Nicole Mikkelson was nominated by Andrea McGowan, a member of the community.
Ms. Mikkelson is a kindergarten teacher in the community of Tucson, AZ. She is an educator who has an unrelenting desire to make schools a safe, fun and productive place for all children. In response to the state-wide teachers strike in Arizona, Ms. Mikkelson spoke about the personal struggles she faces as an educator.
"When people find out I teach kindergarten, they almost always say, 'oh how fun, you get to play all day,'" Ms. Mikkelson said. "The problem is that districts don’t have the funding to purchase the appropriate curriculum that supports all of the standards that we have to teach. So we look for other resources to supplement outdated materials. We purchase our own curriculum."
Today, Ms. Mikkelson teaches in Tanque Verde Unified School District.
"Our governing board is super supportive, as well as our superintendent," said Ms. Mikkelson. "They know the need for curriculum and are working hard to find additional funds to purchase them for us, but we still spend the money to make sure the kids are getting the information. And we don’t just teach the standards. In kindergarten, we teach them how to get their lunch in the lunchroom, how to trust someone other than their parent...and how to hide from an active shooter. We promise that we will keep them safe. This is one of the hardest things to teach."
"On our practice lock-down days, when I am hiding with the kids in a corner, I am always whispering to them that it will be ok and to stay quiet when the people walking around bang on our doors,” said Ms. Mikkelson I sit with kids all around me, holding my hand, sitting as close as they can get to me. Even though they know it’s just practice it’s scary."
Ms. Mikkelson believes teaching is not just a job, but a lifestyle.
"You have to have the passion," she says. "Our dream schedule is anything but. We answer emails/calls all afternoon, have conferences and meetings, and attend workshops/seminars to make sure we get our hours for recertification in. We have IEP meetings and team meetings, and we have to plan when our kids are in specials.”
"I go home and worry about kids who are sick. I wonder what was going on with that one kiddo that day because he just wasn’t himself," Ms. Mikkelson said. "I’m always thinking about them. I hope that you would want your child’s teacher to do that as well. I always want to be the teacher that I want my kids to have... we want them to love school. And the fact is, if funding doesn’t come through, more people will be put in the classroom without certifications and without the passion that it takes to be a teacher. If teachers don’t get the support they should have, people who have no business being teachers and are just there for the 'schedule and paycheck,' will be the ones teaching the kids- our future."
"I love my job," Ms. Mikkelson said. "I love my school and my district. I feel so blessed that we have the parent support that other schools don’t have."