by Tammy Dodderidge, KCKPS
The Kansas State Department of Education has named Jennifer Mitchell, English teacher at Wyandotte High School, a 2012 Kansas Horizon Award recipient.
The award is given to exemplary beginning teachers who perform in a way that distinguishes them as outstanding. Mitchell is one of only 32 teachers from across the state of Kansas to be recognized. She received a call from Kansas Commissioner of Education Diane DeBacker on Jan. 11, congratulating her on this honor.
“Congratulations to Kansas City, Kan.,” DeBacker said. “You know how to hire the right teachers!”
Mitchell received the award during class, in front of a packed class of students and colleagues.
“I’m not supposed to cry in front of students,” she said, as she teared up.
When many staff are heading home for the day, Mitchell can be found working with students in her classroom, or providing a safe and comfortable place for them to study and work independently while she works on lesson plans.
She has incorporated multiple strategies for communicating with both students and parents. For parent-teacher conferences, she sends home letters to parents both in English and Spanish, makes phone calls and facilitates student-led conferences. She invites parents to visit her class on regular school days. She also took the responsibility of being the sponsor of the school’s Color Guard because she knows how important it is to get involved in extracurricular activities, and it helps to build relationships with both parents and students.
One of her students said, “Mrs. Mitchell takes out time to find ways for me to understand what needs to be done. She encourages me to push myself and learn new things everyday. Because of her, I now enjoy doing English assignments.”
Some of her advice for beginning teachers is, “never assume anything in regard to your students” and “learn as much from your students as they learn from you.”
Mitchell will receive her award during the Kansas Exemplary Educators Network conference in Topeka on Feb. 22.