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Advisor Welcomes Students with ‘Smiles, Genuine Warmth’ 

Gibson Ek Advisor Elsa Crane talks with a student

By Nica Rondinelli 
Communications Intern 

Elsa Crane says she has never been part of a staff as positive and supportive as the one at Gibson Ek High School. “Being a teacher here makes me feel welcomed,” she says. 

An advisor at Gibson Ek, Crane has worked at the school for a few years, but this is her first time having her own advisory. At Gibson Ek, students are assigned advisories at the beginning of the year that they stay with throughout their entire high school journey, and it’s Crane’s favorite part of the school. “The fact that we can build a little family that stays together the entire course of your high school career is like, what a powerful thing!”  

Crane cares deeply about many things, she says. “Politics, I’m really, really passionate about political theory but also political action and the concept of utilizing power structures to benefit other people. I think it’s one of the greater things we do as humans, is to organize ourselves in a way to support and help each other, and I think that’s so cool.”  

She also values philosophy, ethics, fantasy literature and music. “I love fantasy in all of its forms. I think that literature is a term that we tend to only associate with books, but I think it also can apply to anything that is a cultural artifact that provides value,” Crane says. “Music is another one; I love music. I love playing music.” She primarily plays the bass clarinet, but she also plays baritone saxophone and a few other instruments. “I don’t do it as much as I used to, but that may change. ... It’s something that has always brought me joy.”  

Her favorite subjects to teach are philosophy, music and civics. “I'm a weirdly patriotic person, which is maybe not (common among) my cohort, but I love this country. I really love celebrating what we do right, and I love calling attention to what we do wrong. I think the most patriotic thing you can do is try to make your country better.” 

Crane chose to teach at Gibson Ek because she was frustrated by a lot of education philosophies she had learned early in her teaching career. “There were things that I did not agree with as far as the way that students were treated and viewed, and just the entire system seemed wrong. Looking at the way that students are uplifted and respected and valued here, and the relationships that we’re able to build with students here was so important to me,” she says. “I don’t think I could teach anywhere else. I just love it. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle.” 

Gibson Ek Advisor Elsa Crane talks with a student

Elsa Crane, at left, talks with a student at Gibson Ek.


Gibson Ek student Havah Alcorn is a 301 (11th grader) who ran for the school’s ASB to represent her advisory when she was a 101 (ninth grader), thanks to Crane’s encouragement. She is currently in her junior year, and is now the Speaker for the ASB Senate and a Student Representative for the School Board.  

“A little while after I first met her, advisories were deciding on who would be their two ASB representatives,” Alcorn says. “We only had one student volunteer from our advisory, and I was just teetering on the edge of volunteering. I was nervous, because I’d never done anything like that before, and I didn’t know if I’d do a good job. Elsa saw me, and just mouthed ‘do it!’ and nodded. She believed in and encouraged me, and that was enough to push me to try something new. Because of her, I’ve had the chance to grow my experience in student government and leadership,” she says. 

Annabelle Worl is also a 301 at Gibson Ek, and is in Crane’s advisory. “My first impression of Elsa was that she is very kind, trustworthy, and empathetic, as well as someone I could feel safe enough to talk to and someone who understands. Elsa is very insightful, fun, funny, and creative,” Worl says. “As I got to know her more, she has only proven over and over again that she is an amazing person, and I am honored to have her as my advisor. She loves everyone and pushes us towards our dreams and cheers us on every step of the way. She comforts and helps us in our lows and reminds us of our strengths. If anyone were to look at themselves and know that they were even half as good a friend or teacher as Elsa, they will know they did something right.” 

While Crane knew she wanted to be an educator, her path to Gibson Ek included a few stops along the way. She initially went to college for music education to become a band teacher. “I spent two years in that program, realizing that the program itself was not conducive to what I wanted,” Crane recalls. So, she switched her major, and graduated with a degree in philosophy. 

Her mother, who had been a teacher for about 20 years and is now retired, needed a long-term substitute for another teacher who was pregnant. Crane took the job, and loved it. The original teacher decided to stay home with her child and left the position permanently. Crane taught elementary students for seven years, then taught English for a middle school before she moved to Washington in 2019. 

Gibson Ek Principal Tonja Reischl says a lot of things make Crane a great addition to the staff. “When I’m looking to bring someone onto our team, the most important thing is that you care about students, that you believe all students can do really amazing things. And Elsa does that. She believes in people, she encourages them, supports them, so that’s really important,” Reischl adds. “And then, (Elsa) is just a great team member, too. She supports other people and encourages them, cheerleads for them, and is highly collaborative. She enjoys digging in and working with other people. So, it was a no-brainer to bring her onto our team.” 

Lena Tsaoussis is the Dean of Students at Gibson Ek, and a longtime friend of Crane’s. They originally met 12 years ago in Florida, when Crane’s wife wanted to introduce her to Tsaoussis and her husband. They originally bonded through a lively debate over the best character in the television series “Battlestar Galactica.” Though their differing opinions remain unresolved, they’ve been friends ever since.  

“One of the things I love most about our friendship is how we always push each other out of our comfort zones and hype each other up.” Tsaoussis says, “Elsa and I are pretty similar, so we can easily tell when the other needs a little push or some cheering on. It's like having our own personal cheer squad! This dynamic keeps us growing and thriving, reminding us that the best adventures happen when we encourage each other to step into the unknown with enthusiasm and support.” 

Tsaoussis says that Crane is a fantastic asset to Gibson Ek’s staff, “She's just so welcoming and friendly to everyone she meets. Her warm personality has this magical way of making people feel instantly comfortable and at home. Whether you're a student, a fellow staff member, or a parent dropping by, you can count on Elsa to greet you with a smile and genuine warmth.” 

Working at Gibson Ek is a humbling opportunity, Crane says, because of the chance to help shape students’ futures, and the love and respect among the school’s students, staff and families.  “I think we really do build a community of people who are trying to support each other, and I think that is maybe the most important thing that you can do at this age, just learn how to support one another,” she says. “Often, high school is a time where you get tormented, or remodeled, or forced into a particular box or a lens, and the fact that we allow people to blossom as they are – is something that makes me proud to be a part of.” 


Nica Rondinelli is an intern working with the district Communications Department this year. Rondinelli is a 101 at Gibson Ek High School, which includes internships as a key component of student learning.