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Calculus teacher Matthew Ellis leaving after 13 years

Beloved math department chairman moving to teaching role at Washburn University
Arabella Gipp
Ellis teaches his AP Calculus AB class on April 26.

“Math Legend,” “the tie and sandals guy,” even “the Bob Ross of math” are all names that Matthew Ellis has accrued over the years from his students. After 13 years at LHS, Ellis is making a career change to teach at Washburn University, leaving behind an impact that has touched countless students and teachers, an impact that starts with his iconic outfit: a daily, unique combination of a tie and sandals.

“His ties are very interesting to see,” junior Jun Brewer, a student in one of Ellis’ precalculus classes, said. “During Christmas he has Christmas ties, and one day, when it was snowing, and it was way after Christmas, he wore a Christmas tie, and he said ‘it just felt like Christmas.’”

And the fun is not lost on Ellis’ colleagues. 

“The tie and sandals are probably the thing I will miss the most when [Ellis] is gone,” fellow math teacher Brian Hunter said. “Maybe I’ll have to start wearing some sandals and ties to school.”

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Beyond his attire, Ellis has more importantly managed to be remembered by his students by the positive and memorable environment that he creates in the classroom.

“He’s always very bright,” Brewer said. “He’s always bringing that energy so when we are studying or he’s teaching it is always a bright atmosphere.”

Ellis on a float with history teacher Valerie Shrag during the Homecoming Parade on October 27. (Maeslyn Hamlin)

The impression that he leaves on his students has directly translated to more success in the classroom, as evidenced by his teaching of the AP Calculus classes, the most rigorous math classes at LHS. Many students and teachers attribute Ellis’ hard-working approach to teaching that allows all of his students to take on very complicated content. 

“He’s always the first one in the building,” Hunter said. “Even though he lives like 40 minutes away, I see him in the morning, I see him here at night, sometimes even when I’m getting done with tennis practice he’s still here, so I think that shows to the students how much he cares that he’s dedicating his personal time to make sure that they’re getting the math learned.”

Brewer adds more insight into Ellis’ teaching approach that makes learning difficult topics easier.

“[Ellis] always directly answers students’ questions without making it vague,” he said. “If he doesn’t know the answer he will tell you what to do if you want it, which is what I really appreciate about his teaching style, and he always slows down when it doesn’t seem like people are catching up with him.”

As for what Ellis recalls about his years at LHS, he says it boils down to one thing: the students.

“I love the students, they’re the reason I’ve lasted as long as I have in terms of trying not to get burned out,” he said. “They are definitely the best part of the job, seeing their ‘aha’ moments and getting to help them understand the subject that I love.”

From teaching for so many years at LHS, Ellis has many memories of the relationships he built with his students.

“About four or five years ago, back when I was in my old classroom, I had a group of students that came into my room,” he said. “They were seniors during senior week, and they plastered my entire classroom with pictures of me from high school and college that they had found online, and they wrote a bunch of quotes over the room. It was fun to see kids that I’ve had for three or four years at that point get their revenge on me.”

Ellis during a Scholar’s Bowl tournament on October 31. (Piper Journey)

Even though Ellis is leaving a lot behind with his years at LHS, he is excited for what the future will bring at Washburn, especially personally.

“[At LHS] I do so much grading outside of school, and so many activities outside of school,” Ellis said. “Now I don’t have a lot of free time in my life, so I look forward to having more time to have a hobby, spend more time with my wife, things like that, that’s what I’m most looking forward to.”

As for his soon-to-be job at Washburn, Ellis is excited about the new environment that he will be in.

“The job that I’m going to do is totally different to what I’m doing now,” he said. “It’s a math lab that they offer at Washburn for preparatory math students, so these are students that are maybe coming into high school that need some extra help, get ready for college algebra, get ready for precalculus, or get ready for calculus. It’s kind of like a tutoring center, so it’s very similar to what I do in the mornings here and after school helping kids out but that’s going to be pretty much my 9-5 job so to speak.”

Regardless, there is not much doubt as to how Ellis will fare at teaching an entirely new set of students.

“He’s gonna do great wherever he goes,” Hunter said. “Just because whenever he commits he goes all out, he puts everything into it. I know that he’s gonna do great there, and the students that he’s getting to get to work with and impact are really lucky to have him.”

This story was originally published on The Budget on April 26, 2024.