So, I decided to switch things up a bit with my blog for Black History Month. For the month of February, I am going to do a series of interviews for living history making parents! Mrs. Sylvia Mullen is the first in this series. She is the first Nationally Board Certified Career and Technical Education teacher in the city of Richmond. Her specialty is Family and Consumer Science and for the old school folks, that’s Home Economics. Also, for those of you who don’t know, National Board Certification is very difficult achieve and most don’t earn it on their first try. It is the highest certification that a teacher can earn. So, I was very grateful that Mrs. Mullen agreed to do this interview for Power Parenting.

Kimberly Deneen: Ms. Sylvia Mullen, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview. I want to tell you first of all that I was walking the track, I was exercising and God told me to do interviews with women who are history makers and He showed me three faces and yours was one of them. So, thank you for agreeing to do the interview. So, can you tell what you do professionally?

Mullen: I am a retired teacher. I retired July 1, 2018 from Richmond Public Schools. I worked with RPS for thirty years. I started as a Food Manager with the School Nutrition Department. My major had been in Food, Nutrition and Institutional Management and I went back to school and completed my Master’s in Vocational Education. I switched to the classroom because I found that I was doing training all of the time and teaching on my job, so I made the career switch to teach Culinary Arts. I also served as an Assistant Food Director in Charlotte N.C. before coming to Richmond. I served a food service director at a local retirement center here in Richmond and I also worked at a local Hospital as a dietetic technician for about a year.

Kimberly Deneen: So, you have a lot of experience in the food service industry and I know you, of course, on a more personal level so I know how meticulous you are and beautiful you present the food and when you’re serving it and your knowledge. I know that you are the first Nationally Board Certified teacher for Career and Technology Education in the state of Virginia.

Mullen: Well, I’m the first Career and Technical Education teacher in Richmond, for the city. In 2008 I launched board certification and was very blessed to have achieved it in my first attempt.

Kimberly Deneen: Oh, wow! Because I know a lot of people who do not get it on their first try.

Mullen: Well, you’re told a lot of discouraging things about the process, chances of achieving and the amount of time required (approximately 200 hours). Only 3 % of K-12 teachers have earned it since its inception in 1987. We were told you can’t just put life on hold, things happen and sure enough, right at the end of the process, I lost my mother. I had to deal with her sudden demise, hospitalization and then her death. I ended up missing my support cohort groups’ packing up party. I had to read and do things for myself and get things completed and shipped off. Being out of town, out of state I had to make some calls and get a few people to help read my work. My four entries were sent off the first of April and then I learned in November that I had achieved and I just cried for an hour. My mother told me not to quit and I felt her with me. Even the cohort director said that I had such an impact on her when she saw my name on the list of the three Richmond teachers who achieved the certification. I guess I just tried so hard.

Kimberly Deneen: That’s impressive. So, I just want to know how long have you and Mr. Mullen been married?

Mullen: Okay. 39, this June 8th will be 39 years.

Kimberly Deneen: Wow! That is awesome! That’s a blessing! That’s a testimony!

Mullen: Yes, I met him back at East Carolina University and as far as history making back at the university, I became one of 16 charter members for Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority on that campus. I met him and he was maybe on the third membership intake line for Kappa Alpha Psi.

Kimberly Deneen: Can you tell me how many children do you have?

Mullen: I have two, a son and a daughter.

Kimberly Deneen: And they’re grown now and successful in their own rights as well.

Mullen: Yes.

Kimberly Deneen: So, when you were working full time before your retirement and your kids were going, you know, matriculating through elementary school, middle school, and high school how did you deal with work life balance?

Mullen: Okay, it was hard, but I went back to school while working full time. The kids saw me go back and earn my Master’s Degree. I would come home and make sure that they had dinner. Usually I would stay up late at night. Everybody would go to bed and I would be up doing my work. I would stay up late and go to work. When they see that you are trying and you can accomplish things. then they will never forget that and they always work hard and it becomes a pattern that they learn. It gave them such joy attending my graduation and seeing me graduate with a 4.0 G PA

Kimberly Deneen: Right. It’s like a seed. Right. It’s almost like planting a seed in your kids because they see what you’re doing, that’s a seed and they remember that and they take that with them into adulthood.

Mullen: Yes. We have like a little wall in the home where we put our diplomas and certificates. My son went from high school into the military, but he did not stop until he earned his degree and he was able to hang his diploma on the wall beside his younger sister who earned hers before he did. Both of them are in the Air Force Reserves. My daughter actually just completed her master’s degree and my son is working on his Master’s degree.

Kimberly Deneen: Awesome, that’s great! Wow, okay, that’s awesome! So, you can think back to when you were working full time or even now, what do you do to practice self-care? What do you do to make sure that you’re in a good place?

Mullen: Well, I guess I’m one that a lot of times who will just sacrifice myself, but I’m not one that needs a lot. I go to church and I just try and get out and do things with the family, like going out to eat, celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, you know spending family time no matter how busy you are. We prefer for families to sit down and eat together and that’s something that’s just missing today. In my department Family and Consumer Sciences, we have a national dine-in day each Dec. 3rd to encourage families to eat together. Families no longer take the time to just sit at a table; everybody is so busy. We sometimes try to make Sundays special and my granddaughters have something to look forward like having Sunday dinner with us. I also enjoy spending time with Sorors and staying busy. I enjoy cooking, sewing and event planning/decorating. I always enjoy a challenge.

Kimberly Deneen: Okay. Alright. And my last question for you is what Power Parenting Tips do you have for my readers?

Mullen: Okay, umm, take the time to listen and to talk about what’s going on. Children need to grow up in a nurturing family and kids need to know that you love them. Encourage them and say positive things as well when they do things right.

Kimberly Deneen: Okay. Thank you so much

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