Loveland teacher motivated by former student and war hero

Mihaela Manova

by Mihaela Manova

Loveland, Ohio – Students, may not know what goes on in their teacher’s lives, but the impact that they give is indisputable. Good or bad in behavior or teaching, the students not only take new knowledge from them every day but a mindset. Julie Powers, or Mrs. Powers, as her math classes call her, is not just a regular teacher who comes in, educates, and goes home to only complete the same cycle every day. 

Her drive to teach is not motivated by a sum of a paycheck, but the kids themselves that come in every day. The evidence? Ask any student that has sat in her class, any person who has talked to her about their day and of course her close bond with the local and national hero, Seth Mitchell.

Teaching at Loveland High School, Julie Powers has encountered many students in her career and has had a close relationship with the Loveland High School Senior class of ‘97. One of the students she met was hero Seth Mitchell, a student with not only a good heart but a genuine soul towards the people around him. After high school, he joined the U.S Marine Corps and fought for our country in the Iraq-Afghanistan War where he was killed in action.

Loveland High School Math Teacher Julie Powers

Since his passing in 2009, his family and friends have organized the Captain Seth Mitchell Hero 5K every Fall in memory of his life. The proceeds collected during the race are given for scholarships for 12th-grade students at Loveland High School and are helping other people out, just like Seth.

I recently sat down with Mrs. Powers and asked her about herself, the teaching profession, and Capt. David Seth Mitchell.

I know that the Seth Mitchell Race happened a couple of weeks ago, what kind of thoughts did you experience during it?
I had surgery before the race this year, so I didn’t walk, and I’m a walker. I didn’t even get on the trail. Instead, I stayed back with some of the other people that graduated with Seth, who are now adults and who have kids and families. They graduated in the 90s and seeing them 20 years into the future is really kind of cool.
If you look at Seth and how he lived his life and what he wanted to do with his life, he didn’t miss a beat. He went after his goals and he worked hard to achieve them.
It was really neat to just talk to them and at the same time it makes me a little bit sad because you can’t do that with Seth. He’s gone, and he can’t live that part of his life. But I think the hardest part of losing someone so young is feeling like they’re never going to get to this accomplished or have this experience, have a significant other, have children if they wanted to or travel the world. 
If you look at Seth and how he lived his life and what he wanted to do with his life, he didn’t miss a beat. He went after his goals and he worked hard to achieve them.

 

Can you tell me about the class of 97’?
They were amazing people when they were in high school and are even more amazing now as adults. They are some of the most giving, selfless individuals that I met back when they were sophomores. Some of them I taught in 8th grade in Algebra 1 Honors and Algebra 2 Honors and then Calculus, so I knew the group pretty well and being their advisor for Student Council, I got to work with a core of them for almost four years. 
It’s hard for me to explain to you the personality or the feeling of the class. 
I have never done another student council class after them because that class just meant so much to me and I knew so many of them so well, not even just the student council kids. It’s hard for me to explain to you the personality or the feeling of the class. 
Those kids had blurred boundaries, (for example) just because you were in Show Choir didn’t mean that was your only identity. It was the class that I’ve never seen before, it didn’t matter what their ‘thing’ was, many of them had many ‘things’ going on with their lives. 
You don’t normally have the kids that are on the big athletic teams, doing Student Council and then going out and saying “Let’s go build floats out of chicken wire, tissue paper, and glue!” So when the last day came for them in May 1997, it wasn’t like the last few years. Oh are they going to do anything crazy!? It wasn’t like that at all. 
The bell rang and they all kind of just strolled out of their classes, not running, screaming, and yelling; they were in the hallway being happy and sad at the same time, because it was their last time together as a class. 
And you don’t see that type of reaction often, and it wasn’t that Seth was the only person; he was in the group that was just that special. I could name so many names in that class that could just go out of their way to be amazingly nice. There weren’t any little cliques and it just wasn’t like that.

