Interview and Photos by Jan Osborn.
Since February 26, United to Learn (U2L), a Dallas-based nonprofit that partners with Dallas ISD elementary schools to accelerate student achievement and grow purposeful leaders, has been hosting its fifth annual citywide Community Campus Day events. So far, the organization has hosted three Saturday events in 2022 and the next Community Campus Day will be held this Saturday, April 9.
During these Community Campus Day Saturdays, United to Learn mobilizes community volunteers from companies, schools, and other organizations to improve campus cultures across 45 elementary schools. The remaining events will occur on April 9 and April 23.
This Saturday, United to Learn is hosting a rally at John Neely Bryan Elementary, where there will be student performances, music by DJ Elusive, activities, games and more. In addition to the rally, volunteers will be on site to paint and update the teachers’ lounge.
Dallas Doing Good interviewed John Neely Bryan’s Principal Vickie Mitchell to learn more about her journey in education and the impact of United to Learn’s Community Campus Day.
Would you share your story of why you decided to get into education? What inspires you to continue your journey?
I grew up in a community with several teachers. Actually, two of my elementary teachers lived on the same street as my family. I was always surrounded by teachers throughout the community and church. As a high school student, I volunteered at an elementary school as a part of the Future Teachers of America Program. I worked with children with special needs, and I loved it! At that point, I knew that I wanted to become a special education teacher. I majored in special education at the University of North Texas and earned a Masters degree at Texas Woman’s University certified as a diagnostician. I retired as an Area Superintendent/Senior Executive Director in Dallas ISD, and I thoroughly enjoy assisting schools to ensure student success.
What was your catalyst for becoming a principal? Is there a specific story or event that propelled you to want to become a principal?
While serving as a teacher at Robert L. Thornton Elementary in Dallas ISD, I observed the administrators and their leadership styles. I knew that I had a passion for leadership in education and a desire to make a difference in students’ lives on a larger scale beyond the classroom. As a teacher, I became a leader within my department and decided to return to TWU to receive my administrative certification. While in graduate school, my principal adjusted the schedule and allowed me to teach a half day and assist her with administrative duties the remainder of the day for an entire school year. It was the best preparation to move into an administrative role. I served as an assistant principal for three years and served as a principal for 15 years (elementary/middle/high school). Afterwards, I became an Area Superintendent to oversee schools and programs in Dallas ISD. I retired in 2012, and I am currently serving as the Interim Principal at John Neely Bryan. It was has been exciting to return to the campus to continue to serve in the capacity of supporting students and staff.
Tell us about United to Learn’s community campus day and how this project and this day impact your learning community?
We are most appreciative of the support provided by United to Learn. The Community Campus Day will certainly benefit the campus and improve the school climate. The project includes painting student lockers in the school color and decorating the faculty/staff lounge. United to Learn also facilitates partners for our school with community businesses, like EY, to benefit our parents and students with valuable resources. Through United to Learn, EY invested in our school donating many technology resources which support classrooms and helps close the digital divide faced by many families. United to Learn also arranged a day on campus for EY to tutor students and support math teachers preparing lesson materials. It truly takes community partners to assist schools in meeting the needs of our students.
Why do you feel organizations like United to Learn are important for our local schools?
When schools and organizations like United to Learn partner, everyone benefits. The partnership has improved the academic program by providing valuable resources for students and teachers. It truly supports student outcomes.
What is your vision for John Neely Bryan school five years from today?
My vision for John Neely Bryan is to be a high performing campus with students having a joy for learning. By the time they are fifth grade students, I’d like to see those currently in kindergarten serving as student leaders on the campus and performing on and above grade level in reading and math.
For more information about United to Learn, go to unitedtolearn.org.