Local educator Mikell Reed started his career working in the transportation industry but his eventual decision to pursue education turned out to be the right one as he loves working with students.

Reed has worked in the Smyrna School District for seven years. After working as an associate principal at Smyrna High School for three years, he decided to make a move…..to another building in the district. Reed is the new associate principal at Clayton Elementary taking over for Debbie Chadwick, who was promoted to principal when Mike Dulin retired in October.

Reed recently took a few minutes to talk to the Sun-Times about his love of the education field and why he wanted to work at Clayton Elementary.

Q Why did you decide to change careers and work in education?

A Well it's a 9/11 story actually. I was working for a logistics company in New Castle at the time when 9/11 happened. That kind of job became a 24-hour a day, 365 days a year type job. It wasn't very family friendly and at the time my first-born was a year old. I decided that I needed to change careers. If I was going to be a successful family man, I would have to change careers. My family was involved in education and I had talked to some people and they said, 'Hey why don't you try teaching? Why don't you try substituting? If you can survive being a substitute, you can definitely be a teacher.' So I started substitute teaching for Capital School District and loved every minute of it….loved every minute of it.

My Smyrna connection is one day I got a phone call – actually I didn't get a phone call, my wife got a phone call – from a guy named David Paltrineri. At the time he was the principal at PEAK and somehow he got my name from Capital School District that I was looking for a full time job. I started working for Dave and again loved every minute of it. I definitely loved every minute working with Dave.

So I came here. Dave let me know of an opportunity in Smyrna. He was once again the one that gave me the phone call and said, 'Hey they've got a position opening up at Smyrna High School. Would you be interested?' And that's how I kind of came to Smyrna.

Q What made you want to become an administrator?

A It goes back to my corporate days. I enjoyed management. I really enjoyed being a teacher but my goal was I wanted to get back kind of in the management part of education, which of course is administration. I think I do a pretty good job and the reason that I feel I've kind of been successful on the management side is you kind of have that big picture or vision. Even as a teacher, I was in my classroom but I always wondered what's going on with the rest of the building. So I always set those goals and that was kind of where I wanted to be. I started as a teacher but wanted to get back into that management part.

Q What do you enjoy about working in education?

A The students. It's definitely a career where you can see your impact. In management you talk about the products. Well here the student is the product and you can actually see the positive influence you have on them. This is one of the few jobs that you get that. You don't really see what happens after you develop something; it just kind of disappears. Here the students, you get to see the positive things and the impact you've had on them. Even if there's just one student in your whole career that you have some sort of positive impact on, you don't get that anywhere else.

Q Why did you want to move from Smyrna High to Clayton Elementary?

A I've always kind of had that big picture. I know what goes on at the high school but I wanted to see where I can help the district in other ways. When Mr. Dulin announced his retirement, I went right to [Principal] Stacy Cook and said, 'Hey I'm interested in moving to the elementary level.' I have that curious part where I always want to know. It's my drive that I want to see what I can do better and where I can help out. I saw it and was interested in it right away. Plus, part of me – being a dad – I love this age. As a father, this is a very fun time with this age group at the elementary school. I enjoy working with this age group.

Q How has it been so far?

A It's been great. It's been wonderful. I've been in a few meetings already and I think what's going to really help with these students is the fact that I've seen what happens at the high school. So I can back up and see some things here, see the things we need to work on with the students. It seems like forever before they're in the secondary level but you know this kindergarten through fourth grade time period is like so important for the foundations. As a high school teacher and an administrator, I saw the struggles with some of them so now here at this level there are some things we really need to keep working on and targeting to help them out so they're lifelong learners. That starts right here. The kids need to feel what it's like to be successful and get that feeling that they enjoy school and that they enjoy learning. This age is so important for them. It's kind of the first impression. They'll always remember that first impression in the education system.

Q What do you enjoy about working in the school district?

A The Smyrna/Clayton community reminds me a lot of how it was when I was in college in North Carolina. It kind of has that small-town community feel. Even though I was from Dover I never really considered myself a city person and that's one of the reasons when I was looking at colleges I wanted to be somewhere south. This town and the Smyrna/Clayton area kind of have that feel to it. It's very community based. You can go to the grocery store and run into people you know and stuff like that. I like it; it's a really nice area.