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Teacher of the Month: Carla Mitchell works to make art important at Whitlow Elementary
Whitlow Elementary School art teacher Carla Mitchell poses for a portrait photo Monday, Oct. 8, 2019. - photo by Brian Paglia

Carla Mitchell was picked on in the fourth- and fifth-grade at Chestnut Mountain Elementary School in Flowery Branch. “That’s a vulnerable age,” Mitchell said, so two years ago, the art teacher at Whitlow Elementary School wanted to help fourth- and fifth-grade girls have a different experience.

That summer, Mitchell painted the entire fourth- and fifth-grade girls bathroom with inspirational quotes. She put them on walls, bathroom stall doors, above sinks. “True beauty comes from within.” “Always stay humble and kind.” “Go the extra mile. It’s never crowded.” “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  “Be your own kind of beautiful.” “Kindness is free. Sprinkle that stuff everywhere.”

Teacher of the month ICON WEB

Carla Mitchell

School: Whitlow Elementary School

Years teaching: 10

Subject: Art

“I want them to go in there and feel cheerful and happy about themselves,” Mitchell said.

The Whitlow community appreciated the project, and they continue to express their gratitude for Mitchell – she was recently voted the Forsyth County News’ Teacher of the Month.

The FCN talked with Mitchell about her favorite teacher growing up, her most embarrassing teacher moment and what advice she’d give to new teachers.

FCN: Who was your favorite teacher growing up?

Mitchell: “My favorite teacher was Regina McNeal. She actually taught my mom basketball when my mom was younger. She coached my mom, and she ended up being my first-grade teacher and fifth-grade teacher. She was just so caring and down-to-earth, and she was relatable. She even came to my wedding.

“My favorite art teacher growing up was Ms. Gentile. She was my middle school teacher. She was just very calm, cool, collected. She let me do different projects than the rest of the class.”

FCN: What was your first year of teaching like?

Mitchell: “The first year’s just stressful, because you’re trying to learn the whole school, you’re trying to learn all the people that are your colleagues, and just learning your way around. But after I got my first year under my belt, it was a breeze. And there was another full-time art teacher that kind of showed me the way, Hannah Goforth.”

FCN: What’s your most recent embarrassing teacher moment?

Mitchell: “It’s always an adventure in here. You would think after 10 years of being an art teacher that I would realize that my paint pumps clog up. I should realize this, because I’ve been squirted with paint millions of times. Whenever you press really hard, it shoots straight out at you. I’ve been covered in paint so many times. I’ve shot it across the classroom. It’s gotten on kids before.”

FCN: What’s your favorite thing about teaching?

Mitchell: “You kind of feel like a rock star being a specials teacher, because you get to see all of the kids. They all know you by name, so when you walk down the hallway you hear, ‘Hey, Ms. Mitchell!’

“Just the energy with them coming into the classroom, they want to be here, they’re artistic and they have a passion for art. I just love seeing them do what they do, because it blows me away with some of the things they can draw.”

FCN: What’s your advice for new teachers?

Mitchell: “Take time for yourself. And advocate for your program. I took that and developed a Whitlow Elementary School art Facebook page. Being a specials teacher, I don’t have that connection with parents like your regular teacher does, so I want them to see what we’re doing in the classroom. I want people to know that art is important.” 

Have a favorite teacher that you want to show your appreciation for? Nominate them for the October Teacher of the Month contest! The winning teacher will receive recognition and gifts from Fountain Financial Advisors and Primrose School of Cumming North. To nominate a teacher, click here.