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Sun, Jan. 26

Women's History Month: She offers safety to kids ‘kicked to the curb’

Patti Eller started out in education tutoring homeless students in California. Now in her 17th year of teaching – 14 years at Bradshaw Mountain High School in Prescott Valley – maybe that’s why she provides a sense of safety for her students.

“It’s more of a family thing. I want my kids feeling safe here,” Eller said.

She works with students with special needs, those who “don’t fit into one outfit,” she said, referring to the book “Fahrenheit 451.” Some have moved so often, or have come from homes disrupted by drugs or incarcerated parents, they’ve lost any continuity in learning reading or math skills.

She knows when they graduate, they take away a sense they can be successful; they have gained confidence in themselves. Eller knows because students come back and tell her so.

“They always thank us for sticking with them,” she said.

Likewise, the BMHS swimmers she coaches feel they are a family, they belong to something. They look after each other while learning to navigate difficult situations, like participating in swim meets with 400 other swimmers at an unfamiliar Phoenix pool.

Students’ photos fill the bulletin boards and Eller speaks of them with pride.

“I’m always for the one who gets bullied, for the sweet kid who gets kicked to the curb. I have a special place in my heart for them."

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