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Nancy Ely

About Me

I have come to teaching in a roundabout way; this is only my seventeenth year of teaching in the K12 setting.  I feel fortunate that my numerous life experiences have equipped me to handle the most interesting, complex, and demanding job of all:  classroom teaching.

My education has included a B.A. in Classics from Pomona College and graduate degrees in Classical Archaeology, UC Berkeley.  I lived in Italy for a time, to research the ancient Etruscan culture.  It was after my return from Italy that I taught Conversational Italian to adults – my first teaching stint.  Later I went back to graduate school and earned graduate degrees in Museum Studies as well as Exhibition Design.  I also hold a degree in Computer Programming.  I love to learn and find most subjects extremely interesting!  I am a GATE-certified instructor, and I am one of the few people in the state to hold a credential in Latin language instruction.

During my early life, I was a county social worker in Oakland and in Contra Costa County, where I learned to interface with diverse groups of people and their numerous needs.    I have worked in several Bay Area museums, and designed an interdisciplinary and multi-graded approach to museum education for the Oakland Museum.  I was also the Art Director for an annual community event, Festival at the Lake, in Oakland; my duties included designing and coordinating community art programs, which would then be presented at the festival.  Grant writing to pay for these programs was also part of my job.  Having discovered that there were no art programs available at that time in the Oakland Public Schools, I designed and got funding for a year-long art program, taught by local professional artists, in ten different Oakland schools.  It was at that time that I became interested in classroom teaching.  Oh yes, I also worked as a computer programmer for a short time, until I realized that I needed to interface with people, rather than machines.

As a teacher, I have enjoyed participation in a number of professional associations, including:

  • Fellow, IISME (Industry Initiatives for Science and Math Education), a nonprofit collaborative of San Francisco Bay Area corporations, universities, and local educators working to improve mathematics and science education.  I worked for a summer at National Semiconductor in Santa Clara.          
  • Fellow, UC Berkeley History-Social Science Project, multiple institutes
  • Member, CUE (Computer Using Educators)
  • Master Teacher, Project Archaeology, Montana State University
  • Fellow, National Endowment for the Humanities (summer 2012) at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, Cortez, CO (near Mesa Verde), where I studied the Unity and Diversity among the Pueblo groups in the southwest
  • GATE-certified teacher and member, California Association for the Gifted (CAG) and attendee at conferences
  • Teacher-participant in Purdue University's Department of Engineering's EPICS program at West Lafayette, Indiana, and also summer EPICS training in Santa Clara
  • Presenter at the national conference of the Society for American Archaeology and I have been asked to present again (for my work in public school collaborations with universites) at next year's conference in San Francisco

So, all of these experiences, in addition to raising four children, have prepared me for my current role at Wood Middle School.  Some of the activities that I have led:

  •  The Big Dig, an annual event involving the entire 6th grade class, including EL students and the handicapped.  I have written the curriculum and provided it to all involved teachers.  This year all 6th graders participated, including the EL classes and Special Ed.  An important and valuable feature of this program is my collaboration with graduate archaeology students from my old alma mater, UC Berkeley.   Graduate students visit Wood classrooms three times:  a pre-dig visit, to explain excavation equipment and methods, as well as share personal “dig” stories and information about careers in archaeology.  Grad students are also on site during the dig, to help with that process.  And finally, graduate students visit the classrooms again, post dig, to help students with observations and inferences about what they’ve “discovered.” Several years ago, WMS partnered with UC Berkeley to do a real dig on the site that was to become the new Wood garden.  Wood Middle School is UC Berkeley Department of Anthropology’s chief outreach effort in the community, and we have toured the graduate anthro labs as well as the campus on field trips.  I have also piloted archaeology curriculum with my classes for Project Archaeology.
  • I was responsible for bringing SLWRP to AUSD and I am a charter member of SLWRP at Wood Middle School.  For the past several years, SLWRP has collaborated with the Wood Museum to promote the use of reused or reusable materials in the making of the student "artifacts" for the museum.  This year, the museum showcased a "Trashion Fashion" show at its opening reception.
  • The Wood Museum is an annual event where all Wood history classes are invited to create and exhibit cultural artifacts about a culture they have studied during the school year.  This year the museum celebrated its 13th year of exhibitions!  More than 300 student models (along with their scholarly research) are exhibited in a museum setting.  (The museum was the very first exhibit at the new Alameda Free Library and has continued to be invited back annually.)  I design and install the exhibit and coordinate all the planning, including PR, signage, and the Opening Reception for the artists.  I also coordinate an outreach effort to Wood’s feeder elementary schools, to go on a field trip to the exhibit.
  • I collaborated with Wilma Chan's office to finally make the Wood History Garden (for which I have campaigned for five years) to reality.  The community workday occurred on October 19, 2013, and the garden/archaeology site was built, using my landscape design. 
  • Teen Techs, an afterschool coomputer-oriented tutoring program which I conceived and founded with a Wood parent, Liza Morse, began in January 2013.  Teen Techs meets two times a week with two different groups of students, who attend regularly and must maintain an AUSD-accepted gpa (approximately 50 students are served).  Some of the projects which Teen Techs has developed and presented are:  computer refurbishing and repair; "nerd jewelry" making, using the leftover parts from old computers (and taught by a local jewelry artist/gallery owner); comic strip production, with a theme of anti-bullying (in conjunction with Wood's counseling department); video production, with a theme of ancient history; robotics, using LEGO EV3 technology (in collaboration with ASTI robotics team students); and MinecraftEdu.
  • I have written and received multiple grants for the above programs, including the prestigious Prouty grant from East Bay CUE, which financed the Teen Techs robotics program. 
  • A collaboration with the Alameda Free Library Storytelling Project (http://www.alamedastories.org/and (http://www.theislandofalameda.com/2010/06/monday-profile-digital-storyteller-nancy-ely/)
  • I have been PTA teacher liaison for a number of years and have sat on the Grant Committee.
  • I am a member of the School Site Council
  • I was a member of the Magnet Proposal Committee, 2011-12
  • I have been a judge in Alameda County's National History Day competition for the past five years, and several of my students (the first in Alameda) have participated as contestants, one making it to the state level last year.
  • I was a nominee (first in Alameda) for the California League of Middle Schools Educator of the Year Award and received commendation from the California State Senate
  • I have been nominated for AUSD's annual Teacher of the Year award, but didn't pursue the nomination
  • I have been an honoree for AEA's annual Salute to Education twice

