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EOU grad is 4th generation teacher, ‘the tradition will continue’

EOU grad is 4th generation teacher, ‘the tradition will continue’

EOU graduate Betsy Rochelle, ’23, will step into the classroom this fall following in the footsteps of her great-grandfather, grandfather, and aunt, who were all teachers.

LA GRANDE, Ore. – Continuing a family tradition that goes back four generations, Eastern Oregon University (EOU) graduate Betsy Rochell, ‘23, will step into a classroom in the fall of 2023 to continue a deep-rooted passion for shaping young minds. 

Rochelle will follow in the footsteps of her great-grandfather, grandfather, and aunt who were also educators. Her great-grandfather, E. Howard Hillis taught at Madras High School from 1948 to 1975, and her grandfather, Stephen Hillis, taught at Madras High School from 1974 to 2002. Her aunt taught in Prineville, Oregon. 

“We are thrilled to welcome Miss Betsy Rochelle to our District. She is stepping into a vital role as the music teacher for Madras Elementary,” Joseph Prechtl, Communications Coordinator for Jefferson County School District 509J said. “Her great-grandfather, E. Howard Hillis, and her grandfather, Stephen Hillis, left a lasting legacy on our District with their decades of service educating our students. Stephen Hillis was inducted into Madras High’s distinguished alumni in 2021. We are looking forward to seeing Miss Rochelle follow in their footsteps as she starts her teaching career.”

The long-held desire to be a teacher was nurtured and encouraged by her family members who were also educators. Rochell said she can recall telling her kindergarten teacher she wanted to be a teacher. 

When asked if her passion for education and her desire to teach was inherited Rochelle said, “I’ve asked myself if teaching was just intuitive, or if was it peer pressure. There was definitely an influence from my grandparents.”

Having recently graduated in June 2023 from the Masters of Arts in Teaching program (MAT) at EOU, Rochell said Oregon’s Rural University “just made sense for her.” 

EOU graduate Betsy Rochelle’s mortarboard read, “The Tradition Will Continue,” the tradition was a nod to her family, who has produced teachers for the last four generations.

The recent graduate said she was drawn to EOU’s one-year MAT program, a unique program not found in most other universities. She appreciated the flexibility of the hybrid program, allowing her to work while she pursued her degree. 

“It made sense for me financially.” Rochelle said. “I like the small town atmosphere, I’ve seen people flourish and find their home at EOU.”

It’s not surprising. EOU began as Eastern Normal College in 1929. The two-year college program graduated 88 teachers one year later, setting the stage for close to a century of teaching excellence and a tradition of turning out classroom leaders. Like Rochelle, EOU has remained committed to its legacy of educating teachers. 

“I’ve had so many teachers who pushed me to be better,” Rochelle said. 

The MAT program Rochelle pursued after earning her bachelor’s degree at EOU prepares new public or private school teachers, either at the elementary or the secondary grade levels. 

Rochelle’s great-grandfather Ernest Howard Hillis taught in Madras at Madras High School from 1948 to 1975.
Stephen Hillis, Rochelle’s grandfather taught at Madras High School from 1974 to 2002.

The hybrid MAT program takes 10 months to earn licensure at EOU.  Students can attend the MAT program from their hometown, as they are only required to be on campus for the residency week, one weekend during the summer term, and twice during the fall term. The weekends during the winter term are done via Zoom. Additional coursework is done via Canvas, an online learning platform.

“I have taught at the elementary school level and the middle school level. Elementary school-age children are excited and ready to learn. I’m excited to have that positive energy around me all the time,” Rochelle said. 

“I honestly think EOU was the best choice for me to make, they have so many people there to help, and they made it affordable.” Rochelle said.  “At graduation, my professors cheered me on, and it was so fun to feel that support.”

Recent EOU graduate Betsy Rochelle poses with her family after commencement ceremonies on June 17, 2023. Rochelle is the fourth generation in her family to choose teaching as a profession.