Spotlight: Nichole Anderson (CA '18)March 13, 2019
As a specialist, computer lab teacher Nichole Anderson (CA ’18) misses having one group of children to focus on all day. But sometimes, more is better: “I get to see so many kids and make them happy.” She won California’s 2018-19 Milken Educator Award at Pasadena’s Hamilton Elementary on February 20, 2019.
Milken Family Foundation: As the computer lab teacher, you get to work with all students at Hamilton, from kindergarten through fifth grade. How does your approach to teaching technology change for each grade level?
Nichole Anderson: I like to build on skills that I have previously taught. The lessons in fifth grade are much more advanced because the students have a strong foundation. In kindergarten and first grade, most skills are taught through fun games and activities. As the students get older, the expectations increase. The students need to have a variety of tools and solutions to a problem. Many activities have multiple solutions and the students are trying to figure out the way that is best for them.
MFF: What led you to teaching?
Nichole: When I was in high school, I participated in cross-age tutoring and loved it. My mom was going to college to become a teacher and it seemed like something that I would love ... so I went for it.
MFF: What do you like about teaching elementary students?
Nichole: I love their innocence and desire to please. Their curiosity is contagious and makes teaching different every day.
MFF: Who are your role models as an educator?
Nichole: My mom is an amazing teacher! I also have many colleagues who share the same values and love for students.
MFF: You were a classroom teacher before moving into a specialist role. Is there anything you miss about the classroom?
Nichole: I loved being a classroom teacher! I miss having one group of kids to love for a whole day every day. But I think my job now is the best because I get to see so many kids and make them happy.
MFF: What was your first year of teaching like?
Nichole: I started halfway through the year because a teacher was killed in January. It was an extremely difficult year for the students and I became very aware of their emotional states. This has stuck with me—I really want to make sure that students are happy at school. My biggest supporters during that first year were my mom and my colleagues.
MFF: How did you feel at your Milken Educator Award notification?
Nichole: I was completely shocked and speechless. I was hoping that it was not me so I did not have to go up and speak to all the people gathered for the assembly! It could have been any of the many great teachers at our school.
MFF: How did students respond to your Milken Award?
Nichole: Students were super excited and want to know how I will spend the money. Somehow, in their brains, it has increased to $250,000,000.
MFF: How do you think you’ll use your $25,000 Award?
Nichole: I will pay off school loans.
MFF: How do you define “success” for yourself, and for your students?
Nichole: Success is when you are contributing positively to society and happy doing it.
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