Candace Mickler is a small business owner, a mother of two, and TJ’s newest Special Education science teacher.
Growing up in a small town in western Nebraska, Candace Mickler—one of TJ’s latest additions to the staff as a Special Education science teacher—wanted to be an astronaut. So much so that she nearly attended a space camp when she was in fourth grade, had it not been for her mom saying no. Even as a little kid, Mickler had a passion for science, specifically space science, but it wasn’t until high school that Mickler really fell in love. Her high school teacher introduced her to zoology and showed Mickler her true love of science that has served her well since then.
Mickler didn’t immediately pursue this love of science. Being from a town of only 6,000 people, she remembers feeling overwhelmed when leaving for university originally. Living in the country with strict parents, she also wasn’t expecting the freedom college brings, ultimately leading her to end her college career early in order to “enjoy life for the time.” Although college wasn’t as important then, it was never entirely out of the picture, however, and after getting married and having two kids, Mickler decided to go back to college to set a “good example for [her] boys.” Her love for science was never forgotten as she enrolled at the University of Colorado Denver, successfully earning a degree in integrative biology.
After taking about a year off following getting her bachelor’s degree, Mickler started volunteering to help the refugee population of Denver. There, she would “run women’s groups, teach English, and tutor and register students for school. [She] worked with families from Butan, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Eritrea.” It was through this volunteering that Mickler realized the importance of helping people, thus leading her to become a teacher.
Mickler’s teaching career began at Abraham Lincoln High School, where she worked for five years. During her time at Lincoln, Mickler started the “ACE Connect Coffee shop,” which worked to teach students job skills and the values of running a business, something with which Mickler has a rich history. As if being a mother of two and a teacher isn’t hard enough, Mickler has also been a small business owner for the past 15 years. In her early 20’s Mickler got her certification as a massage therapist from the Colorado School of Healing Arts, which she used to open her own massage clinic, Advanced Therapeutic Massage.
Managing a business, big or small, comes with an assortment of challenges, and in Mickler’s case, the biggest challenge has been managing employees. As a small business owner finding hardworking employees willing to stay loyal to your business is a constant challenge, and the pandemic has only made matters worse. Despite these hardships, however, Mickler continues to keep a strong connection with medical providers and her clientele, allowing her business to continue to run smoothly.
For years, Mickler said she would “teach all day, and then do two massages in the evening after school, plus work weekends.” Yet through all the struggle, she says that one of the biggest things she’s learned through being a small business owner has been that “there are so many wonderful people out there looking to support small businesses.” It has also taught her how to better take care of money, as she learned to always put your money into savings, saying “you never know what’s going to happen!”
In 2014, Mickler graduated from Metropolitan State University with a master’s degree in Master of Arts in Teaching: Special Education. When asked about what draws her towards teaching Special Education, Mickler said that she loves “researching the root cause of students’ disabilities and writing IEPs” and “continuing to learn the science of reading.” One of the best things about working with Special Education students for Mickler is “helping students realize they have ability and talent and that they can find success in school and beyond.” Teaching Special Education also gives Mickler the opportunity to learn more about the different perspectives of life through her student’s stories.
When she saw a job posting for a Special Education science teacher at TJ, Mickler immediately jumped on the opportunity to get back to teaching science. Currently, she teaches a general education biology class and a modified Special Education biology and earth science class. Mickler says she “loves teaching biology as it was [her] major in college,” and when it comes to TJ’s Special Education system, Mickler is happy to “incorporate structured literacy (the science of reading) into the science of life.”
Outside of school and being a small business owner, Mickler is a mother of two. Her oldest son is in the Army and is training to be an Army Ranger, and her youngest son is currently a freshman at Wheat Ridge High School. But that’s not all. She also has two border collies whom she hikes with as often as possible. Mickler likes staying close to nature as she is a beekeeper and loves gardening. She is an avid reader and is always taking a graduate course on the side to “keep [her] mind in shape.”
Mickler works to teach her students about life lessons not just through her time as a small business owner, but through life itself. From being overwhelmed by going to college after leaving her town of 6,000 people to being a successful business owner and striving to create a better future for younger generations, TJ is glad to welcome Mickler to the Spartan family.