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Tavares High celebrates first graduate of its teaching academy

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Ashley Ellixson is surrounded by her mom, Janise Keene, on the left, teacher Bonnie Watkins and dad, Keith Ellixson, at a signing ceremony on Friday. Photo: Joe Byrnes

Tavares High held a ceremony Friday to celebrate the first graduate of Lake County’s only high school teaching academy.

Ashley Ellixson has already earned her associate’s degree from Luke-Sumter State College — even before leaving high school — and plans to graduate from UCF in two years.

Teacher Bonnie Watkins says they’re preparing students with positive attitudes and open hearts to pursue education-related degrees and return to Lake County.

Ellixson is completing the academy alone because, well, she finished the new four-year program in just three years.

“She is just one of those determined people and she has known for a very long time, since she was very young, that she wanted to be an early childhood educator,” Watkins says.

The academy has 71 students. They get hands-on classroom experience.

For Ellixson, an effective teacher manages stress and is determined to make an impact “and then to see the success in each student. You don’t want to ever define a student as a failure. You want to always define them as successful.”

In the fall 2023, she would love to be teaching a class at her old school, Tavares Elementary.

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Joe Byrnes

About Joe Byrnes


Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.