From the time she was 4, Martha Mitchell wanted to go to school. Although she couldn’t attend at that age, she’s done more than achieve that goal — becoming a teacher, administrator and coach with Ector County Independent School District.
But now Mitchell is retiring after 46 years.
Currently the principal at Lamar Early Education Center, Mitchell began her career at Permian High School in the 1971-72 school year and taught there for 23 years. She also coached gymnastics there and was highly decorated.
Mitchell earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Lamar and was hired as a PE teacher and gymnastics coach by Bob Clark, then the coordinator for physical education and related sports.
Mitchell earned her master’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin and obtained her supervisor’s certification and principal’s certification from UTPB, as well.
She started her administrative career at Blackshear Elementary, then moved to Ector Middle School, Burleson Elementary, Goliad Elementary, and finally Lamar, where she has been for six years.
She retired from Burleson in 2008, but the district asked her to take over at Goliad in the middle of the next school year.
“I came back and figured out that I really wasn’t ready to retire at that point,” Mitchell said.
She stayed at Goliad for two and a half years and never thought she would be a prekindergarten principal, but she has “absolutely loved it” because establishing a foundation for those children is so important.
“If the children get off to a good start with pre-k, the research shows that they’re much more successful if they’ve had pre-k experience, so I’ve enjoyed that,” she said.
Executive Director of Athletics Todd Vesely has known Mitchell since he started with ECISD in 1985 and said she has been a good friend and mentor her whole career, helping countless teachers and students. Vesely also coached gymnastics with her.
Vesely said Mitchell is one of those people who is just special.
“She was an extraordinary coach; she was an extraordinary principal; she’s been an extraordinary mentor to many of us in the district. She was an outstanding president of the state organization. The only thing she was not good at was retirement. I think she’ll be better at it this time. She deserves the rest,” Vesely said.
The state association he’s referring to is the Texas High School Gymnastics Coaches Association.
Mitchell said people told her she would know the right time to retire and this was the right time for her.
“I’m a very competitive person. I feel accomplished. I feel like I’ve completed the race. …,” she said.
Her goal was always to make a difference, and the 69-year-old Wichita Falls native said she feels satisfied with what she’s done.
“I feel blessed. I feel so much love and joy in my heart for ECISD and the relationships that I’ve had here with teachers, administrators, students (and) parents. It’s been a wonderful career. It’s been a wonderful time. I think I’m ready for that next journey, which is retirement,” Mitchell said.
One of the things she’s looking forward to is having time to enjoy family, traveling, playing golf or just reading a book.
“I’m not the kind that’s ever bored, so I don’t think I’ll have a problem. I think I’ll always find something to do and I won’t be bored in retirement,” Mitchell said.
She added that she doesn’t think she’ll return to the education field for work, but she does plan to stay in the Permian Basin and a part of the Education Partnership.
The Education Partnership is a cross-section of leaders including members from the education, business, government, law enforcement, foundation, nonprofit and religious communities that is working to improve education in Odessa.
She noted that she’s always said community and parental involvement is needed in the district and the Education Partnership is working toward that goal.
“We need businesses to be involved and to support us and to support the teachers and students. I think that’s a key element. I’m so excited to see that happen,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said she has always enjoyed school and wanted to attend from the time she was 4 years old, but there was no prekindergarten at the time.
“I have enjoyed going to school as a student, and being a teacher and administrator. That’s been my life, so to now say I can have some time to just do what I want to do I think I’m going to enjoy that,” she said.
Mitchell said she was in education for students and teachers.
“I think the accountability has definitely increased over the years. We’ve always been accountable, but I think even more so today,” she said.
Asked if that plays a role ECISD having beginning teachers and experienced teachers, but not as many in the middle, Mitchell said teaching is hard work.
“Maybe being a new teacher and just learning what teaching is all about and on top of that having the accountability hanging over your head, perhaps that does have some effect on new teachers,” she said. “ECISD is a family. I hope that we make new teachers feel welcome and know that they have mentors that will help them,” she added.
Having served at all levels of primary and secondary education, Mitchell said she has loved all of it and it has helped her as an administrator because she knows what youngsters at Lamar have to accomplish.
“I’m going to miss the love of school, the love of children, teachers and parents and the relationships that I’ve formed. That will always be my biggest memory of my career and I hope that I’ve made a difference for people. (When) you touch that many lives, that’s all you can hope for,” she said.
Registration for pre-k will be July 18 and July 19. She stressed that pre-k is free for all students in Ector County. You just have to be 4 years old by Sept. 1 to sign up.
Another aspect that makes her feel good about stepping away is that she feels the campus will be in good hands with new principal MaryJane Hutchins.
“The things that I have done here and she’s been a part of … I know those things are going to continue and she’s going to do a great job,” Mitchell said.