‘I try to go into it with love,’ says Lanett High Schools Teacher of the Year

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, January 18, 2023

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Most athletes learn to be adaptable and cool under pressure. Lanett High School’s Family and Consumer Science teacher and athletic trainer Bella Mitchell exemplifies that model well.

In her fourth year at Lanett High School, Mitchell was recognized as the Teacher of the Year for hard work inside and outside of the classroom.

Mitchell, from Texas, knew she wanted to be an athletic trainer when she was in high school. While attending Texas Lutheran University, she realized that she also wanted to pursue teaching.

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“When we were studying or having little group sessions, I would be teaching whatever we were trying to learn, and I realized I’m actually pretty good at this,” Mitchell said. “I really enjoy seeing that lightbulb moment for students.”

While at Auburn University for her master’s degree, Mitchell got a student assistantship at Lanett High School and found her home. 

“It just felt like very much a family and like I said I got to know the athletes and their families, and I was like, I could see myself here long-term,” Mitchell said. 

In 2020, Mitchell fell into the role of FACS teacher at Lanett High School. The previous teacher had recently retired, and Mitchell stepped in while the school looked for a replacement. After two weeks of teaching, Mitchell requested to interview for the position permanently. 

“Even before I took this role here, I would cook for the teams, the coaches,” Mitchell said. “It’s literally tying in all the things I love to do outside of school. So I think it was literally the perfect job for me.”

Students are equipped to be college and career ready when they leave Mitchell’s classroom. Students in the foods course get Serv-Safe, food handler or manager certifications. In the child development class, they complete child and babysitting safety training, and athletic training students learn CPR and first aid training. 

“I’m always trying to equip them with something that they can take with them, whether they’re doing a summer job, or they want that to be a career,” Mitchell said. “And then again, just life — college, career or life ready.”

Mitchell’s work outside the classroom is a far range. As the FACS teacher, she buys supplies like groceries and plans projects. On top of teaching, she is the athletic trainer, so she attends practices and games as well.

“The easiest thing is teaching. I always say this the hardest thing is all the other stuff,” Mitchell said. 

After the pandemic, she restarted the Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America club. In the past year, the club has hosted events and fundraisers like the Holiday Market on Dec. 3. Mitchell took inspiration from her own high school and started the sports medicine program. In the program, students learn skills covering every sports team.

When she was announced the teacher of the year, Mitchell said her principal praised her for the work she does outside of class. 

“He said I’m always trying to plan something like either with my club or in class that is engaging,” Mitchell said. “I always have something on the calendar for students to look forward to.”

As an instructor, Mitchell tries to make sure that her students have fun while they learn. She also takes inspiration from a quote by Rita Pearson that every child deserves a champion. Even if she’s having a bad day, Mitchell said her students don’t need to know it. 

“It’s so joyful to see my students learning and seeing them having fun,” Mitchell said. 

Mitchell sees her relationships with her students as her main accomplishment. She makes an effort to get to know each student as a whole to understand their strengths and weaknesses. 

Last year, Mitchell had a student who got in trouble all throughout the day until she entered the FACS classroom. 

When Mitchell asked her what was different about her class, the student told her that she listens. Many of her students have developed a similar bond with her.

“I never had a teacher like that, so I want to be that for my students,” Mitchell said. 

Mitchell also lives by First Corinthians 13 and that she tries to bring love into her teaching rather than anger.

“Instead of teaching with emotion, I try to go into it with love, because love is one thing that doesn’t falter,” Mitchell said.