by Julianna L.
Mr. Josh Mitchell and Mr. Dan Mitchell share the same last name and same alma mater, having both graduated from Bridgewater State University in December of 2020 and 2021, respectively. But what might be even more intriguing about their similarities is their shared setbacks and benefits from attending college during COVID-19. In light of these remarkable similarities, the two Mr. Mitchells are forging their own paths as new science teachers at Duxbury High School.
Dan Mitchell has been teaching physics at the high school for only four months. “I teach a hard subject, so keeping it light is good for the students and opens the students up. You have to have a growth mindset,” he said.
Similarly, Josh Mitchell is a first-year biology and chemistry teacher. He originally planned to be a physical therapist because of his interest in anatomy and sports, but soon recognized that he would have a greater impact as a teacher.
“I realized the spot with the most potential in the world is a classroom,” he explained.
Both Mr. Mitchells share a similar teaching philosophy that emphasizes the importance of engaging students in the classroom. For Dan Mitchell, it’s all about a welcoming environment to encourage student participation. Likewise, Josh Mitchell believes that the best form of teaching is one that individualizes, differentiates, and considers each student’s needs.
The difficulty of remote and hybrid learning are also familiar concepts to the teachers, who have the experience of enduring college classes through COVID-19 as students of the pandemic.
“When I was trying to learn to be a teacher, I couldn’t even be in a classroom,” said Josh Mitchell. “I never got to shadow anybody or practice lessons in front of my classes. I was able to learn the concepts of being an effective teacher but never got the chance to apply those concepts.”
Josh also notes that the online courses he took were less rigorous and more prone to change than the in-person, original programs offered at Bridgewater State.
“Over Zoom, you don’t get to build those relationships with your fellow classmates and your teacher,” Josh Mitchell said. “You don’t have those opportunities for detours in conversation.”
However, these setbacks during COVID-19 allowed both Mr. Mitchells a greater understanding of what their students also went through during the pandemic. “I think being a young first-year teacher is my greatest asset and my greatest liability,” said Josh Mitchell. “I know for a fact that kids developed bad habits such as cheating or taking the short way out of difficult situations. And I can empathize with this because I fell into some of those bad habits myself as a student during the pandemic and the transition back to “real life” is hard.”
Dan Mitchell found a teaching job at Duxbury right after he finished his classes. “I understand what students went through because I was right there with them,” he said. “We have to do our best to go back to the status quo and catch everybody up.”
On his first day as a teacher, Dan Mitchell found the job intimidating, but rewarding. “It’s definitely more than I anticipated – just setting up the lesson plans, getting worksheets done from scratch,” he said. “It’s been a lot of time, but it’s all fun.”
In fact, Dan started teaching at Duxbury partway through the school year. “It was nerve-wracking because I didn’t know what to expect,” he explained. “I’d spent four years going to school for teaching, so if I came in and didn’t like it, that would’ve been awful. But I enjoyed it!”
By the time Dan Mitchell accepted the position as a teacher, he had graduated Bridgewater State and was managing a restaurant at the time. “I wasn’t planning on beginning teaching until the Fall,” he said.
It’s no wonder Dan Mitchell is a teacher today – his school superlative was, after all, Most School-Spirited. He’s always loved working with other people, like when he was a tour guide for Disney’s Animal Kingdom safari. Now, Dan Mitchell cherishes the different perspectives of his students more than any other aspect of his job.
The worst part of teaching isn’t even about the students at all, for Dan Mitchell.
“It’s the markers!” he says with a laugh. “They run out all the time.”
Dan Mitchell is also an 80s-music enthusiast and phenomenal cook. When he was 15, he even won his town’s junior division hot dog eating contest, eating 12 ½ hot dogs in 10 minutes.
As the third of four brothers, Dan Mitchell’s close relationship with his siblings introduced him to the drama club, since one of his brothers ran a theater company during Dan Mitchell’s high school years.
“Family is always above everything else,” Josh Mitchell agrees. “My oldest brother has autism, so we’re a very open and accepting family. We always try to be kind and generous, and I try to use that in my teaching.”
According to freshman Rachel G., her biology teacher Josh Mitchell creates a welcoming environment in the classroom.
“Mr. Mitchell is a great teacher to have and is really good at communicating with students,” she said. “We have a lot of fun while still retaining the information that’s needed for success.”
Now, Josh Mitchell reflects back on how his former student life impacts him as a teacher today.
“In school, I never had a teacher who could keep me engaged. That’s why I went into teaching,” he said. “I didn’t really realize the meaning of school. I kinda just studied for the test, did well on the test, and moved on. Now, my favorite thing about teaching is when a kid gives me that “aha” moment. That means I’m doing my job.”