Ellen Regal is originally from Boston. She studied economics and education and took art classes in her 20s and 30s. A pivotal moment in her life occurred when she was in 8th grade. Polaroid had donated cameras and film to her school and she got the opportunity to take one of the cameras and spend the day taking photos. The school was six minutes from the subway and she went on an adventure that day. Ellen still remembers the excitement she felt exploring the city with her camera.
In high school she volunteered to teach ceramics to kids, offering a creative space to go on Saturdays, which was important to her. She wanted to make the world a better place. She loved teaching, but needed an eclectic life, so she traveled and studied French in France and Spanish in Costa Rica and Guatemala.
In her 20s she became interested in hiking and backpacking, working at Glacier National Park where she had the opportunity to climb mountains with fellow photographers. She spent many years traveling and learning how to take photos.
In 1980 she purchased her first good camera and new opportunities opened up for her. In 1992, she moved to Portland. She was ready for a new journey and wanted to be creative. She believed that anything was possible, so she went to film school and worked at OPB.
Ellen taught her first Saturday Academy class in 1993. 26 years later, she is still teaching for Saturday Academy. The first class she taught was the “Art of Photography” and then “The Magic of the Dark Room.” Ellen takes her students on field trips in her Saturday Academy classes. She teaches them about seeing and changing their perspective. She says, “Every student is in the same place, but they each see things differently and they capture completely different photos.”
Ellen started teaching middle and high school students for Saturday Academy and also teaches afterschool classes for the Saturday Academy to You program. She enjoys teaching in the schools because the students are attached to where they are. Ellen says, “This is their space and they have a sense of place. They document their friends and a specific time and place in their lives. Often when they look back at their photos, they have an emotional response to what they’ve captured.” Her goal remains the same today, to offer a creative space for kids. She says, “They are so excited to take photos. It’s very empowering for them. They learn about light and perspective. They’re completely engaged and create amazing work.”
Ellen is an instructor for Saturday Academy because she loves teaching and being around kids. She is honored to introduce them to something that enhances their lives. Ellen says, “Everybody’s life is better by taking time to be creative. There is pride and confidence gained in seeing something that you have personally created. And any time an adult can say something positive to a child – it will make a lifelong impression.”
She never taught school, but with the help of Saturday Academy former Classes & Camps Director, Eloise Koehler and current School-Based Program Manager, Heidi Venneri, she has built a skill set for classroom instruction and management. She regularly witnesses the classes making an impact on students. She says, “We all need to be seen. And she gets a lot of hugs from the students, which makes it all worthwhile!”