Friday Feature: Leslie Ellis, Cassens Social Worker

As a school social worker, Leslie Ellis gets to support students and partner with their families and teachers, as well as serve on teams to help impact change at a building or even district level.   

“I love working collaboratively with my colleagues to help students make progress and meet their goals. I am constantly learning, and constantly humbled by realizing how much I don’t know, but most days I get to feel like I helped someone—even if I only accomplished a tiny fraction of my to-do list.” 

Ellis is in her seventh year as the school social worker at Albert Cassens Elementary. She spent her first four years in the District at Glen Carbon Elementary and spent the fourth quarter serving Liberty Middle School last year as well.  

Ellis is no stranger to District #7. She grew up in Edwardsville – attending Nelson, Glen Carbon, Edwardsville Junior High and EHS – but did not come back to live here until 15 years after graduating from high school. Ironically, as she was at Hadley House to drop off an application for substitute teacher, she was told they had just posted a social worker position. The rest, as they say, is history. 

“When my preschool teacher was serving as a substitute secretary on my first day and greeted me with a hug, it felt serendipitous. I have since met (or been reunited with, in some cases!) some of my favorite people in the world, and D7 feels like home once again.” 

Ellis went to college as an undeclared major and had no real idea what she wanted to do career-wise.  

“The School of Social Work sent out information to all undeclared majors about the field and the different things you can do with a social work degree. I was intrigued and decided to pursue a Bachelor of Social Work.” 

Once in the program, she observed a social worker in a school setting and realized that was the job she wanted.  

“I liked the idea of supporting students’ social and emotional well-being to help them become successful in their education and relationships.” 

Ellis enjoys working with students at the intermediate level of third through fifth grade as it allows her to see the kids starting to become who they are going to be.  

“There is still a lot of sweetness in these grades, but they are getting their personalities, becoming deeper thinkers, and developing their senses of humor, which is my favorite part—these kids are so funny and clever. They may do less learning as a whole class, and instead work independently or in small groups, using their social skills, perseverance, and regulation skills. This can lead to challenges and struggles along the way, but it is amazing to watch them grow.”