#MNPSVoices: Gary Mitchell, Educational Assistant and Lead Custodian – Napier Elementary School

Gary Mitchell enjoys his work with Metro Nashville Public Schools so much so that he decided to take on double duties. Mitchell serves not only as an educational assistant in a Pre-K classroom at Napier Elementary School, but is also the lead custodian there, too.


Mitchell, who has been with the district since 2003, started his career at Napier as a custodian.  He recalls the encouragement he received from the head custodian at the time, who he said saw something special in him.

“He told me I worked well with the students, especially in the areas of conflict resolution,” Mitchell said. “He said, ‘this can’t be it for you’ and encouraged me to go back to school and finish my degree.”

Mitchell is a product of the MNPS and grew up in a household that encouraged education. His father is a biologist and his mother is a registered nurse.

“I get my work ethic and drive from my parents,” he said. “I watched them go from having little to having plenty and I wanted that for myself. When I was 14 years old, my dad made me start my own lawn cutting business; he showed me how to work hard.” Mitchell said that his mother was more of a nurturer which is one of the reasons, he enjoys helping others and desires to become a teacher.

With the support and encouragement from the custodial staff, teachers and administrators in his school, Mitchell went back to school and graduated from Tennessee State University in December 2018 with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and Sociology. Mitchell has plans to continue his education and obtain his certification to become a teacher.

As for his work with MNPS, he gets an early start doing what he loves reporting at 7:30 a.m. each morning to greet Pre-K students and then transitioning into his custodial duties around 2:30 p.m. He takes pride in both jobs and works hard to make sure they are both done well.

“One thing I respect about Dr. Lawless [principal of Napier] is that she wants to shift people’s mindset about the school and that we are a community school that takes pride in all things that happen inside of our building,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said when he is not working for MNPS, he enjoys fishing or just relaxing – although he says he does not get much downtime, not even on weekends.

“I like to spend my free time helping others,” he said. “When I see a need, I try to meet it. This journey has been amazing. I love the Napier school staff and this community and I have no plans to go anywhere any time soon.”