‘Students going on after high school is my heart and soul’

CALDWELL — Tears of joy streamed down the face of Vision Charter School teacher Becky Mitchell on Thursday. She was teaching English to her high school students when State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra snuck into Mitchell’s classroom with flowers and balloons to break the news that she was selected Idaho’s 2018 Teacher of the Year.

“I’m shocked,” Mitchell said. “To know that people are watching and for them to think I’m doing a good job is pretty amazing.”

Mitchell, a 20-year educator, comes from a long line of teachers in her family and she never thought she would work in education. She dreamed of becoming a Supreme Court judge or a pharmacist. But that all changed while attending Northwest Nazarene University (NNU). She was a peer tutor, which led her to the passion of helping people learn.

“Teaching is in my blood,” Mitchell said. “I will probably teach until I die because I enjoy students.”

Mitchell teaches English, physical science, drama, broadcasting and is the tennis coach at Vision Charter School. In her career, she’s taught kindergarten, Spanish and college courses.

“Students are the best part of my day,” Mitchell said. “I love working with teenage minds.”

Mitchell is most passionate about students going on to college or being prepared for workforce. Teaching dual-credit classes has demonstrated to Mitchell the challenges students face while selecting paths for the future.

“Going on is my heart and soul,” Mitchell said. “Every kid that comes through my classroom has the capability of going on. I want to show them the options they have.”

Mitchell wants to be an advocate for continuing education past high school. Last year she revamped her senior project assignment. She no longer wanted students restoring an antique car or creating a chicken coop. Instead, she required students to complete an internship or do a job shadow in their chosen career path. Students then crafted their experience into a senior project.

“I want to encourage this generation to jump with their parachute and grab the future,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell studied chemistry, English and physical science education at NNU. She received her master’s degree in science education from the University of Montana.

Mitchell helped build Vision Charter School’s robotics program and she is a mentor for the Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars program.

“(Mitchell) is very supportive and hands-on,”  said Taylor Herndon, a senior at Vision Charter School. “When she notices you’re struggling with a subject she will go out of her way to fix where you’re going wrong.”

Past Teacher of the Year recipients have addressed the Legislature on the needs of students and the state of public education. Mitchell said she would like the world to know about the opportunities Idaho offers after high school.

Thursday’s announcement came with a school celebration in the gymnasium. Those who attended the celebration included Ybarra, Rep. Greg Chaney, community leaders, board members, Northwest Professional Educators leaders, Mitchell’s family and students.

“(Mitchell) has created a classroom environment where dynamic differentiations is the norm,” said Wendy OldenKamp, the administrator at Vision Charter School.

Mitchell was in the running for the award with 10 other Idaho teachers. A committee made up of members with various ties to Idaho education ultimately selected her application.

As part of her award, Mitchell received a $1,000 check from the state. The state will also pay for her to travel to Washington, D.C., to attend a ceremony at the White House to represent Idaho in the National Teacher of the Year program.

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