Wichita State News
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Dana Mitchell used the cooperative education program to gain teaching experience.

Education graduate enjoys teaching young children

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Dana Mitchell enjoys interacting with her kindergarten students and seeing them grow in their education.

“I want to teach young children because they still have (an) attitude of learning,” Mitchell said. “They want to come to school.”

Mitchell graduated from Wichita State University with her bachelor’s degree in elementary education in spring 2008.

As an undergrad, she participated in the Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning Program and received six credit hours when tutoring at Samuel E. Spaght Multimedia Magnet, the elementary school she attended.

Mitchell is now teaching kindergarten at Spaght full time.

“She has just completed her first year and received a special award from the district for being an outstanding first year teacher,” said Cathy Razook-Ellsworth, College of Education coordinator in cooperative education.

Mitchell is working on her master’s degree at WSU, as well.

But her education career began in high school when she tutored at Spaght as a senior. At the time, she was thinking about a future in social work, but she decided to pursue a degree in education after working with the students.

“I loved working with kids and seeing the gains they made,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell teaches reading, writing, math, science, health and social studies. She said it depended on the child, but all of her students seem to enjoy every subject.

She said music helps the children calm down, but it also “hypes them up” when needed.

“We love to dance and sing,” she said.

Mitchell said she is amazed how complex the minds of 5- and 6-year-old children are.

“They are so funny, loving, caring and hardworking,” she said, “and they always want to please you.”

The students are making her a better person, as well.

“When I went into teaching, I never thought that I would be learning from them,” she said. “They teach me to be more silly and carefree.”

She said the children make her laugh every day, and she returns the favor.

One challenging aspect of her career is dealing with all the personalities in her classroom and meeting the needs of each student, she said.

“Teachers educate the future, and if I don’t do my part in teaching the basics, I am not only failing them, I am also failing myself,” Mitchell said.

If she sees her students struggling, she works with them to get them where they need to be.

“Teaching is more than making sure that they learn, it’s about teaching them to be better people, to respect themselves and everyone else,” she said. “I am helping to prepare them for their future.”

Gwendolyn Mukes, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, said Mitchell has an intuitive teaching factor needed in the education profession.

“It was apparent that (she) was a natural,” Mukes said.

Mitchell’s second-grade teacher, Kathy Stybr, was her favorite teacher when she attended Spaght and one influence that pushed her toward a teaching career.

“She helped me to love learning,” Mitchell said. “On the last day of school she read (“I Love You Forever”) to us, and she cried. I read to my students on the last day, and I cried, too.”

Mitchell said working with co-op was the practice she needed to be prepared.

“Co-op gave her real-world job experiences and allowed her the freedom to test her wings,” Mukes said.

“The hands-on experience that I gained is unbelievable,” Mitchell said. “Everyone should do it.”

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Created on Wednesday, September 02, 2009; Last modified on Wednesday, September 02, 2009