward to helping my next team, to serve them with passion, so that they feel supported, praised and uplifted."

Dr. Ellis said he pursued a career in education because he wanted to impact and influence our society.

"To make our communities better. To create an impact that could be felt for generations."

He has an extensive background that has prepared him for public service.

"I have a BA from CSU, Chico, teaching credentials, a master's in education administration and a doctoral degree in higher education and administration."

Dr. Ellis is passionate about empowering youth.

"As educators, we get to see our students every single day. If we're good, we get to learn and know about each of our students, not only their names but also their needs," she said. "We get the opportunity to provide consistently positive undertones that can help positively influence students' overall impression and esteem."

He enjoyed his time as the principal of Palm Avenue, and will miss the students there..

"There isn't enough paper to describe the joy I have experienced at Palm Avenue. It has grown me as an educator and a human in many capacities. It will forever be home,'

For his future goals, he said, "To be present and to be mindful of the position of educator. I only hope that God will continue to use me as a vehicle to reach out and positively influence the community of Wasco, in whatever capacity that may be."


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