Local Schools

Born Into a Family of Educators: Marlee Mitchell Was Born to Teach

I have published about 40 teacher spotlight articles so far in GN and they are a joy for me. I have greatly appreciated all the emails and texts from teachers letting me know how much they appreciate GN giving them a moment to tell their stories.

The honor is mine to be able to share your stories and your passion for teaching our children.

I have decided to end one of the questions I have asked teachers as to what their experiences were like teaching through the pandemic and replace it with the question of what teachers would most like to have in their classrooms if they could have a wish.

Today, we spend a moment with Marlee Mitchell. Marlee is the English Department Chairperson and the Advanced Placement teacher for literature and language at Gardendale High School.

Tell us a little about you and how you decided to become a teacher?

My parents were both educators; I spent hours and hours after school and during the summers in their respective schools.  Shelving books and organizing classrooms were my childhood hobbies, and I loved it.  When the school was empty, it still had that familiar feel to me; it was peaceful, comforting, and fun.  Every classroom was an experience or an exploration: the maps in the social studies rooms, the novels in the literature rooms, the microscopes in the science rooms, the charts in the math rooms.  It was incredible entertainment to me.

When I became a teacher, I wanted to make learning as exciting as possible – to teach in a way where students can laugh, and without them knowing it, create learning experiences.  It is not a poem; it is a block of marble that has been chiseled into a shape with a theme.  It is not a speech; it is a lure leading to a persuasive purpose.  Literature and rhetoric are adventures, mysteries, puzzles that we investigate together.

What is your favorite part of being a teacher?

The epiphany!  I love when they learn literary and rhetorical vocabulary, and they start to see these everywhere.  They see anaphora in songs, in advertisements, in speeches.  They will email me when they spot chiasmus, similes, or asyndeton.  Then, when they start to recognize the purposes of these devices in their essays, this is the pinnacle moment for me.

Are there special moments where you say to yourself “this is why I teach?”

This has to be those pivotal moments during the year when their essays and conversations turn into deeper discussions about themes and connections to life and literature.  The semester begins with more superficial ideas, but as we move along, the students get more creative and elaborate with their analysis.

What’s the one thing you would like people to know about teachers?

We want your child to succeed.

If you had one wish for something special for your classroom, what would it be?

I would love a class set of our yearly novels for the kids.  It would save them money and provide us all with the same versions and page numbers for class reading and analysis.