Interviewed by daughter Wanda Ellingson • Originally published in the Fall 2014 Inspire(d)
For Lorena Ellingson, teaching and service have been core principles in her life. Born the 12th of 13 children, she was the first to earn a high school and college degree. Lorena’s teaching career has spanned 43 years with 12 more years as a substitute teacher. Starting with teaching in a one-room schoolhouse where she met her husband, Tilman Ellingson, she then moved to town teaching special education followed by third grade. She has touched the lives and minds of thousands of students and their families and served her community in various capacities over the years.
What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Be honest and dependable.
Do your job the best you can.
How about the worst?
I don’t think I have ever been given any bad advice.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I have always wanted to be a teacher. I can remember (before I was 10 years old) that I wanted to be a teacher. I would play teacher with pretend students in one of our rooms in my mother’s home (Clara Barth).
What do/did you do?
I was a teacher for 43 years and then substitute taught for another 12 years. I started teaching when I was 18 and taught in many of the one room schoolhouses: Glenwood, Pleasant, and Springfield Townships. I then taught Special Education at Decorah High School and went on to teach third grade at John Cline School for 22 years.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you?
A Bible, paper/pen, paints – oh, and a friend!
Try to describe yourself in one sentence.
I am an organizer, and a sharing and caring person.
If you could eat anything every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Potatoes – as you can fix them in so many ways.
Name one thing you could not live without.
Multiple choice: tell us about… Your favorite memory.
My favorite memories are of all my travels with my family, which took me to Kino Bay, Mexico, the Phillipines, the Bahamas, Florida, and Norway!