Rockford special education teacher retires after 35 years

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ROCKFORD, Mich.-- After 35 years of working as a special education teacher, Jim Ellis is retiring.

The Rockford Public Schools veteran says that to him, teaching is more than just a job.

"If I can make a little bit of a mark, then I wanted to go for it," Ellis tells FOX 17.

His students have learned important subjects like math and science from Ellis, though many say he's more than just a teacher.

"He's a great person, I'm not going to lie," 11th grader Emanuel Rohena says. "For me he is like a second dad for me."

Throughout his decades of teaching, Ellis says there's always one particular moment that means the most to him.

"The most rewarding part is when a student gets it and you know they understand and the look in their eyes and their face and the confidence you can see," Ellis says.

The impression he's made on his colleagues has been equally impactful.

"It was great to have him as a mentor, someone I could lean on," special education teacher Max Crimp says. "He obviously knows what he's doing."

Fellow teachers say Ellis' big heart and generosity is what made him an asset in his students' lives.

"He goes above and beyond for these kids," special education teacher Sue Swistak says. "Whatever they need, he is there. He's like their biggest cheerleader."

Assistant principal of Rockford High School Eric Cavalli says his patience and kindness is unparalleled and that Ellis has always worked well with all types of learners.

Ellis says his golden rule is what he's telling himself as he says goodbye to Rockford High School.

"I tell the kids, don't say 'I can't,' say 'I'll try,' and that's what I've tried to do, try," Ellis says.

Ellis tells FOX 17 he plans on making visits to the school and perhaps work as a substitute teacher in the future.

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