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James Mitchell as a child in his desk at River Roads. James will return to River Roads to teach following his December graduation from CUW.
James Mitchell as a child in his desk at River Roads. James will return to River Roads to teach following his December graduation from CUW.

James Mitchell and his parents are literally counting down the days until his graduation from Concordia University Wisconsin.

Overcome by excitement for the moment on Saturday, Dec. 17, when James will don his cap and gown and cross the stage in the R. John Buuck Field House on Concordia’s Mequon campus to receive his diploma, James and his parents for months have kept daily check-ins with the countdown tally.

“My mom, she’ll send me emails and my dad will text or call: ‘20 more days’ or ‘12 more days’ or whatever it is,” says James. “They’re just so excited for me.”

It’s a momentous occasion for the Mitchell family. Of James’ three siblings and two half siblings, as well as all those in his family before him, James is the first to graduate from college.

And the Mitchells aren’t the only ones celebrating. James, who has already secured a position at River Roads Lutheran School in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, has the support of his future colleagues as well.

Started in 1869, River Roads is one of only two Lutheran elementary schools that remains in the City of St. Louis. The school continues to be “a beacon of light” in the Baden community, bringing Christ-centered education to youth who live there, according to the school’s website.

James Mitchell’s new boss, Yvonne Boyd, principal at River Roads Lutheran School, was also principal of the school when he attended.
James Mitchell’s new boss, Yvonne Boyd, principal at River Roads Lutheran School, was also principal of the school when he attended.

For James, working at River Roads is a homecoming in more ways than one. He’s returning to teach at a school that played a formative role in shaping his own childhood.

“The teachers really become like lifelong family members,” James says. “Some of the teachers that I had when I was a student are still there, so they’ve gone from being teachers to colleagues.”

He’s already started his work with the school in fact. Over the summer, James took on athletic director responsibilities from afar while balancing class loads at Concordia.

A regular starter on CUW’s basketball team, James says he’s excited to return to the place where his love of athletics all began. His kindergarten teacher, Diane Lampe, especially fostered his confidence in sports and James says he’s eager to do the same for his own students.

“If I could be half as good as some of those teachers, I think I’ll be OK – just to make those connections with students and let them know that they are loved.”

James says he’ll take a great deal from Concordia and will miss interacting with people “who have become like family” to him.

“Overall, Concordia really just gives you a sense of that love that you didn’t necessarily expect you would get,” James says. “I’m going to be sad to be leaving, but to say that I’m graduating is a blessing in and of itself, and to be the first in my family is really huge.”