Retired educator returns to school to help students


Published: Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 3:08 p.m.
A love for interacting with students and the arts has led a former area educator back into the classroom to help east Gainesville students to learn.
"I became interested in tutoring at Duval (Elementary Fine Arts Academy) when I first heard of the district's fine arts academy magnet program in 2003," said Catherine Mickle, who retired in 1996 after 37 years in the Alachua County school system, the last 22 as a business education teacher at Eastside High School.
Mickle said her and her husband's health prevented her from becoming a volunteer at that time, but the idea never left her.
"It has always haunted me and stayed on my mind as I tried to work it into my schedule," Mickle said. "I love the arts, and feel that I can be an asset to Mrs. (Angela) Terrell by promoting and participating in this much-needed program at Duval. Our children need this kind of exposure."
Mickle, who began volunteering at the school last fall, said she had the pleasure of accompanying the chorus to Shands at AGH, where they performed Christmas carols before the winter break.
"They were superb, and everyone enjoyed listening to the beautiful sounds of Christmas music," she said. "What impressed me the most is that they seemed happy singing. I love to see children feel happy about what they are doing - whether it is reading a book, solving a math problem, eating lunch, or doing chores at home.''
She said she could tell the students were happy to be performing by the looks on their faces.
"They wanted to be there," she said. "The expressions on their faces showed that they enjoyed what they were doing. The audience was happy and appreciative of their performance. I was inclined to get up and sing with them."
She said she likes the fact that the arts makes students more well-rounded.
"That is meaningful to me," she said.
Mickle visits the school for an hour every Thursday, and she helps with the third-grade class as a whole when they attend keyboard lab or computer lab. However, she also spends individual time with one specific third-grader as well every Thursday.
"I tutor Elisha Davis for one hour every Thursday," Mickle said. "He looks forward to my coming to help reinforce what he is learning in class."
Mickle said in addition to reviewing for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or the FCAT, they are studying fractions, decimals and plane figures.
Mickle said it makes her feel good that Elisha has taken a liking to her.
"I like the fact that Elisha wants to come with me," Mickle said. "Nobody has to force him. That makes me feel good because it means I have built a rapport with him. When I leave here, I know I have provided a little sparkle in Elisha's day."
Mickle said every student needs a little sparkle in their day.
"When I look into one's eyes, I'm looking to see if that person is glowing or happy," Mickle said, adding that that will let her know more times than not what kind of disposition the person is in. "I can tell if he is going to go back to class and be good. When I see that sparkle, I know that he is going to be the best he can be."
Mickle said one day she asked Elisha what his talents were, and he responded that he didn't have any. She said she told him that God has given everybody at least one talent. She told him swimming might be his hidden talent, and urged him to take swimming lessons at the end of the school term from her husband, Andrew Mickle Sr., who has taught generations of area blacks to swim.
Elisha said he looks forward to his tutoring sessions with Mickle.
"We have fun together, and she makes me laugh," Elisha said. "We do math, and I have gotten better in math since she has been coming and helping me."
Mickle said she has seen improvement in Elisha's math skills.
"He has proven to me that he can solve the problems," she said.
Mickle said the biggest change in teaching over the years has come in the form of new technology, and she said though technological advances are good, she has seen a decline in certain skills.
"We used to have manual typewriters, and there were no computers when I started teaching," Mickle said. "During those days, students' typing skills were better. Most of my students at that time were typing 70 to 80 words per minute. A lot of my students are retiring now from jobs with the state, local governments and different businesses."
Mickle and her husband will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year. The couple has four sons, Stephan P. Mickle, a federal judge, Darryl L. Mickle, a veterinarian in Atlanta, Jeffery A. Mickle, a local teacher, and Andrew Jr., a geologist who is deceased.
Mickle, who has been living in east Gainesville for close to 50 years, said teachers were her role model when she was growing up. She said Nellyvone Russell, one of her teachers at Stanton High School in Jacksonville, and Joyce Engram, one of her professors at her alma matter, Bethune-Cookman College, were her primary role models.
"They looked like teachers, and they inspired me," she said. "They set examples for me. As teachers, we need to act and dress a certain way, and present ourselves in a professional manner."
Mickle stressed that teachers can only do so much, and that parents must be involved in their children's education.
"Parents should continue to encourage their children to be the very best that they can be and more," Mickle said.
Mickle said education in the black community is all right in its current state, and she said that is evidenced by the number of students receiving scholarships from different organizations. However, she said she would like to see more black males attend institutions of higher learning.
She said the No. 1 problem she sees facing black students today is time management.
"Children should read more, and use cell phones, iPods and other electronic gadgets less," Mickle said. "If this energy is put into reading, learning a skill, or perfecting a God-given talent, one will realize a productive life and should be able to compete with the next person up the ladder to success."

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