We Are All Sparkly Diamonds, and Mrs. Julie Mitchell Shines the Brightest

Mrs. Mitchell radiates positivity, joy and passion into the upbeat atmosphere she creates.


Picture of Mrs. Julie Mitchell taken by Melissa Rich

Kailey Pickering, Senior Staff Writer

As she enters the room with a bubbly, charismatic energy, everyone begins to relax, and smiles cover their faces as she begins talking. Whatever subject it is, she can easily grab anyone’s attention with the thought provoking topic. She is a cherished teacher and colleague, friend and inspiration. This is a modest description of Julie Mitchell, Geology and AP Environmental Sciences teacher at Erie High School.

Mitchell has a very unique energy about her that attracts many people to laugh and talk with her. With her easy going personality and extreme positivity, it is easy to see the extravagant teacher she truly is.

Like any teacher, Mitchell’s story begins far before the classroom. Mitchell grew up in New York, in the Hudson River Valley, spending her childhood summers at Schroon Lake where she played games like Mother May I, and Red Light Green Light. Mitchell read, and enjoyed the outdoors with her cousins. The first month of her sixth grade year, Mitchell stayed at her family’s house in Schroon Lake. The boring days seemed to get longer and longer, so she began walking around the lake collecting rocks. This moment, among so many others, helped spark the lifelong passion for science and the earth that Mitchell harbors.

Another spark occurred when Mitchell was sitting in one of her college geology classes: “I was sitting there and the professor was showing slide after slide of all these places and I just thought how beautiful they were and how big the world was and how little of it I had seen and I just wanted to see more,” Mitchell conveys one time she was drawn to the science of our earth. What a powerful way to be drawn to something so insanely interesting; seeing the beauty in life seems to be one of Mitchell’s various specialties.

But there is so much more to the countless number of reasons why Mitchell is so in love with science. Mitchell explains; “In geology they do this thing where they measure out time from 4.6 billion years ago till now and it’s about four and a half meters long. The amount of time that humans have been on Earth is thinner than a piece of hair.” The fact that our race has hardly even made a dent in this huge life span is a concept that is mind blowing and continues to fascinate Mitchell – for good reason too. Think about it, four and a half meters of time and humans have only taken part in a hair’s worth.

Yet there is still so much more to Mitchell’s story, a big part of which includes us, and how we interact with the environment as well as ourselves. Another type of science that Mrs. Mitchell has fallen in love with is yoga. During yoga, it is all about you; your mind, your body, your attitude. Mitchell loves that “You’re always in the same space no matter where you are. What I mean by that is you roll out your mat and get on your own space on your mat and it’s just you, it’s your own thing, it’s your own practice.”

Yoga is all about energy; good and bad. There is energy that you need to fuel your life and keep you going, and energy you must release in order to relax and move on with life. According to Mitchell, it is important to remember to breathe during yoga. When life is throwing you crazy and outrageous situations, you have to breathe and relax before you can open your eyes and take on these problems. Mitchell is an excellent model of calmness, kindness and consideration. In Mitchell’s eyes, what is important is “Being compassionate to yourself, and that is something that we as women never remember to do, we aren’t as compassionate for ourselves as we ought to be.” It is crucial to remember that before you can do anything, you must love yourself, otherwise you will lack the confidence and the organization necessary to continue. To be kind and understanding to others we must first love ourselves.

This past August, we all marveled at the eclipse, Mitchell included. The eclipse was a huge event that affected her life and brought her a new perspective. Mitchell describes the experience in great detail; “It got a little dimmer and darker and we were like this is weird, and then everything got dark. And I had heard about this, I had heard that everything gets dark and prepare for it but it is nothing like being there and looking around and it is as if time has stopped and you’re sitting there and everything gets quiet, the dogs are freaking out and even the babies are not crying and everything is this weird, dark color. There is this coolness on your skin that you can not wrap your head around it and you are trying to but you can’t, so it is all in this weird loop in your brain and nothing is shifting. So you think for a moment, is this how it is going to be? And then, just when you think that is how it is going to be, this bright, diamond like sparkle comes out and that is when you realize that everything is going to be alright.”            

That is something so important to remember; that in the midst of whatever eclipse you are in the middle of, everything is going to be alright. Mitchell is full of so many helpful tips, quotes and advice, but this might be one of her most powerful.

With all of her wonderful advice, Mitchell makes for a truly outstanding teacher. When she first started teaching, Mitchell had no idea she would completely fall in love with it. Her plan at the time was to get her masters degree in teaching, teach for five years, and then figure out what she wanted to do. Mitchell giggles at the obliviousness of her former self, not realizing that the door she had opened would lead to a lifelong passion. After graduating from college with a masters degree in teaching, Mitchell started teaching at Hilton New York “And somewhere along the way, I just realized that I loved teaching and that was my passion and here I am 20 years later.” Mitchell has continued her passion of teaching for the past 20 years, ten of which have been at Erie High School.

Over the years she has spent teaching, Mitchell has affected many people, including students and colleagues. So many of Mitchell’s students have been greatly impacted by her teaching style, in addition to her enthusiasm and positive energy. Cydnie O’Brien voices “I love Mrs. Mitchell! She is such an energetic person and she always strives to make her students better, she makes you want to be there.” O’Brien had Mitchell in the 2016-2017 school year for AP Environmental Sciences, and always looked forward to Mitchell’s classes; “She makes everything fun, you find things outside [the classroom] that apply to what we have studied.” O’Brien says that Mitchell is “Like a flower,” she is kind and charismatic, and influences others in great ways.