 Some of the special activities that my History classes enjoy:

  •  A Paleolithic Skills Day, where children learn ancient survival skills
  • The Great Mesopotamian Brick Making Project, where student-made mud bricks are put to torture tests, to see whose will survive over the centuries
  • A multi-part after school mummycase workshop
  • A kite-making adventure (associated with ancient China); kids eventually go to Crown Beach to fly their kites
  • An unit on webpage design, where kids make a webpage about an Ancient Invention of their choice.  This project is an ongoing one, originating from a grant I wrote 8 years ago.
  • Or, as an alternative to the webpage project, my classes have made videos on various historical topics

I  came to AUSD and Wood MS specifically to be part of the “Science, Math, and Technology” Academy.  I highly value collaboration with my colleagues, especially the interdisciplinary type.  In my old school district, I was part of the District Secondary Curriculum Committee, as well as a member of a “vertical team,” that consisted of teachers from primary, secondary, as well as the community college level.  I would fondly hope to begin such a vertical team within the Alameda Unified system in the future.

Ms. Ely on a hike at Mesa Verde National Park
Ms. Ely on a hike at Mesa Verde National Park
PALA 4.JPG

My classes were the first in the nation to pilot a new program in archaeology, especially designed for 6th grade curriculum.

Powwow at Coeur d'Alene
Powwow at Couer d'Alene
Entrance of Chiefs
Entrance of Chiefs
powwow encampment
powwow encampment
For my students: an interesting sign posted in London
On the way to Bozeman, MT, I drove through Yellowstone Park and saw many bison by the side of the road.
Courtyard inside Department of Archaeology headquarters at MSU
Courtyard inside Department of Archaeology headquarters at MSU
Kiva excavation at Dillard site
Kova excavation at Dillard site
Inside the great kiva at Aztec archaeological site
Inside the great kiva at Aztec archaeological site
Pithouse at Crow Canyon
Pithouse at Crow Canyon
Pots at Anasazi Cultural Center
Pots at Anasazi Cultural Center
Santa Fe squash
Santa Fe squash
Lunch at Blake's
Lunch at Blake's
Summer vacation in Idaho several years ago...
This is where I spent vacation this year:  in Idaho
Ms. Ely at the Prime Meridian at Greenwich, England
London3.jpg
Crossing the Great Divide
Crossing the Great Divide
California League of Middle Schools Award
California League of Middle Schools Award
The Wood Museum of History
The Wood Museum
Wood Museum 2008
Wood Museum 2008
Wood Museum
Wood Museum
Wood Museum 2009
Wood Museum 2009
Teachers in a classroom at Montana State University
Teachers in a classroom at Montana State University
Excavation at the Dillard site
Excavation at the Dillard site
Dusk at Crow Canyon
Dusk at Crow Canyon
Chaco Canyon
Chaco Canyon
Incredible Chaco Canyon
Incredible Chaco Canyon
Tijeras Pueblo site datum
Tijeras Pueblo site datum
Main Street at Chama, New Mexico
Main Street at Chama, New Mexico
Chimney Rock trail
Chimney Rock trail
Narrow-gauge train ride from Durango
Narrow-gauge train ride from Durango
Durango train
Durango train
Living in a hogan
Living in a hogan
Inside a hogan
Inside a hogan
Bandelier Canyon
Bandelier Canyon
Ms. Ely at Bandelier Canyon archaeological site
Ms. Ely at Bandelier Canyon archaeological site
Tessie and Lorrie at Bandelier
Tessie and Lorrie at Bandelier
Canyon near Abiquiu, NM
Canyon near Abiquiu, NM
Inside a pithouse
Inside a pithouse
site behind Anasazi Cultural Center
site behind Anasazi Cultural Center
Tijeras Pueblo corn
Tijeras Pueblo corn
Ute kids do simulated dig
Ute kids do simulated dig
Taos Pueblo
Taos Pueblo
Crossing sign on Rio Grande Blvd.
Crossing sign on Rio Grande Blvd.