Teacher Spotlight: Shawna Mitchell, Kindergarten Teacher

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"Our mission is urgent and you can feel that powerful urgency in every single classroom."

#SpringfieldPrepFamily

When Mrs. Mitchell first interviewed to be a teacher at Springfield Prep, everyone who met her said, "Wow, she has such incredible positive energy - let's hire her!"  And that first impression hasn't changed.  Step inside Mrs. Mitchell's (and Ms. Shaw's) UMass classroom and you can't help but notice a calm-but-purposeful, positive-but-no-nonsense vibe.  Our kids are very lucky to have her.

We wanted to hear from her what she values about teaching at Springfield Prep and what makes her job unique.  It is perhaps unsurprising that her responses reflect the positive spirit that has become her hallmark.

Why do you enjoy working at Springfield Prep?  I enjoy working at Springfield Prep because I am supported by my coaches and colleagues. It is impossible to pour out of an empty cup - because my "cup" is constantly poured into at work, I am able to serve our students.  I also enjoy working at Springfield Prep because I see awesome teachers living out our school’s mission on a daily basis. Our mission is urgent and you can feel that powerful urgency in every single classroom.

What makes Springfield Prep unique?  From the moment I walked into Springfield Prep, I have felt the joy of teaching and learning.  Springfield Prep is unique because it is made of up a body of professionals who are honest about our day-to-day challenges but also determined to come up with an efficient solution. 

What's one of your favorite teaching moments?  My favorite teaching moment is when one of my students have their own "a-ha moment". During this moment, all of the planning, preparation and hours of professional development are balled up into one simple "A-HA"!  

What does it take to get students to that moment?  Relentless work, lots of professional development, monitoring progress frequently in class - it's not one thing, it's all of them.  It's keeping the bar for students high and not giving up until they reach it.  

How do you involve families to help their kids be successful in school?  Class Dojo has helped a lot -  we share lots of pictures and videos on Class Dojo to help parents see what kids are doing.  This really helps parents to be invested in the work we do here.   We also have an open door policy, so families often drop by and see what's going on.  Our families are great - they frequently ask what else they might be able to do to support their children's development.

What do you hear from parents about their children's experience in school?  This past parent teacher conference, multiple parents expressed how happy their kids are to be here, which feels so great, especially knowing that we have an extended school day.   When we talked about Thanksgiving Break, they asked "are you and Ms. Shaw coming?" Families know that we expect a lot from their kids, but they say that their kids really like to be challenged - that's what we see too!

What makes Springfield Prep different from some of the other schools you've worked?  It's the tone - every challenge is met with positivity.  Our standards are rigorous but it never feels like we can't achieve it.  This is because we scaffold a lot - we meet the kids where they are and we slowly build until they meet that point.