Jo Ella Exley

  • When Jo Ella Exley retired from Mayde Creek High School, she left behind a heritage of learning and a void in the English department that is hard to replace. For Jo Ella loved literature and was able to convey that to her students. She expected the best and never accepted less than what she believed they could do.

    Jo Ella graduated with honors from the University of Texas in 1962 and set out for California where she taught for one year. In 1963, she returned to her home town and taught in Houston ISD for two years and then at Alvin for another two years. Tired of moving around, Jo Ella was hired by Katy ISD in 1967 and decided to stay for the rest of her teaching career.

    Her talents were quickly recognized, and she was assigned as the 12th-grade English teacher at Katy High School and was soon made the English Department chairperson. Dolores Borchers, who currently chairs the Katy High School English department, worked with Jo Ella and observed the creative methods Jo Ella used. "Long before gifted and talented classes were designated at the high school level, Jo Ella was implementing differentiated curriculum for her students with gifted ability" she said. "Her commitment to excellence in the accomplishments of her students is unsurpassed by any other teacher I have known in my teaching career."

    After her daughter, Emily Jo, was born in 1986, Jo Ella took some time off, and did some substitute teaching for awhile. She was also successful in having her book, Texas Tears and Texas Sunshine: Voices of Frontier Women, published. In 1988, she returned full time as the 12th-grade regular English and Gifted and Talented teacher at Mayde Creek High School. She always encouraged her students to enter essay contests, and as a result, they received local, state and national awards. In 1997, four of her students won 1st, 2nd or 3rd place in the United Nations Essay Contest, and Jo Ella was named Teacher of the Year by the Sons of the Republic of Texas.

    Fellow teacher Anna Hodges says that Jo Ella was a team player who never missed the opportunity to praise other students and teachers. "She made the transition from Katy High School to Mayde Creek appear painless, even though she had been at Katy High School for so long. Never once did I hear her compare the schools. To me, that speaks highly of her professionalism."

    After 33 years in education, Exley says that she only wanted to leave the world a better place than when she found it. "I concentrated my efforts on my family, my students and my writing. I hope that I have made a difference."