November 19, 2017

Connie Mitchell | Movers & Shakers 2003

Rekindling the Flame

You could say Connie Mitchell was born to be a teacher and librarian with an old-fashioned passion to help children read. After years of helping her teacher mother build and maintain a school library collection, Mitchell realized this was her calling, too.

She knows that reluctant readers in her high school were once first-graders who loved being read to and longed to unravel the mysteries of the printed page. “If our students don’t enjoy reading,” she says, “we need to rekindle the flame they carried in second grade.”

Mitchell exploits all kinds of student motivations, whether bribing them with M&Ms or providing the joy of beating the faculty in her Stump the Teachers program (teachers must identify the books from students’ descriptions). Mitchell plays on their generosity by having older students serve as “Book Buddies” to elementary kids. She gives students a modest amount of power by having them choose books for the summer reading list.

The best motivation is pride in their accomplishments with language, and Mitchell offers them plenty of opportunities to express themselves. She teaches them to turn favorite books into skits and readers’ theater. With one of the teachers, she sponsors a student writers group. Its monthly coffeehouse event gives students a chance to read or perform their works, and an annual anthology presents the best student writing. The group also brings in authors to work with students in the classroom, and sometimes they travel off-campus to hear writers speak.

Mitchell doesn’t confine her efforts to her own students. She is active in Indiana library associations, where she has presented programs on techniques to engage students in reading and on assessing library media programs. She initiated the Eliot Rosewater High School Book Award and served on the awards committee. The Indiana Library Federation has honored her for her exemplary work, but her real reward is the variety of the job itself. “Work at something you love,” Mitchell says. “When you stop loving it, change your job or your way of doing it.”

Vitals

Current Position: Media Specialist/English Teacher, Carmel High School, IN

Degree: MLS, Indiana University, 1992

Award: Indiana Library Federation Leadership Award, 2002


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