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Alliance Dean Unlocks Students’ Potential While Realizing Her Own

Sherry Mikell has always been around education, as a parent, parent-teacher association board member, and Sunday school teacher. But it wasn’t until others saw her abilities that she unlocked her own untapped potential.
Mikell lived in Georgia for 16 years and was vice president of the PTA. She grew up near where Alliance Academy of Cincinnati now stands, and later moved back to Ohio as a mother of five. When the time came for her to return to work after two of her sons had graduated, she got a job as a paraprofessional at Alliance the same time her daughter also enrolled as a fourth grader.

Dean holding sign "2nd year."
Sherry Mikell has been a paraprofessional, ELA teacher, and interim dean at Alliance Academy of Cincinnati. 

After Mikell’s first year at the school, Jen Nardini, then a dean at Alliance and now a special education supervisor at National Heritage Academies, saw that she had a knack for teaching and encouraged Mikell to finish her college degree. Mikell did just that, soon after becoming an English Language Arts (ELA) teacher. She now is an interim dean of intervention, was nominated for the Excellence in Teaching awards as a paraprofessional twice, and is in the process of furthering her background in special education.
“It was skills that other people saw that I didn’t see in myself,” Mikell said. “That happens a lot with the students here.”
As a paraprofessional and teacher, Mikell taught a corrective reading program to students to increase fluency and help them learn how to read more quickly.
Depending on the level, the program starts with the building blocks of reading – teaching letter sounds. Blending is next, then by the time they get to the highest level, they’re reading passages. As students are taught how to sound out words step by step, they’re doing it more quickly. Being a more fluent reader helps teachers know whether or not the student needs assistance or if they just need to read more quickly.
The results showed. Once students met their fluency goals, their state test scores improved. Even years later, Mikell saw students go from struggling to flourishing once they had become more fluent readers.

Dean with students and their book.Sherry Mikell and Alliance Academy middle school students show off a book they wrote and illustrated. 

“I liked the fact that a lot of students grew under that program. I see a lot of untapped potential in the students that enjoy unlocking,” she said. “They don’t see it, but I see it.”
Now in her sixth year at Alliance, Mikell has been a familiar face for students and families. When she became a middle school teacher it was an opportunity for her to reconnect with students she had taught as a paraprofessional.

Dean with student at graduation.
Sherry Mikell, left, celebrates eighth grade graduation from the 2022-23 school year with an Alliance Academy student. 

All it took was a little encouragement, which Mikell gives to Alliance students each day.
“Sherry always wants to know that next piece of feedback so she can grow as an educator,” Nardini said. “Her open and growth mindset has been wonderful to work with. She pushes herself to be the best for her students.”
Keep up the excellent work, Mrs. Mikell!
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About Alliance Academy of Cincinnati
Alliance Academy of Cincinnati is a tuition-free, public charter school in Cincinnati, Ohio, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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