Ad Spot

June 20, 2021

‘Mama Mitchell’: Southeast Middle School Athletics Director Janet Mitchell retires

SALISBURY — Describing retiring Southeast Middle School Athletics Director Janet Mitchell, both her students and co-workers use similar words: Coach. Mentor. Friend.

Another, shared by the Southeast student body after Mitchell’s Jan. 31 retirement, is a bit more endearing.

“They call her Mama Mitchell,” said Paige Smart, an eighth-grade English teacher at the middle school.

Becky Borst, the mother of three children who attended Southeast during Mitchell’s time at the school, explained.

“This woman knew every child’s name,” Borst said. “Not only was she the school’s athletic director and a PE teacher, she would step in as a parent for these kids as well. She was more than just an employee.”

Mitchell began her work at the Rowan County school in August 2001, having moved to Concord that July. The job came to her quickly, she said, “but it ended up being the most incredible job I ever had.”

Aside from her work as a PE teacher and athletics director, Mitchell had served Southeast as a boys soccer coach since 2006. In that time, she led the team through 148 wins, eight ties and six loses.

Her dedication on the field gave her ample opportunity to earn her matriarchal title among students. In volunteering to take players home from practice, she developed close-knit relationships with the diverse families of the Southeast community.

“I embraced them, and they embraced me. … I was just part of the family,” she said. “I think in this day and age when there’s so much diversion over immigration, they were all just thankful that someone wanted to love their children like they did. And I did.”

Bridgette Goodine, an intervention specialist at Southeast, said Mitchell has a natural ability to make anyone feel at ease.

“She just connects with everyone,” Goodine said. “She really worked to find out about each individual student and their families. The kids love her and open up their hearts to her.”

Goodine said there are “no words to describe the lives she’s touched,” and Mitchell’s former student athletes agree.

“Southeast soccer was truly never just a soccer team. It was a family,” said 20-year-old Southeast alum German Delgado. “We all had our ups and downs but that didn’t matter because we all knew Coach Mitchell was there for us.”

Brothers Cameron and Kaleb Isenhour, now 19 and 24 respectively, spoke similarly.

“We could always come to Coach Mitchell if we had a problem and she would find a way to help,” said Kaleb.

Cameron, 24, now works as a track and field coach, and Mitchell gave him his first coaching job.

“It was an honor and a privilege to work for Coach Mitchell,” he said. “Mitchell is a phenomenal teacher, athletic director and soccer coach, but most importantly (she’s) an even better person.”

Co-worker Smart said that more than anything, Mitchell was a listening ear. “You could tell her anything and you never got any judgment.”

Smart said Mitchell helped her through her first and most trying year of teaching, a year when she was contemplating leaving the teaching profession altogether. She did so through not only listening but providing constant encouragement and advice.

For Mitchell, the decision to offer support for fellow educators is natural: the worlds of education and athletics are the worlds of her heart, she said.

“It is a heartfelt profession that so desperately needs people that care about children,” said Mitchell. “Don’t look for all the highs because the lows often turn into something you were never expecting. These kids give you what you need to go on. … It will be a rewarding life if you let it.”



Hundreds turn out for annual Juneteenth celebration on newest federal holiday


Between local champions and an upcoming state tournament, pickleball putting Salisbury on map


Business leaders hope to draw big crowd for job fair at West End Plaza


Officers cleared in Mooresville shooting


From firefighter to photographer, Brianna Mitschele is ready to capture more moments in downtown Salisbury


25 years later, runners reflect on Olympic torch’s trip through Rowan


Commissioners to consider designating Newberry Hall House as county historic landmark

Farm & Garden

51st annual Old Southeast Threshers’ Reunion set for July 1-5


Biz Roundup: St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Foundation awards grants from Salisbury to Jerusalem


Kristy Woodson Harvey: For Dad


South Salisbury Fire Department activates new weather siren


Library Notes: Meet the ‘Dare Devil Dogs’ in Week 5


Q&A with Bishop Tim Smith


Wolfpack tops Stanford falls in College World Series opener


‘Down by the Praise Pond’ shares local author’s faith in debut children’s book


Driver crashes into crowd at Pride parade in Florida; 1 dead


Search continues after 3 tubers die, 2 disappear at dam


Research from NC State professors is aboard space station


Livingstone College celebrates federal recognition of Juneteenth


Wolfpack faces Stanford today in College World Series


Tropical weather lashes Gulf Coast with winds, rain


Girl attacked by bear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Cooper vetoes bill that would have allowed more to carry guns in churches


Two tubers remain missing after going over Dan River dam