2019 Commerce Magazine Book_Cmmrc_PROOF1 - Page 11

Twenty-four kindergarten students walk into their classroom at Westwood Elementary INSIDE THE CLASSROOM each day with smiles on their faces. Each year in Stillwater, one teacher is honored as the teacher of the year. This teacher represents all Stillwater teachers and is rec- 2018 Teacher of the Year ognized by their peers and the community. T his year, the award went to Tera Mitchell, a kindergarten teacher at Westwood Elementary light bulbs click in their minds in that ‘A-ha!’ in her eleventh year of teaching. moment,” Mitchell said. Mitchell fi rst came to Stillwater at age 18 to Mitchell said her classroom sizes have also attend Oklahoma State University, but teaching changed during her time at Westwood. She used wasn’t always her fi rst choice. She started col- to have a maximum of 18 students in her class- lege pursuing a career as an accountant but soon room and this year has a class of 24 students. realized that was not the path for her. She took a Despite these changes, Mitchell loves her faculty break from school to join the work force in Still- water and had her fi rst daughter, who inspired her to become a teacher. Shortly after her daughter was born, the tragic OSU plane crash occurred in 2001. 20 the students to help them reach their potential and drive them to learn. “There is nothing that anyone wouldn’t do for each other in this building, whether it be here at school or at home,” Mitchell said. “We truly have ever seen,” Mitchell said. “In that moment, are a family here.” I knew I didn’t want to leave Stillwater.” Not only has Mitchell felt supported at Westwood, When her daughter started kindergarten, but also by the Stillwater community. She was Mitchell went back to college to begin her edu- amazed at the number of donations during the cation degree and has not looked back since. She teacher walk-out last year. It’s the support of the has spent her entire teaching career in the same community that helps the schools be at their best. “We appreciate the community’s support more “I teach the kids when they are little, so I give than anything,” Mitchell said. “We spend so them their fi rst taste of education,” Mitchell said. much time with their children, and we want what’s best for them.” new and exciting.” Mitchell focuses on each student as an indi- The fi rst six weeks of Mitchell’s kindergarten vidual and realizes that they all come from dif- class focuses on building community and per- ferent homes, backgrounds and learning levels. sonal relationships with the children in her She takes an interest in each one of them and classroom. She and her students spend so much makes an eff ort to show them all compassion time together that getting to know each other and to meet them where they are to help them and building trust and respect is crucial for the reach their potential and grow confi dence for beginning of the year. years to come. During her years as a teacher, she has seen early “I hope they leave my classroom knowing they childhood classrooms change drastically. At the are absolutely more than capable of doing any- beginning of her career, the children in her class- thing that they want to,” Mitchell said. “I believe rooms were able to learn through play, but kin- that about each of them, and I hope they believe dergarten now has a curriculum and is much that, too.” more academic. She says it adds a lot more pres- sure but the children are rising to the occasion. 21 BY K A MIK A R AL STIN at Westwood wants to build a community for together was one of the most inspiring things I “When they come in my classroom, everything is — TERA MITCHELL and fellow teachers at Westwood. Each teacher “Watching the Stillwater community come classroom at Westwood. “I think the best part of it for me is watching the light bulbs click in their minds in that ‘A-ha!’ moment.” “I think the best part of it for me is watching the