Centennial clinic worker receives top honor in Pasco Schools
By B.C. Manion
When Christie Mitchell heard she was among a trio of finalists for Pasco County Schools’ school-related personnel of the year award, she had mixed feelings.
On one hand, she was thrilled to be recognized as one of the district’s top support employees. On the other, the awards ceremony was at the same time as her son, Jeffrey, was showing his pig at the Florida State Fair, and she didn’t want to miss it.
“I’ve never missed anything in his life,” said Mitchell, a health assistant at Centennial Middle in Dade City.
Unable to be in two places at once, she attended the school district’s award ceremony at the Center for the Arts in Wesley Chapel and was delighted when she heard her name being called.
“It was such a feeling of recognition and accomplishment. It was just awesome. It was unbelievable,” said Mitchell, a licensed practical nurse.
Mitchell said her daily routine includes responding to students with complaints ranging from cuts and bruises to fevers and chills.
“It’s a steady flow of kids in and out of the clinic throughout the day,” she said. “I play a lot of different roles.”
On any given day, she might be tending to a student with a toothache or fixing a pair of eyeglasses. She might be helping a student get off gum stuck on a pair of pants or dispensing medication.
She does routine things, such as keeping track of health records and doing screenings for height, weight and vision.
She helps with emergency drills, and she calls 911 when something serious occurs.
She also makes referral to the school’s guidance counselor when a student has an issue that goes beyond a health concern.
Mitchell enjoys working at Centennial, which she said is small enough for her to really get to know the students.
Granted, she knows some students better than others.
“You have your frequent fliers to the clinic that you know really well,” she said, with a laugh.
Mitchell joined Centennial’s staff the year the school opened. She had been staying home with her son, Jeffrey, but was ready to go back to work. She didn’t want to work at a hospital or nursing home because the hours aren’t as conducive for family life, she said.
“Centennial was brand new,” Mitchell said. “I heard that they were hiring. I came, and I interviewed, and I got the job. I’ve been here ever since. This is our 13th year. I’m an original Cyclone.”
Before she joined the school district’s staff, Mitchell worked for four years at Heartland Health and Rehab in Zephyrhills. She left that job when she and her husband Scott were expecting a child.
She stayed home more than four years. She said the opening at Centennial seemed ideal when she got back into the work force.
“It’s a perfect mommy job. I have my weekends off. I have my holidays off,” the Zephyrhills woman said.
Mitchell has worked with Diane Plumley since joining Centennial’s staff.
Plumley, a registered nurse who is at the school one or two days a week, said Mitchell is most deserving of the honor.
“She’s good with parents. She’s good with kids. She’s caring. I can count on her to do anything,” Plumley said.
She enjoys working with Mitchell, too.
“It’s great when you have someone you can trust,” Plumley said.
Mitchell said it was honor enough to be nominated by her peers at Centennial. Winning the district’s top award was simply wonderful, she said.
Besides the recognition she received for her work, the district honor included something else, Mitchell said. She got a class ring.
“I never got a class ring in high school,” Mitchell said. “My mom and dad would have been more than happy to buy me one. I was like, ‘No, I don’t need a class ring.’”
Winning the district honor included a class ring donated by Herff Jones.
She adds that to the list of things she appreciates in her life.
“It’s a simple, blessed life that we live, and we just enjoy it,” Mitchell said.
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