INA, Ill. (April 7, 2020) — She organizes campus-wide cooking competitions. She started a project that allows people to buy gifts for students who may not receive any for the holidays. And on top of everything, she is a dedicated and innovative educator.
For all her efforts, Rend Lake College is pleased to recognize Dr. Jeannie Mitchell as the 2020 Outstanding Faculty Member. She was nominated by her peers for her continuous dedication to her students and their welfare.
“Professor Mitchell has a genuine concern for the well-being of others that is shown time and time again both in and out of the classroom. Her dedication to student engagement and success is to be commended,” said RLC Vice President of Instruction and Student Affairs Lori Ragland. “All colleges need a Jeannie Mitchell!”
Rend Lake College has been reaping the benefits of Mitchell’s work for more than two decades. Dr. Mitchell currently works as a Professor of Psychology, but she got her start at RLC in 1997 initially working as the school’s AmeriCorps Director and as an academic advisor. Mitchell’s teaching career started in 2002 when she was hired as a full-time professor. She said her first teaching experience was an introductory psychology course on Saturdays. And it didn’t take long for her to fall in love with the profession and make a move into teaching full-time.
Mitchell would go on to earn a Doctor of Education degree in Educational Leadership from Oakland City University. Coupled with a Master of Science in Counseling from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, Mitchell combined her clinical training and employment history as a counselor with her newfound love of teaching to create an engaging environment for students at RLC.
“I incorporate real-world experiences and personal stories to bring concepts to life and I strongly encourage dialog in all my classes,” Mitchell said. “Students learn topical components from each other, but more importantly, they learn empathy, perspective-taking, and that they do, in fact, have a voice.”
Mitchell said teaching in a community college environment allows her to help students through a transitionary period in their lives. As they go through the process of learning and self-discovery, a main objective for Mitchell is to help her students achieve their educational goals.
“That moment of seeing the ‘lightbulb’ go on is truly a joyous accomplishment,” she said. “My philosophy strongly relies on the concept of humbleness. As education evolves so should I.”
And the ever-changing world of education has not been too daunting for Mitchell. Just one example of her innovative ideas was to combine a class with Criminal Justice Professor Ron Meek. This allowed students from both classes to interact with their peers and gain insight into overlapping issues in their fields, such as mental illness, social organization, economic disparity and more.
“Both her students and mine benefited greatly because they got to see the practical application of the curriculum from me and the science part of the topic from Jeannie,” Meek said. “I couldn’t think of a more deserving person for this award. Students truly enjoy her classes.”
Mitchell’s contributions at RLC don’t stop in the classroom though. She has been ardent in her efforts to raise awareness for National Child Abuse Prevention Month every April. Students in her Child Psychology course wear blue t-shirts and help spread information about the issue around campus. She has also initiated the Angel Tree project on campus. The project is for students who may not receive gifts during the holiday season. Those students are assigned an “angel” who purchases gifts for them.
Mitchell’s efforts to help students also shine through her organization of cooking competitions on campus. These competitions allow faculty and staff to bring in their entries and students, faculty and staff can sample and vote for a small donation. The proceeds from these competitions benefit the Student Emergency Fund. Mitchell was also played a vital role in starting the RLC Food Pantry, which is offered to students through RL-Cares — a student support service.
“In all that Jeannie brings to our campus, her desire to help students and promote their self-worth is by far the greatest gift she gives,” said RLC President Terry Wilkerson. “She is a tremendous asset to our institution.”
In more leadership roles, Dr. Mitchell has served on RLC’s Higher Learning Commission steering committee. This committee is integral in helping the college through the accreditation process, and RLC received its full 10-year Reaffirmation of Accreditation in December 2018. She has been the college sponsor of both Phi Theta Kappa and the Society of Leadership and Success. And outside of RLC, she currently serves on the boards for Spero Family Services and Court Appointed Special Advocates of Franklin County and works with various pet rescue organizations.
Dr. Mitchell’s name will now be submitted to the Illinois Community College Trustees Association for consideration for their 2020 Outstanding Full-Time Faculty Award.
Watch Dr. Jeannie Mitchell - glamorous acceptance speech from RLC's 2020 Outstanding Faculty Member Below!