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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  K-12 education

‘She can teach anyone and everyone how to read’: Ellen Rush says goodbye to Madison Elementary after 42 years

Ellen Rush, a first-grade teacher at Madison Elementary who is retiring, hugs some of her students after the school honored Rush for her 42-year career of teaching at the school on Tuesday.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)
Ellen Rush, a first-grade teacher at Madison Elementary who is retiring, hugs some of her students after the school honored Rush for her 42-year career of teaching at the school on Tuesday. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)

Editor’s note: Over the next several days, The Spokesman-Review will highlight teachers in local school districts retiring after long careers in education. This is the first of that series.

Ellen Rush will miss many things about the 42 years she spent teaching at Madison Elementary School.

Mostly, she will cherish the wide eyes and open minds of hundreds of first-graders who had the privilege of sitting in her classroom.

“They absolutely love school,” Rush said. “They think I’m funny even though I’m not, but the main thing is the amazing growth they have.”

“They are starting to know a little bit about math, and they’re starting to read, and they’re so eager to learn and reach their potential,” Rush said.

Much of that potential was realized thanks to Rush, who retired last week and was honored during a school assembly.

“She’s an institution,” said Heather Holter, principal at Madison the past seven years. “She can teach anyone and everyone how to read.”

Rush has done so much more than that in her 44 years as a teacher, all but two of them spent at the 73-year-old school that sits north of Franklin Park.

Rush has spent her entire life in Spokane, shaped by the school system she left for only four years – to get an education to make it even better.

Growing up in northwest Spokane, she attended Stadium Elementary – now a funeral home. Rush went to Glover Middle School and Shadle Park High before earning her bachelor’s degree in education at Eastern Washington University.

After teaching briefly at a private school, she joined the staff at Madison when her children were still in diapers. She spent one year teaching fifth grade before finding her calling in the first grade.

At that time, kindergartners weren’t yet attending full time, which meant first grade was every child’s first all-day experience away from home.

Rush made it feel just like home, teaching in a large classroom with high ceilings and lots of books, always books.

“She feeds their brains, and loves books so much that she instills that in all her students,” Holter said. “She’s a lifelong learner, and so are many of her former students.”

Many still remember. One former student, who lives in Florida, recently stopped by his old school and made it a point to visit Rush.

She didn’t disappoint.

“I still have all my class pictures, including my first one,” Rush said. “I can’t believe I look so young in those pictures.”

After four decades at Madison, Rush never lost her energy and passion for the job.

Not long ago, Holter recalls Rush walking into the main office, her clothes soaked after a faucet malfunction in the classroom.

“Let me cover for you,” said Holter, who expected Rush to head home.

Not a chance. “I’ve got teaching to do,” said Rush, who dried herself off and got back to work.

That dedication extended to late nights and weekends, but Rush is ready for a new challenge. She plans to spend time gardening, traveling and volunteering in her grandchildren’s classes at Browne Elementary.

“That sounds like a lot of fun,” Rush said.

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