Teacher in the Spotlight: Ms. Ely

By staff writer Waverley Achacoso

Nancy Ely is a seventh grade teacher at Bay Farm School. She is being recognized as Teacher in the Spotlight for introducing National History Day to Bay Farm middle school students this year.

Ms. Ely used to teach sixth grade at Wood Middle School. She says Wood is different from Bay Farm. At Wood, there are stand-alone classes and students rushing back and forth to get from class to class. Here at Bay Farm, there are two cores and only two teachers. The school is smaller, which is also an advantage. There are more field trips and fun activities, such as overnight trips to various places, and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).

Ms. Ely has worked at excavation sites. She took her sixth graders at Wood to some excavation sites, and would like to take her seventh graders to them as well. She is working with U.C. Berkeley staff to have her seventh graders go to Cal to talk with anthropologists, and she is also planning to find a place on campus where her seventh graders can dig for artifacts. She would love to take a week-long trip to Crow Canyon with her seventh graders so they can learn more about archaeology.

Ms. Ely used to be a county social worker, an art director, an archaeologist, and a computer programmer. She says that, out of all the jobs she worked, classroom teaching may be the hardest job of all. Being a classroom teacher combines many of the skills she used in her other jobs. But though it is hard, she has found being a classroom teacher rewarding.

In the process of making National History Day (NHD) happen at Bay Farm, the middle school teachers, including Ms. Ely, learned a lot this first year. They plan to do NHD again next year and will try to make next year’s competition even better. For example, they will provide better teaching material on writing, such as thesis statements. Also, they will work more with each group and individual working on a project. The middle school teachers say that this year’s topic — “Leadership and Legacy in History” — was difficult and expect next year’s theme to be easier to work with. Additionally, they plan to start the projects earlier, in September versus October. Ms. Ely will suggest that the students write essays to get their thoughts in order next year.

The middle school teachers also realized that sixth graders had the most difficult time period of all to research, with ancient times up to 500 AD, while seventh graders had a better time period with 500-1789 AD, and the eighth graders had the best time period of all with 1789-modern times.

Ms. Ely thinks this year’s NHD competition was a great success because students accomplished much throughout this project. Bay Farm was the only school in Alameda doing this project. We also had the most entries in the county. Some schools only entered two or three projects to the county competition, while Bay Farm entered 12.

Next, Bay Farm will hold its A Journey Through Time exhibition of NHD projects at the Main Branch of the Alameda Free Library with an Open House April 1, another of Ms. Ely’s accomplishments. Ms. Ely is a good addition to BFMS.