Widely circulating comments such as, “Really LOVES answering questions,” “freakin’ awesome,” “the man” and “a chemistry GOD!” are just a few of the student descriptions of Bellevue College chemistry professor Dr. Dan Mitchell. Dr. Mitchell was recently ranked as 16th out of 1.7 million professors in the nation by ratemyprofessors.com, a 13-year-old global ranking website where college students can rate their professors on a five-point scale. The 2011-2012 rankings were posted by the website late last month. Dr. Mitchell scored a 4.9, with the reviews uniformly describing an enjoyable and educationally fruitful but challenging classroom experience. “I picked him because of all these great reviews,” said one student review, “and even though they are all true, this class IS VERY difficult.” His “easiness” score was a 3.4, making him slightly harder than the average BC Chemistry teacher; the department mean in “easiness” was 2.7.
One thing nearly all of the student descriptions had in common was their emphasis on how much Mitchell cares about his students. “I’ve taken almost every chemistry class at BC,” said Brent Williams, a former student of Mitchell’s. While he said it’d been almost two years since he’d had Dr. Mitchell, he remembered Mitchell’s complete dedication to his students. “I was in an organic chemistry class over summer, so it was all of organic chemistry condensed into nine weeks. He was at school from about 7:30am to 5:00pm every day just spending time with students, doing labs and lectures, not including prep-work and clean-up.”
Mitchell himself was unavailable for comment for this article. In response to his placement on the list in an interview with the Issaquah Reporter, he said, “I’m really honored that my students had such nice things to say in their reviews. I just try to treat them with respect and remember what it was like to be in their position, and work to motivate them and get the most out of them.” In the same article, the Interim President Laura Saunders was quoted as saying “We’re especially proud of Dan and the tremendous work he does in the classroom, making chemistry come alive for our students. This ranking is a perfect example of the strong emphasis we place on exceptional teaching here at Bellevue College.”
Her sentiments were shared by the student descriptions on ratemyprofessors.com. One read “…Somehow he makes learning chemistry interesting and fun. He answers every question clearly and with interest. I could ask him Calculus questions and he would help me out with no hesitation. Mitchell is also the type to not directly answer your question, but to make you answer it yourself. He’s the best. Take his class.” Another student review mentioned the class’ waiting list. “There’s a reason the wait list for Mitchell’s class is a mile long – he’s clear with his expectations and lectures, he cares about his students and if you put your best effort in, he’ll get great results out of you. Never thought I would be interested in chemistry but Mitchell changed that with his knowledge and commitment.”
Mitchell graduated from the University of Washington with a PhD in biochemistry in 2006. He lives in Newcastle with his wife Liting.