By STEVEN NALLEY
Dell Mitchell may not be retiring after all.
Mitchell, a kindergarten teacher at Sudduth Elementary School, was honored with other longtime teachers who will retire at the end of this year at a ceremony Thursday. She said she is retiring from the Starkville School District primarily to be with her family in another locale.
“I’m hoping I can teach kindergartners there,” Mitchell said, “because I’m not ready to quit teaching, but I would like to be in the area with my children and my grandchildren, too.”
Mitchell was one of several teachers honored for excellence at the Starkville School District Staff Awards Thursday.
Chief among the honors, distributed by the Starkville Foundation for Public Education, was the Outstanding Teacher Award, given to Henderson Intermediate School teacher Eliscia Mosley. She said receiving the award was a humbling experience, and she was overcome with emotion as she crossed the stage to receive her plaque.
“It’s a blessing and a surprise at the same time,” Mosley said. “It’s a blessing to be able to enrich the lives of students, the kids who come into my classroom every day. I absolutely love teaching, and I’m glad and grateful that God gave me the opportunity to do so.”
Mitchell received another premier award, the Paul Cuicchi Innovative Educators Award. She said it meant much to her for the SFPE to tell her through the award that her methods were working and that she had been helpful.
“God has blessed me with wonderful families, wonderful faculty to work with and wonderful children,” Mitchell said. “I get very, very attached to them. They love you, and (it is rewarding) to see them get excited about something you’re excited about, about what they’re learning, to see them grow from when they first come to you at the beginning of the year (to when you) see them reading and adding and excited about science and asking questions and growing up to be more than just good learners, but (people who love) to learn.”
Mosley said she loves everything about teaching, even the late nights planning lessons and activities and preparation for the MCT2. She also enjoys hearing their brand of humor, she said, and it surprises her when they enjoy her humor as well.
“They say I tell funny jokes,” Mosley said. “I don’t see it. (For instance,) I want to go deep sea diving, but guess what? I’m not a good swimmer. That’s a personal goal ... my kids found interesting and amazing to learn.
“I (also) love the parents,” Mosley added. “I love the opportunity just to enrich their lives, to talk to them, to get to know them more on a personal level. They learn the quirky side of me, I learn the quirky side of them.”
Mosley said she likes to use jokes to lighten children’s moods when they are having trouble understanding concepts, helping them relax and focus. The key to good teaching, she said, is to find teachable moments and making every day of lessons meaningful.
“I think it’s wonderful when you see the light bulb go off,” Mosley said. “All of a sudden it’s that ‘a-ha’ moment. I think that’s the great joy about teaching, seeing where they are when they first come in your classroom door to where they end up.”
Mitchell said the key to engaging children is to be as excited about learning as she wants the children to be. It is also important, she said, to show them love, and it is rewarding to see them learn to show love as well.
“When you’re a kindergartener, everything’s all about (you),” Mitchell said. “They have their own little ‘me’ world. To see them grow into characters that are concerned about other children and concerned about me and concerned about people around them, that’s very rewarding.”
At the ceremony, the SFPE also inducted Marty Fuller into the SSD Hall of the Famous. After graduating from SHS in 1976, Fuller earned three degrees at Mississippi State University and worked there for 30 years in varying capacities, including professor, assistant dean for the MSU College of Agriculture and Economics, and director of federal relations.
“This is a very undeserved honor that I wouldn’t give back for anything,” Fuller said. “The Starkville school system and its teachers and coaches mean so much to me. I know you get a good ... education at many places, but the values system that was instilled by people like you in this room some 36 years ago and the drive to succeed, I think, is what separates the Starkville school system, at least (in terms of) the impact it’s had on my life. I think about things (my SSD teachers) told me every day.”