What started as just a need for a job turned into Andy Mitchell’s career and recently earned him first runner up for the 2017-18 Sonoma County teacher of the year.
Mitchell grew up in the East Bay, and attended Diablo Valley College for his associate’s degree before transferring to Sonoma State University to study history.
“I grew up in Antioch, but got out of there as quick as I could. My wife and I ended up in Sonoma County and said ‘This place is pretty darn nice so I guess we’ll stay,’” Mitchell said.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in history, Mitchell went on to get his teaching credential at Sonoma State.
Mitchell knew growing up that he wanted to be a teacher.
“It was one of those things where I always had good teachers. I always had people that influenced me,” Mitchell said. “When I applied for the job at Sonoma it was for history, but they had other jobs up on the board, including one for yearbook. I thought I could try for that. I just needed a job.”
Photography and yearbook were not new to Mitchell, having been involved in yearbook in middle and high school. Even in college he worked as a photographer.
Since starting at SVHS in 1998, Mitchell has come into his own as a teacher and really loves what he does because of his students.
“I’ve worked with some of the best students that anybody could ever ask for,” Mitchell said. “ I still look at my yearbook classes and my photo classes and a lot of them I still know and still are in contact with.”
What keeps him going is seeing his students proud of something they did and to be a part of that. His goal is for students to go home, and when asked what he learned that day, to say “Hey, look what I made today.”
“You need to listen to the students, hear what they’re doing and be involved in that. I’m in a situation where I’m teaching them a different type of skill,” Mitchell said. “They’re exploring on their own and we’re just nurturing and helping along the way. The key is to be encouraging and push them to challenge themselves.”
Mitchell loves mentoring these young photographers and then to see them come back years later and hear what they’re up to. He has stayed in touch with many of his students.
“When we’re in the arts, we’re kind of making up our assignments and seeing what the kids are interested in and going from there, it’s something that can constantly evolve from one year to the next,” Mitchell said. “I think I have a good rapport with my students, and a good sense of humor. Those types of things really help out.”
Still, Mitchell is completely humbled by this honor. He nominated SVHS History teacher Andy Gibson, who actually nominated him back, so he thought Gibson would’ve gotten it.
“Honestly, I work with such good teachers. My wife is a teacher, my friends are teachers and I know a lot of different teachers and in part I’m happy to represent them and I’m a little embarrassed because I see what all the other teachers are doing,” Mitchell said.