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Ellie Winder – Granite School District

Ellie Winder is not your typical educator teaching in a classroom environment. Ellie is the Safety and Mobility Specialist for post high school Special Needs Students in the Granite School District GIFTS Program. She classroom is out in the community with students—teaching them how to travel independently using the Utah Transit System. The ultimate goal is to prepare students to transition from school to adult roles. Students are provided vocational training so they can find paid employment and have the mobility skills to get to their jobs and access the community. After all, what good is it to have a job if you can’t get there?

Ellie teaches outside in the cold and snow of winter and in the hot sweltering heat of summer. She has logged more miles on UTA than she can even believe teaching over 650 students with more than 1,600 individual bus routes from their homes, their school campus, and their community based job sites. She often repeats the same bus route over and over to make sure the student is comfortable and confident enough to do it on their own. She frequently starts her bus riding day before the sun even comes up. And she does all this with a smile on her face.

Ellie is personally invested in the safety of each student often shadowing them without their knowledge to ensure they have thoroughly understood their route, proper street crossing, as well as safety practices for riding busses and Trax. She creatively teaches stranger danger and other social skills students will need as they become part of adult society. The students respect Ellie for her insistence that they obey safety rules, they trust her to help them be mobile and independent in the community, and they love her for her personal care for each of them and their well being. Students are so proud when they can initiate a bus trip on their own; figuring out their own route from skills Ellie has taught them. Ellie is successful in her role teaching Safety and Mobility. She touches student’s lives in ways a conventional teacher doesn’t, but she teaches life lessons that make a tremendous difference in her students lives. Ellie Winder a unique and wonderful teacher filling a very unique teaching position.

–Charlotte Bezzant