#MNPSVoices: Andy Mizell, EL Teacher

MNPSVoices Andy Mizell Andy Mizell has had a fascinating journey of conflict, tragedy, forgiveness and joy. While he had planned on being an artist and studied art in college on a full ride scholarship to Lipscomb University to play tennis, it was a chance mission trip to Haiti for one year that sowed seeds of doubt for his future as an artist. It was during this time he realized he enjoyed communicating with people wanting to learn English.

“I visited Haiti four times that year. I really enjoyed helping others, but I remember saying the last thing I ever wanted to do in life was to be a teacher. It wasn’t until I graduated from Lipscomb that I considered teaching,” said Mizell, who is a now an English Language Learner (ELL) teacher at Margaret Allen Middle School.

After participating in a teacher-in-training interview, and then five days later getting married, he began working full-time as a teacher at Margaret Allen Middle Prep School – the same school he still works today as a 5th-8th grade ELL teacher.

Mizell admits while he struggled his first year as a teacher with feelings of frustration, he was fortunate to meet another teacher who began to mentor him. “She taught me how to teach, how to handle myself in the classroom and it changed my life,” Mizell said, adding that he flourished under her guidance. Now, eight years later, he’s enriching the lives of his ELL students by introducing them to complex books on a number of subjects such as the Holocaust.

Mizell has had many experiences as an educator, including tragedy when one of his brightest ELL students, with a promising talent in art, was tragically killed in a car accident. The student’s love of reading, art and history were an inspiration to him.

His sorrow from her passing pushed him to mark her life with a beautiful courtyard at the school. Not only that, he reached out to his former student’s favorite Holocaust speaker, Eva Kor, a twin survivor of medical experimentation at Auschwitz, human rights champion and forgiveness advocate.

Mizell moved mountains to get Kor to come to the opening of the memorial garden, which they named Eva’s Kortyard – a place where conflict can be resolved and forgiveness, flowers and fountains flow.

Mizell thinks about his former student often and how she would have wanted him to forgive the driver that took her life. He has embraced that forgiveness and has found immense joy in the process.

The visit from Kor was an affirmation for him and his students that with hard work, passion and a little luck, one can all build hope for a brighter future.

Since that time, Mizell created a YouTube video that features the voice of an ELL student from Margaret Allen. This video, produced and written by him for his students, commemorates their collective achievements of simultaneously learning English, meeting Kor and building a memorial garden that forever represents a place that encourages students to resolve conflict and to forgive freely.