 

Can you tell me about being an educator and the politics that surround this role?
I never thought about politics until I was in my 30s. I was like, “My vote won’t count.” and I didn’t think it did, as an educator, there were more things that affected me. That’s what pulled me into it. Seeing the current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, we should not put somebody in this department who has never worked in a public school, ever, and who sends all their children to private schools while being a millionaire. Someone who is in charge of education needs to be a former educator, not a business person.
That’s just beyond what I can stand. I would look at the people running for office and I literally would just look at their platform on education and what they thought about it. My take on education has been pretty consistent but it has also changed a bit. 
Especially after last year, I volunteered to teach a lower Algebra class and I did it on purpose. I learned a lot about the amount of poverty that is in Loveland. I had drawers full of food for these kids. I now see that as a society we need to take care of the family unit in families that are impoverished because we’re missing the boat.
What are their lives like when they go home after school?
Not only supporting them through schools, not only getting them free and reduced lunches, but if we don’t support them from preschool to kindergarten, it’s all gone. What are their lives like when they go home after school? And the kids in grade school, is there no one there to watch them? What kind of problems do they have? Do they have one parent, two parents?
If we don’t look at that part of it and spend money trying to support the people that don’t have anything, I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere with education. I think there are more critical issues that happen that can even affect the classroom.
If I can show these students by my actions that there is another adult in this building who cares about them as people, I will have succeeded. Now whether or not we get math done is a separate issue, because the first thing that had happened was, they had to learn that they could trust another adult. Some of them have very few, if any, adults that they can trust because they’ve been taught by all kinds of experiences that they can’t and so that was my goal for the class. 
We teach students not subjects.

 

Do you think social media influences people in our society right now?
If you look at our society we are a little bit like a microcosm. Look how polarized our society is  now with just politics. I’m not taking sides but I’m just saying, they can’t find a middle ground no matter which side you are on.
Like you just talked about social media, Instagram promotes stuff for fundraising and that’s good, that’s necessary. That’s what social media’s for, to use it in a good way but I also think that it pushes people into boxes more. 
I’m sorry I don’t post on social media because my life is boring, I don’t want people to know everything, I’m not interesting, I don’t want people following me. I even told my husband, “You will not post my picture on Facebook!”
Books vs Video Games
Think about when you read books (depends on what kind of books you’re reading ) but the more books you read the more it makes you think. Then okay, so playing video games or reading some books? Which one is going to open your mind which one is going to have you thinking?
And even if you’re not thinking about the book when you read it, sometimes you might be driving  and be like ‘Huh, that’s interesting what that one person did…’ and it makes you process stuff again and again, but when playing a video game, your game is done when your battery finishes.

 

What embodies Seth?
I mean he definitely was someone who would always be very “other” sensitive, like in a classroom. If he saw somebody that was down even if it wasn’t one of his best friends, he would still reach out, quietly, and not make a big deal out of it. He would be like, “How are you doing? Are you ok?” The picture of him in the main lobby with a smile on his face and the gun on his back is the same smile I saw him with everyday.
Captain David Seth Mitchell was killed on October 26th, 2009 at age 30 while on a mission he volunteered for when two helicopters collided while supporting combat operations in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. He was a 1997 Loveland High School graduate and President of his Senior Class. (Learn more: Keep Captain Seth Mitchell’s memory alive)
I know that he struggled a little bit, there were some times in high school for Seth that were a bit  dark and challenging and he had to go through some stuff, but his faith was very important to him, so that made a big difference. Even with that, the time I remember during the years that he was here, he just was someone who worked so hard. 
It didn’t matter if math did not come easily to him and it didn’t, in fact, the day after his parents found out (of his passing) his mom immediately said to me, “Oh Julie, Seth was never very good at math.”
I told her, “It made no difference at all because it was what kind of a worker he was. It was that work ethic that made Seth who he was, he wouldn’t give up, and that he would just keep on trying.”

 

By the end of our long talk, I got to know Mrs. Powers more than I could ever imagine, making me think that some teachers are not just here to educate you, but also to support you throughout the years. Educators like Mrs. Powers need to be praised not only for the work that they do but for their dedication to their students. Students will see and appreciate any teacher who stimulates, encourages and reaches out to them.

I would like to say thank you to Mrs. Powers for her support in her student’s lives.




4 COMMENTS

  1. Mihaela,

    What a beautiful article!!! I am sure you have sent more compliments my way than I have earned!

    I will ALWAYS remember the day we sat down for this “interview” and talked for hours after school! That day was a true gift to me!!! I loved learning so much about YOU and what makes you the incredibly special and passionate young woman you are!

    Seth, once again, has managed to open my world even further to the lives of all of my students both current and past. While he is my hero, I have taught and continue to teach many students who are truly heroes and personal gifts to me. Thank you Seth for being the catalyst that brought Mihaela and her story into my life!

    Thanks, Mihaela, for this amazing tribute!

    J. Powers

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