Salve Success: Dave Ellis uses LEGO Education to inspire children stuck at home
As a young boy who grew up playing with LEGO® sets, Dave Ellis ’04 could never have imagined that he would work for his favorite toy company one day. After graduating from Salve Regina with a degree in English communications and literature, Ellis worked for a variety of nonprofits and educational institutions where he was able to refine his writing, editing and marketing skills.
Today, he is the communications manager for LEGO Education, where he handles global content strategy, develops marketing content, tracks speaking opportunities for the leadership team, runs the customer evidence program and connects with educators in the field.
Through these conversations with educators Ellis is able to share the terrific stories about the impact that LEGO Education solutions have in the lives of students all over the world. And now, more than ever, this has become important in the remote learning time that children are currently living through.
A dream job at LEGO made possible through Salve Regina’s mentorship and education
Even before he began working for LEGO, Ellis had firsthand experience in how the toy company makes a positive impact on children. His oldest son, Liam, who is autistic, found his imagination through LEGO.
“They allowed him to interact with the world on a different level and express what he was thinking in a way that was so much easier for him than words,” said Ellis, who, in a way, feels an obligation to LEGO to tell inspiring narratives of children who so profoundly benefit from the interactive play and hands-on learning. Maybe the average person doesn’t recognize the influences that these small bricks can have on children, but that’s another reason why Ellis loves his job so much – he is able to spread the inspiring mission of LEGO Education.
In addition to the positive stories he shares, Ellis also appreciates the fun work environment that surrounds him every day in the office. With LEGO-filled bowls everywhere, it is evident that the company understands people work better when they are excited to be doing their job. “It is fully acceptable to sit there building things while you’re in meetings,” he noted.
Ellis recognizes how lucky he is to be able to look forward to going to work each day, and he owes a great deal of his success to Salve Regina. The support and mentorship he was given by Dr. Donna Harrington-Lueker, professor of English, communications and media, still drive him to this day.
“Dave embraced the Salve Regina experience,” said Harrington-Lueker. “His passion for social justice and making a difference was clear. Dave lived the Salve mission when he was here as a student — and he continues to live it today in his personal and professional lives.”
LEGO Education in the midst of coronavirus
In recent months, as the coronavirus pandemic changed the way everyone has worked, Ellis’ job has changed, too. The global closure of schools and the shift to online and at home learning has left teachers, students and parents facing some unique and unprecedented challenges. Ellis had had the opportunity to play a role on multiple fronts as LEGO Education pivots from focusing on selling products to being a leading resource and support for parents and educators.
“Over the past several weeks, I’ve worked with our very talented web team to create an online hub of at home learning resources in the form of lesson plans, tips and tricks for setting up learning spaces, and suggestions for how to keep kids excited and engaged in hands-on STEAM,” he said. “The content I’ve been developing is also being shared with the larger LEGO Group to be used as part of the ongoing ‘Let’s Build Together Campaign.’ ”
While it is challenging, LEGO Education’s response to the coronavirus has given Ellis and his other coworkers some fun opportunities to use LEGO’s online channels differently. A great example is LEGO Education’s new Instagram Live series called “At Home with LEGO Education Master Educators.”
“I worked with our social media manager to develop the concept, and I get the very cool job of hosting a live chat every Thursday with one of our Master Educators,” Ellis described.
During these live sessions, secondary educators who embody the mission of LEGO® Education offer insight into the things they’re doing to keep their own students engaged and learning, tips and tricks for parents and other educators and demos of hands-on activities they can replicate at home.
It was clear to Ellis that as soon as he started at LEGO that the company was uniquely committed to employee happiness and placed real value on work-life balance and the importance of family. Never has that been more clear to him than during this crisis.
“We’ve had regular communication reminding us to take the time we need for ourselves and our families,” he said. “And we have weekly check-ins that are solely focused on everyone’s mental and physical health and wellbeing.”
And Ellis knows that LEGOs can help children even more than ever before, as these simple toy blocks can provide endless opportunities for entertainment, education and creative exploration.
“I think a lot of parents, myself included, are feeling overwhelmed trying to manage everything, and frankly, when I need a break and I don’t want the kids in front of a screen, one of the easiest things to do is get out the bucket of bricks and give them a free-build prompt,” he said. “It always gets them engaged and thinking creatively while I get some work done.”
This article was originally published in “Report from Newport,” Spring 2020 edition. There have been modifications to this article from its original form.
Each Thursday, SALVEtoday will provide tips for success as well as success stories of current students and alumni to encourage and uplift the University community during this time of remote living and learning. #salvesgotthis #salvesuccess