Emily Ellis of Oxford Elementary School has been named Maine PE Teacher of the Year Supplied photo

OXFORD — Thanks in part to testimonials from appreciative students, Oxford Elementary School Phys Ed teacher Emily Ellis is Maine’s PE Teacher of the Year. Her honor was announced on Nov. 6.

Candidates for the award are nominated by administrators, colleagues and students. Ellis’ letter of nomination by students was written as a school assignment where kids were tasked with writing their endorsement as an opinion piece. Their praise was heartfelt and candid.

“You might think that Mrs Ellis is your typical K-6 Phys. Ed. teacher, but I’m going to tell you she is much more than that,” an excerpt of the students’ letter read. “She builds habits. For example, when we’re out of school for a holiday she tells us to make sure to get exercise and make healthy choices. Sometimes she makes a bingo board with healthy choices for us to do while we’re on break.

“During the pandemic, Mrs. Ellis had to work in different places like outside and our classrooms because our gym was the lunch room for social distance purposes. Sometimes she would be in our classrooms, and we would do physical activities around all the classroom furniture. When needed, Mrs. Ellis subs in the lunchroom, too. Mrs. Ellis also supports our teachers with 5-2-1-0 ideas for the classroom and volunteers to help with field days and other special events.”

Ellis said her secret to success is making Phys Ed fun.

“I tell my students, ‘sweat and smile,'” she shared. “And I never do the same thing twice. Some activities we’ll do just once a year. A favorite for the kids is scooter monopoly.”


In scooter monopoly, students are tasked with riding scooters around the perimeter of OES gym. Each time a student passes “go” they are awarded with laminated monopoly dollars that they can later cash in to do another physical activity of their choosing, like bowling, jumping rope or hula-hooping. Ellis said it’s a process that also teaches kids how to save their own money and introduces them to financial literacy.

Ellis spent three years picking up scooters as she could within budget constraints before she had enough to introduce the game to a whole class of students.

“Move and groove, sweat and smile,” is what Oxford Elementary School’s Maine PE Teacher of the Year Emily Ellis tells her students. Supplied photo

Another class the kids love is the annual “snowball tag” tournament, which is actually an indoor game using yarn pom-poms. The game includes barriers made of gym matts on end. The last person standing is the winner, but anyone who gets tagged out can get a second chance to get back in the game.

“Snowball tag is always held the day after the first big snowfall of the year,” she explained. “I never have any absences on snowball tag day.”

The OES students who wrote their letter of recommendation on behalf of Ellis included testimonials from other kids in the school, including some of the following:

A PreK student said, “She lets us get water if we’re sweaty.”


A first grader said, “After I got back from the doctor’s with my broken finger she let me walk with a buddy.”

A sixth grader said, “I love everything about Mrs. Ellis!”

Ellis has taught in Oxford Hills 24 years, at five of the region’s eight elementary schools. As students take her class they learn about muscle endurance and strength and the importance of cardiovascular exercise.

“When I started teaching we didn’t have the resources and the online help we have now,” she said. “It was, what you learned in college and what you came up with on your own. Now, online I see others showing (activities) I’ve done for years. The idea for scooter monopoly actually came from a colleague, who has since retired. So I can’t take credit for that.

“I tell my kids, keep movin’ and groovin’ and to keep up the sweat and the smiles. I don’t want them to do it in class but for a lifetime. I hope they use what they learn to make healthy and active choices throughout their life.”



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