Lauren Campbell loves Mrs. Mitchell and her teaching style. “She is the best teacher I have ever had, she is so upbeat and kind, and she never takes it out on students,” reflects Campbell. When Campbell took AP Environmental Sciences in the 2016-2017 school year, she feels that she learned a lot, inside and outside of the textbook. “She [Mitchell] teaches you lessons you can not find in a book,” says Campbell. Because of this relaxed yet lively teaching style, so many students like Campbell and O’Brien have been drawn to Mitchell’s classes. Campbell continues to explain that her relationship with Mitchell is one she can always rely on. Mitchell always has a “Little piece of wisdom that inspires me to get through the situation I am in,” explains Campbell, who is very fond of Mitchell and how “She cares for her students, and takes it to another level.” For Campbell, Mitchell has truly “Put high school in perspective.”

Mitchell has a way of affecting people anywhere she goes; who would not be affected by her positivity, charisma and compassion? Kelly Shipley, who is a close friend of Mitchell, and teaches Chemistry and AP Research at Erie High School is just as energetic and positive as Mitchell. Shipley recalls meeting Mitchell for the first time, “When I first met her [Mitchell], she just seemed like a very happy, go-lucky person. I thought I kind of want to get to know her a little more, so I kind of stalked her a little bit,” Shipley laughs at the memory. Mitchell and Shipley have became good friends ever since, with both women sharing a love for science and teaching. Shipley exclaims “She is Julie Mitchell, she is a larger than life person!” The two friends have helped each other grow and laugh over the years. Shipley explains that Mitchell “Is an inspiration to work with, she loves her job, she loves her students, she is so passionate and she is easy to work with; not a lot of people are.” But then again, few people are comparable to Julie Mitchell.

Not a lot of people are as passionate, positive, charismatic and as loving as Julie Mitchell. If there is one thing that describes the entire essence of Mitchell, it would have to be passion. Mitchell’s passion has fueled her love for nature and the outdoors just as equally as it has powered her love for teaching. Mitchell sees so much and believes so strongly in her students, it is remarkable. Mitchell expresses that “Inspiring you or even just having you be inspired,” is  her goal for her students. Mitchell wants her students to leave the four walls of her classroom feeling motivated, confident, and ready to take on the world!

Part of our distorted culture are the people who doubt us, and will always view teenagers as inexperienced, entitled kids. These are the people who drive Mitchell crazy. Mitchell elaborates that “I hate it when people say ‘oh, teenagers these days, blah blah blah.’ Like that, I can not stand that because first of all, the teenagers are kids, and the adults are what made these teenagers who they are, so you know we can look at ourselves. And also I think you guys are way more interconnected and way more aware.” Mitchell believes in her students, she sees things that not many can see, and she tries to help her students to see their amazing potential.

Mitchell wants to be someone positive who her students can fall back on and seek advice from. Mitchell articulates that “In five years, you will not remember that I taught you this or I taught you that, but that you had a positive person and that you can move forward, because isn’t that really what life is about? Just being happy and being positive.”

Mitchell is an exemplary model of being happy and positive; her attitude rubs off on her students. O’Brien says “I love how nice she [Mitchell] is to everyone who comes into her classroom, even if it is a student from the office bringing in a pass, she is always so kind and so happy to see anyone who comes into her classroom; I just aspire to be like her.”

How else does Mitchell impact her students? She is constantly thinking of others and how she can help them. In the classroom, Mitchell meets the needs of her students when they seem to be struggling. Every student has a different way of learning and absorbing content, whether that is through color coding notes, researching real life examples, or the use of visual aids.

Mitchell is a teacher who is easy to confront. There are many teachers who can be difficult to confront and as a result, students decide to avoid the intimidating or awkward conversation. However, Mitchell makes it very clear to her students that they can talk to her about any of their needs. Mitchell does not only send this message verbally; it is conveyed by the relaxed way she talks and acts. Mitchell creates an easy going and stress free atmosphere for her students, and works hard to bring a soothing and anxiety free environment to her classroom.

When students confront Mitchell about something that is bothering them, whether it is a test score, a concept they cannot seem to grasp, or even a personal problem, Mitchell accepts them with serenity and comforts their frazzled nerves. She offers solutions that ease their worries and leaves them feeling lighter and less strained. With Mitchell, nothing seems to be forced or pressed.

Mitchell can make people feel so much better about themselves through her constant upbeat attitude and positivity. Mitchell is always smiling and laughing, always welcoming and embracing. Her positive energy rubs off easily on other people; people who are around Mitchell tend to mimic her encouraging and enthusiastic way of life. The feeling Mitchell sends out is one of a laid back, relaxing atmosphere. If you are worried or stressed, go talk to Mitchell, and she will calmly bring your anxiety down to the point where you were wondering why it was bubbling over in the first place.

Cydnie O’Brien put Mitchell and her unique energy into a beautiful metaphor. “She’s like a flower,” says O’Brien. And she couldn’t be more right; Mitchell is a flourishing, dancing, vibrant blossom. She fills an entire room with her prominent aura of positivity. Mitchell shines inside and out, with animated genuinity and charisma.

Mrs. Mitchell stands out in any crowd with her unique perspective on life, and techniques to conquer the problems life throws. She always stays encouraging through the hardships, supportive as others come to her with obstacles, and cheerful in the very essence of life. In Mitchell’s own words, “We are all sparkly diamonds,” and Mrs. Mitchell shines the brightest.

Picture of Mrs. Julie Mitchell taken by Melissa Rich