Mikaela's goal is simple: From head of the class as a student to head of the class as the teacher

Jan 23 2024 • By Roger Mooney


TAMPA – Be a doctor, some say.

Be a lawyer, others suggest.

You’re so smart, you should do something big, they tell her.

Mikaela Powell politely listens to those who see her top-of-the-class grades and encourage her to pursue a lofty education and a lucrative career.

What they don’t know is the high school senior from Odessa wants to follow in the footsteps of her parents and pursue a career in education.

“I want to be a teacher,” Mikaela said. “Probably the second grade.”

Mikaela has thought about returning to Tampa Bay Christian Academy as a teacher.

Mikaela is only months away from graduating from Tampa Bay Christian Academy (TBCA), a K-12 private school in Tampa that she attends with the help of a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship. The scholarship is made possible by corporate donations to Step Up For Students.

“The scholarship being available to Mikaela has just been a blessing,” Mikaela’s mom, Joyann Powell said.

Joyann and her husband, Mike, are both in education. Joyann has been a teacher in district schools for the last 18 years. She and Mike both wanted a private school, faith-based education for their children (their son Justin graduated TCBA in 2022). They wanted a safe environment and a small setting.

They found that at TCBA, where Mikaela has excelled since entering the fifth grade.

“She’s a solid, solid student,” Head of School Matt Peavyhouse said.

Mikaela was recently named valedictorian of her senior class and has been accepted to the University of South Florida, Trinity College of Florida, Florida Southern College, and the University of North Florida. She is waiting to hear if she has been accepted to the University of Florida and plans to apply to the University of Central Florida.

Mikaela will major in education because she places teaching on par with the medical and legal professions. She wants to be that teacher who has a lasting impact on a student’s life. The one who often hears from former students.

She wants to be like her first-grade teacher, Miss Toussaint.

“The way she made people feel was wonderful,” Mikaela said.

“She put Mikaela on that path to do well in school,” Joyann said.

With their careers in education, Joyann and Mike instilled the value of education in their children.

Mikaela’s thirst for learning increased when she enrolled in TBCA in the fifth grade. There, she formed a small circle of close friends that includes Kendall and Gaby. Mikaela, Kendall, and Gaby are the finalists for valedictorian, their grades separated by mere decimal points. They rush to compare test scores to see who’s in the lead.

“They lift each other up, so that’s cool,” Joyann said. “I have no problem with that.”

There are others in the circle – Yara, Bitia, Mark, and Jon. They’ve formed a bond that Mikaela expects to last a lifetime. When asked about the impact TBCA has made on her life, Mikaela is quick to mention her friends.

“And then the school in general,” she added. “I like the size for me because the teachers all know you and care for you. And then it's easier to learn since the teachers all can adapt to your style, and you can adapt to their style.”

A talented artist, Mikaela is proud of this painting.

Mikaela has been in every class play since she began attending the school, playing such roles as a lost boy in “Peter Pan,” a librarian in “Matilda,” and an apple tree in “The Wizard of Oz.”

An above-average volleyball player who excels on her club team, Mikaela joined TCBA’s winless girls basketball team last year at midseason because, as she told her mom, they really needed the help. She helped lead the Rams to their lone victory, which came in the last game – a one-point win over a team that routed them earlier in the season.

Mikaela tutors younger students. She sings in her church choir. She is comfortable working with the younger children at her church. Joyann and Mike have been long-time foster parents, so Mikaela has been around young children for years. That experience, she said, gives her confidence that she will thrive as a teacher.

“She’s thoroughly driven to reach her goals,” Peavyhouse said. “She’ll be great at it.

“She’ll be the teacher who will be in their life because she’ll be their volleyball coach in middle school, their basketball coach in high school. She’ll be involved in the school play, choir, whatever they’re doing. She’ll be with them outside the classroom in other activities.

“I told her we’ll have a position for her here when she’s ready.”

Mikaela thinks the best teacher she can be is one who has rules but is not considered strict, one who helps create a foundation for learning, and one who the students are happy to be around both in and out of the classroom. An avid baker and talented artist, she plans to incorporate both into her teaching.

“Maybe it’s a pipedream,” she said.

Or maybe it’s a wonderful career.

Roger Mooney, manager, communications, can be reached at [email protected].

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Roger Mooney