Meet Nicole Kirk! She’s currently a fifth-year Special Education teacher at A.W. Becker Elementary School, with 10 years of experience teaching. In her role, she continues to develop ways to contribute to students’ success in the classroom. Whether it’s providing them with access to instructional materials and innovative projects or identifying new ways to keep their interest - - she always keeps her students' love for learning moving forward. In addition, she engages her students with positive reinforcements in their ability to learn, while understanding their need to be included in day-to-day activities. It’s an important process that improves their learning techniques and provides an interactive atmosphere.
Outside of the classroom, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters and is expecting the birth of her third child in February. Ms. Kirk also enjoys spending her free time reading and running.
Here’s today’s Feature-A-Teacher Q&A with Ms. Kirk!
Why did you decide to become a teacher? What inspired you to become a Special Education teacher?
From the time I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. My sister had language delays and received speech therapy and special education services when she was young. I always watched her therapies and tried to replicate them when we would play. When I was a junior in high school, I took an early childhood class where we had preschool-aged children who would come into our classroom, and we would rotate being the lead teacher (with the supervision of our teacher). In one of our classes, we had a little boy with Autism. I was very interested in working with him and helping him find ways to communicate and interact with his peers. I then went on to do a lot of my own research and educate myself more about special education and people with exceptionalities. I became very passionate and interested in learning more about people with Autism as well as individuals with more significant language delays and needs.
What makes you passionate about teaching? Why do you enjoy it?
I am passionate about helping children who do not learn using conventional methods of teaching and finding what works for each child. I love the individuality of getting to know each student from a whole child approach (communication style, learning style, physical adaptations, social skills support). I also enjoy seeing their progress and celebrating all of the small milestones that we often take for granted. I like working with my colleagues and expanding my knowledge in other skills areas (OT, PT, Speech, ASL) as well.
What advice do you have for RCS students?
My advice is to find something you are passionate about and run with it. If you can make it into a career, even better! My advice is also to try to find joy in the small moments and be present.
What have your students taught you?
My students continue to teach me the importance of drive and perseverance. For many students I have taught, the simple things have to be taught explicitly (how to communicate, how to make friendships) and I see my students work so hard at these skills every day. They have also taught me to find joy in the simple things and continue to surprise me with all they are learning to do!
What’s your favorite memory teaching at RCS?
It is hard to pick just one. Some of my favorite memories are actually from the 2020-21 school year! We learned SO much about just how resilient we are as individuals and as a class/school. We also had a super fun unit on planting and life cycles. We grew fruits and vegetables in our classroom and also had caterpillars that we watched transform into butterflies. On a beautiful June day, we released our butterflies into the backfield at AWB and it was such a lovely memory. It was also bittersweet to watch them go. We also had the opportunity to hatch chicks! That was a super exciting time in our classroom and we were very attached to our baby chicks!
Who inspires you on a daily basis? What is the best part of your day?
Every day I am inspired by my own children as well as my students. I love watching all of their growth and progress. One of my favorite parts of my day is hearing my students greet each other in the morning. While this may seem simple, it is something that many of them could not do when they began in our classroom two years ago. At the end of the day, my favorite part is picking up my own children and getting to go home and be with them.