2017 Outstanding Teacher of America
Dance Program Director/Chair Visual and Performing Arts
A.B. Miller High School
Nicole has spent her entire 18 year career teaching at AB Miller High School. In high school she was gymnast and a cheerleader. When she graduated from high school she attended Long Beach State to major in Physical Education with an emphasis on Athletic Training. Nicole later transferred to CSU, San Bernardino to finish her degree, but also ended up in a dance class where her interests began to change. When she graduated in 1995, she took the CBEST exams and passed it so she could begin her teaching career without having a teaching credential because A.B. Miller High School had an immediate need for a PE teacher and an advisor for the cheerleading team. Nicole went on to get her teaching credential. However, she realizEd she wanted to up her game. Consequently, she I decided to get her Masters Degree, as well and she returned to Long Beach State where she got her credential and Masters Degree in Dance.
As Nicole went through the Masters Program, she realized that her high school did not have many opportunities for students to engage in the arts. She saw the advantage of using the physical education requirement to incorporate a dance curriculum for students who did not want a traditional physical education experience and had to add additional sections to accommodate the growing interest in her program.
Nicole realized that teaching in such a disenfranchised community, her students had never been exposed to either visual and creative arts. She learned that their parents could not afford to hire music teachers or enroll them in ballet or drama programs and that most of her students had never gone to a play or a recital or a dance production. And, most of them had not ventured out of the area. Nicole began to see her role as one to widen and broaden her student's perspective by exposing them to a variety of performing arts opportunities. It was a daunting task in the beginning.
Kids were signing up for a class to dance and exercise and to avoid playing softball in the dust on a 95 degree day. Her students had no idea what they were getting into. So, early on and even with each new group of students each year, Nicole had to spend time teaching her students to be comfortable taking some risks and getting them to feel there was a chance for them to improve and feel good about movement.
Nicole's belief is that any student who signs up will be able to perform. She feels her primary job is to build their spirits, convince them that she believes in their ability and assure them that she will never ask them to do anything they are not capable of doing. Over time, her students begin to understand how practice and conditioning help them come better. When they begin to believe in their ability as they build their strength and stamina, their confidence builds and they get a little bit more "sassy" then begin to accept bigger challenges. Nicole teaches all of her students that mistakes are welcome and are the pathway to greatness.