By Marlana Ward
One of the most important offices held in Johnson County is that of Director of Schools.
The individual who shoulders the responsibility of ensuring the educational opportunities of every student who passes through county schools must be strong, understanding, and have incredible foresight.
Dr. Mischelle Simcox’s experience as not only an administrator in Johnson County schools but also as a student, teacher, coach, and community volunteer has helped form the principles and values she brings to the office of Director of Schools.
Simcox was raised in Johnson County. Her early education took place in local schools, and she credits many of the teachers she encountered in her early years as influencing her passions today. “From my first day in Kindergarten at Forge Creek with Mrs. Emily Millsap’s to Senior Honors English with Mrs. Nancy Barrett, I have had the most amazing teachers in this school system,” Simcox remembers. “Mrs. Brenda Potter made learning your math facts fun, Mrs. Joann Mains instilled in me my passion for reading, Mrs. Barbara Henson showed me that dissecting a shark was the coolest thing ever, Mr. Kim Kittle prepared me for the College classroom, and Mr. John Mast challenged me to
After high school, Simcox set out to obtain her degree in pharmaceutical science but an experience given to her during that time changed her career path and life forever. “When I first entered college I was a Pre-Pharmacy major,” says Simcox. “I quickly had a passion for Chemistry and knew I wanted to do something in that field. In one of my college chemistry classes I had to opportunity to go teach a lab at University High School to a group of AP Chemistry students. I loved it, and I changed my major to education.”
Simcox graduated from ETSU in 1998 with a Bachelors of Science degree with her major being Chemistry and her minor being Biology. She was soon given the opportunity to return to Johnson County as not only an instructor but also as part of the athletic department.
“I was extremely lucky to obtain a job at JCHS right out of college to teach Chemistry and Biology, as well as coach volleyball,” she states.
Simcox has always sought out ways to advance and improve her own education and opportunities. This drive led her to continue her education well past what many achieve. “I obtained my Master’s Degree from Milligan in 2001,” she shares. “I obtained my Educational Specialist degree from Lincoln Memorial University in 2008 and my Doctorate in Educational Leadership from ETSU in 2011.”
As she continued her education, new opportunities within the school system opened up to her, and she gladly accepted new responsibilities. “In July 2006, I became the Supervisor of Student Services at Central Office and added on the responsibility of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction in 2009,” Simcox adds. “I obtained my Educational Specialist degree from Lincoln Memorial University in 2008 and my Doctorate in Educational Leadership from ETSU in 2011. I was very honored to be named the Director of Schools for the Johnson County School System in 2014.”
Simcox wasted no time in setting out to improve educational and career opportunities for Johnson County students upon being named Director of Schools.
“I had several goals I wanted to see completed in my first year, but one that I am most proud off is that we increased the number of Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment courses that were offered at JCHS and our CTE program,” she recounts. “This gave our students more opportunities to earn college credit in high school. A student can graduate from Johnson County High School with 28 college credits, making them a sophomore in College.”
It is not only the students that Simcox carries a passion for but also the staff of every school that operates in Johnson County. “In administration, you also need to be there for your teachers, assistants and any support staff when they need you,” she expresses. “At Central Office, we strive to always have an open door policy so that any parent, staff member, or community member can seek guidance or input when needed. My administrative aspirations are based on the desire to do what is best not only for the students but also for my peers.
Concerning her dedication, and the teachers who help make Johnson County schools the best they can be, Simcox says, “So many times, the teachers get left out on all the excitement of school and the decision-making. As an administrator, I try to never forget what it was like to be in the classroom, to feel all of the pressures that are put upon teachers. I will never forget the main reason that I wanted to become a teacher, to help others reach their goals, aspirations, and dream. I try my best to reach these goals as an administrator in the school system.”
Through her leadership and passion, Simcox have led Johnson County schools to many proud achievements.
“I am proud of all of our dedicated staff for continuing to provide the best education possible for the students of Johnson County,” she states. “We have had numerous grants that have enabled our students to receive extra remediation and enrichment through the 21st Century and LEAPS grants. We just received our 3rd GEAR UP Grant, which provides our students with college and career opportunities to enable them to choose their path in life early. Our college-going rate is 93percent, which I attribute to GEAR UP. We have updated our facilities and security cameras to ensure student safety, and we continue to look for funding to add additional School Resource Officers (SRO’s).”
For the future of the county, Simcox seeks to find ways for the county as a whole to bring in new industry and opportunities for students and adults alike. “We are currently working with our local mayor and several businesses to help bring the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) program to our CTE program at JCHS,” she states. “This high-quality competency-based training will provide students and adults in Johnson County with additional programs to make them career ready. With funding made possible by grants and local business leaders, we will help ensure that students gain the knowledge and expertise they need to be successful in the workforce in Johnson County.”
As a leader in the community, Simcox hopes to inspire others to not settle for ordinary but to charge forward toward goals and dreams as she shares: “I hope that I can show the youth of Johnson County that they can be whatever they want to be. Hard work and dedication does pay off. The future is theirs. Do not be afraid to fail, be afraid not to try.”