Thursday, August 22, 2013
Like two other first-time Aiken County School District principals, Teresa Mitchem had to dive in a week ago at Kennedy Middle School.
She was appointed to the position on Thursday, Aug. 8, and formally started work the following Monday.
“Kennedy never crossed my mind,” said Mitchem, who was serving as assistant principal at North Augusta Middle School. “When I got the phone call, it was ‘Sure, I’ll go.’ I’m looking forward to working with the parents, and it’s a fantastic staff.”
Mitchem, a North Augusta High School graduate, said her experience there led to her decision to enter the education field. She was inspired by then-Principal Clarence Jackson and teachers John Williams and Terry Skidmore.
Her first exposure to Kennedy Middle School came in the mid-1990s. As a USC Aiken student, Mitchem interned at Kennedy and credits seventh-grade math teacher Sue Whisenant for developing her passion for teaching. Whisenant still teaches at Kennedy and, after the announcement, called Mitchem to congratulate her.
Following graduation from USCA in 1996, Mitchem spent 12 years teaching eighth-grade math at Green Hills Middle School in Augusta.
“That age is special,” she said. “I relate to a lot of kids and understand what they’re going through. I fell in love with middle school and never wanted to come out of it.”
Mitchem received a master’s degree in elementary education in 2000.
Over the next few years, she began thinking about administration and, in 2004, obtained an Education Specialist degree from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn.
From 2008 to 2012, Mitchem divided her time at North Augusta Middle School as a teacher and assistant principal. In 2012, she became a full-time assistant principal there. Mitchem first worked with Principal Barry Head and after he retired, worked with Wendy Jacobs.
“Mr. Head was a phenomenal principal, and I learned so much,” Mitchem said. “He shared his knowledge, and I was able to grow as an administrator. Wendy did the same things for me and was always willing to give me the support I needed.”
On Saturday, Aug. 10, Mitchem was delighted to spend some time at Kennedy with former Principal Kyle Smith, who was on his way to Paul Knox Middle School in the same role.
“It was great to have the opportunity to talk with him,” Mitchem said.
“I knew the assistant principal, Jamie Byrne. She has shared a few things about Kennedy, and we have formed a bond early. I value her advice, and I’m not going to drastically change anything.”
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.