A lifelong and award-winning educator,
Elizabeth Ely grew up in Norton, Virginia, where her entrepreneurial
father operated a dry goods store. Speaking Arabic at home, Elizabeth
was the seventh of ten children of Syrian émigrés, Dahar and Elizabeth
Haddad Cury. Her experience as a teacher began in her own home
where she tutored her siblings. She studied education and psychology,
graduating from Duke University in 1951. She taught in Virginia,
West Virginia, Florida, France, and Switzerland before coming to Washington,
DC. The Nation‘s Capital would forever be impacted by her hand
Elizabeth taught and worked at the
Kingsbury Center in the sixties. She credited her time at Kingsbury
with transforming her from a “teacher” into an “educator.”
She was forever changed by her observations of Marion Kingsbury’s
love for every student and her investments in the individualization
of her programs to meet the needs of each student. This
new insight into the art of educating motivated Elizabeth and ignited
her drive to develop a coherent and innovative approach to education.
Elizabeth then taught two years at
The Hawthorne School. In 1968 Elizabeth went to work at the Edmund Burke School with Jean
Mooskin and Dick Roth when they founded the school. She served there
until she left to found The Field School in 1972.
From its legendary beginnings above
a dry-cleaning establishment on DC‘s busy Connecticut Avenue, to its
move into a charming, cramped brownstone on Wyoming Avenue, to its current
site, an impressive and well equipped Art Deco mansion on Foxhall Road,
The Field School was an embodiment of Elizabeth Ely, the visionary educator.
Her belief in the individual and her instinctive ability to identify
the potential of each person she touched resulted in a unique educational
atmosphere that benefited students, teachers, and parents alike.
She educated in wide ”fields of knowledge“ to enhance connections
and creativity and to help students embrace learning and celebrate their
After Elizabeth retired from The Field
School in 2004, she created the Elizabeth Ely Education Foundation
to perpetuate and share her legacy of the educational principles and
strategies she developed through her lifetime and to support other educational
visionaries interested in starting creative schools and programs.
Often referred to as “The Field Way,” Elizabeth‘s approach to
education touched the lives of thousands of people, and she wanted others
to benefit from her “lessons learned.”
Elizabeth died from colon cancer on
August 24, 2009, in her beloved country home in Round Hill, Virginia.
Many of those who knew her would say
no less than “Elizabeth saved my life.” In fact many have
said that. That was Elizabeth Ely.