Bradley alumna one of Peoria’s “40 Leaders Under Forty”

November 22, 2010

Bradley alumna and special education teacher Mandy Ellis was recently named one of “Central Illinois’ 40 Leaders Under Forty” by InterBusiness Issues magazine.

The forty leaders were chosen from a variety of fields and honored at a reception in downtown Peoria. Bradley President Joanne Glasser attended the ceremony with Ellis.

Ellis graduated from Bradley in 2004 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Elementary and Special Education. She received her Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Bradley in 2007, and she is currently enrolled in Bradley’s Education Leadership and Administration Program.

“Bradley just can’t get rid of me,” she said with a laugh.

As an undergraduate, Ellis worked with the admissions office as an intern and Bradley STAR. She was also the president of Mortarboard, the senior honors society.

She praised Professor Helja Antola-Crowe as one of her mentors and as a professor who “demonstrated an absolute passion for teaching.”

Earlier in her Bradley career, however, Ellis’ passions lay elsewhere. She came to Bradley as a criminal justice major, hoping to be an FBI agent. She cycled through multiple majors until her junior year, where she found where her passions and abilities came together in teaching. Through volunteer work with the Best Buddies organization and her education classes, she decided that she wanted to become a special education teacher and “have a meaningful impact on students’ lives.”

Bradley has impacted her family life, as well. She met her husband, Brett, while they were both students, and she named her daughter Lydia after the university’s founder, Lydia Moss Bradley.

Ellis now works as a Learning Intervention Specialist at Wilder-Waite Elementary in Dunlap, Illinois. She teaches children in the third, fourth and fifth grades with a variety of disabilities. She also serves as a Continuous Improvement Trainer, helping other teachers learn to set goals and update their teaching methods. She works closely with parents, evaluates struggling students that are not yet in special education programs and mentors undergraduate student teachers, including several Bradley students.

“There’s a lot more to teaching than just being in the classroom,” she said.

Along with her Bradley education, Ellis says her family, particularly her daughter, has had a deep influence on her teaching.

“As a mom, you view all kids differently,” she said. “You put yourself in the parent’s perspective.”

Ellis volunteers with several non-profit organizations. She currently chairs the Junior League of Peoria’s children’s museum project, the Peoria Playhouse. She oversees the capital campaign, coordinates fundraising and organizes community events for the project. She is also a member of the Peoria Jaycees and has chaired several of its events, including the 2010 Easter Egg Hunt and a Senior Citizens’ Prom for residents at Bel-wood Nursing Home in Peoria.

She stays involved with Bradley, as well. She is a board member of Bradley’s Central Illinois Alumni Chapter and works to keep young alumni involved with their alma mater. She mentors students through the Smith Career Center, providing tips on interviewing, resume writing, and job searching.

Ellis is humbled by her inclusion in the “40 Leaders Under Forty” list. As the only educator on the 2010 list, she said it feels good to represent her profession.

In addition to the InterBusiness Issues list, Ellis has also been honored with the Junior League of Peoria’s Shining Star award, Wilder-Waite’s Academic Excellence award and the Presidential Volunteer Service Award. She was also selected as one of WEEK News’ 2009 Women in Leadership.

The full list of young leaders can be found at