Skip to main content

Davis Journal

Teacher ‘Sewing Seeds of Change’ to unite community

May 13, 2021 12:02PM ● By Becky Ginos

Volunteers work to construct a greenhouse at Doxey Elementary. Courtesy photos

SUNSET—As a child Adrienne Scott-Ellis suffered discrimination and humiliation from her classmates. Those experiences set her on a path to become a teacher where she could bring about change.

“There was a moment in time that was quite pivotal for me,” said Scott-Ellis, a fourth-grade teacher at Sunset Elementary. “I was pushed down, spit upon and called a nigger. As an elementary child I would enter the classroom each day feeling like I was stepping into a boxing ring. I just wanted to get through the day.”

Scott-Ellis said Mrs. White, a black teacher, inspired her. “Just having another person in the building who looked like me helped me not feel alone in this journey. I thought, ‘I can do that.’ I can have the same influence. I made up my mind to be a teacher.”

She graduated from Utah State University and was offered a job in the Ogden School District. “But I thought no, I'm going to go back to the Davis District,” said Scott-Ellis. “I wanted to make changes there.”

Scott-Ellis taught civil rights and its history. “So that we don’t make the same mistakes,” she said. “Teaching civil rights seemed so distant. As Americans we’ve grown and changed but as time goes on it’s much closer. We’re still living it at this time. Today we’re right in the midst of a civil rights movement. I’ve always felt it was important and something the kids need to learn.”

To give her students a real hands-on experience she had them portray different characters. “I’d assign a figure to a student and have them try to find out how they made a positive change in the world,” said Scott-Ellis. “They had to learn who they are, what they were interested in as a child and their nature.”

Students read the character’s biography and learned as much as they could, she said. “Then they had to write a speech. It was first person about what they know, what inspired you and your challenges in life. Then we had what I call a wax museum where the kids dress up as their character. Then you could push a button and they’d come to life and say their speech.”

Through the course of the year what the students learned was all integrated into the curriculum, said Scott-Ellis. “It became a fun experience. The kids really bonded to their character. They’re forever connected and when they have difficult days they’re reminded of who they are and ask ‘how would Dr. Johnson respond to that situation?’ They can relate to it and say, ‘OK, they faced much more difficult challenges and they overcame it so I can too.’”

When the pandemic hit and school moved to remote learning, Scott-Ellis said it was very difficult for her so she decided to start a community garden and called it “Sewing Seeds of Kindness.”

“It resulted from my anguish, frustration and emotions over witnessing the murder of George Floyd,” she said. “I was at home during the day and felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown. Everything was coming at me.”

Scott-Ellis said her passion is gardening. “So I started a community garden where I could get outside and engage with other people. Sunset City had some property that was not being used so I asked if they’d let us use it. I wanted to start a nonprofit organization where we’re going to grow produce and give it to individuals who have lost their jobs and are worried about putting food on their tables.”

A nursery donated plants and the garden took off. “We made designer baskets with produce,” she said. “They were beautiful arrangements and I would take them to the elderly or people started to call me to send a basket to someone. It was good for my soul helping others.”

In the fall, Scott-Ellis took her students on a walking field trip to harvest pumpkins. After Sunset City sold the property to a developer, Scott-Ellis started another garden space at the Clinton City Community Garden. 

“I wrote a grant to the Davis Education Foundation for a greenhouse at Doxey Elementary where we started growing plants,” she said. “Students wrote virtues on sticks like joy and happiness, characteristics they could see nurtured in the community.”

Scott-Ellis recently received the Robert “Archie” Archuleta UEA Human and Civil Rights Award for 2021 and she is retiring after 30 years in education. “I have mixed emotions leaving this position,” she said. “But I think I’ll be more effective supporting other teachers and students. I had volunteers that helped me in the classroom so I want to pay that forward.”