After a long career at the middle school level, Cathy Ellis was appointed as the North Aiken Elementary School assistant principal two years ago.

She's getting her first opportunity as a principal in July – succeeding the retiring Renee Mack at J.D. Lever Elementary School.

“I have grown to love elementary school,” Ellis said of her work at North Aiken. “You won't find a more loving bunch of children. It makes you feel good to be there and want to do your best to help them.”

Several years ago, she had the same good feeling at Lever. Ellis got to know Mack through a shadowing opportunity while working on her master's degree in education administration. Ellis found the experience invaluable through observations of Mack's warm relationship with her teachers and her own readily-apparent love for the children.

“We're different but have a lot of things alike,” said Ellis. “I told her that I'm going to have some big little shoes to fill, and she laughed.”

Growing up in Abbeville, Ellis cites the influence of a high school teacher that led to her decision to go the education field. During her undergraduate studies at Anderson College, she enjoyed the chance to work with kids through the YMCA.

After teaching in Abbeville, Ellis started her Aiken County career in 1989 at the Pinecrest Center, then a school for special education students. She moved on to Schofield Middle School as a full-time teacher, and, when Aiken Middle School opened in 1995, she transferred there for 12 years.

Ellis credits then-Principal Dr. Randy Stowe and others for encouraging her to go into administration. He also provided administrative opportunities for her while Ellis worked on her graduate degree.

In 2006, Carl White, then an Aiken High School assistant principal, got his first principal's position at Schofield. Ellis joined him as a first-time assistant principal.

“You learn from everybody you work with,” Ellis said. “I'm so excited about going into this and have talked with Mrs. Mack to pick her brain about what she's done to be successful. She is very well loved at Lever, and I hope I'll be received there as well.”