Terri Mitchell, 64, always wanted to be a teacher and today she’s just as enthusiastic as the day when she first started. “I love watching a student’s face light up when they grasp a concept and suddenly understand,” she says. “I thrive on that.”
Inspiring the Next Generation
A native of Southern California, Terri teaches sixth grade history and science at a public school in Santa Ana, Calif. Teaching in an area where many students drop out of school, she sees her job as giving them a solid foundation and excitement for learning so that they stay in school. “My goal is to keep them in school and loving it,” she says. “How to find answers and solve problems are skills they can use no matter what they do in life.”
As part of her mission, she strives to keep the subjects she teaches relevant. “Kids wonder why they have to study those people who have been dead for three thousand years,” Terri says. “I like to make it come alive in ways like, ‘Oh, you ladies like fingernail polish? Guess what: ancient Egyptians!”
Terri loves the age group and suggests reevaluating how teenagers are viewed. “The kids say, ‘I’m going to be a teenager.’ I say, ‘No you’re not, you’re going to be a young adult,’” she says, explaining the word teenager has a negative connotation for many people. “I personally think they’re wonderful young people. They have fabulous brains and a lot to contribute.”
While many teachers who have been teaching for 27 years may be thinking about retirement, Terri can’t imagine leaving the classroom. “I get up in the morning and it’s like, yes! I get to go to work and I don’t know what interesting things are going to happen. I will retire when I get up in the morning and it becomes a job, not a pleasure.”
When she’s not teaching, Terri enjoys trying new recipes, listening to music, reading historical novels and spending time with her husband, two adult children and two grandchildren.
“I have two grandsons—one from each child,” she says. “One is almost 4 and one just turned 2.”
While she loves to join them at playtime, she says she can’t help but be a teacher, too. “I love to do flash cards with the kids,” Terri comments, adding that her grandsons are very intelligent and already interested in reading.
“I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was in first grade,” she says. I don’t think there’s anything I don’t love about teaching.”