Reading is, of course, a fundamental foundation for learning, and having your child struggle during the early years can be a scary time for parents—which is why the parents of Englewood School are very fortunate to have Helen Nicholson, who teaches reading recovery and support. While her efforts to keep up to date with best practices and teaching methods are important, it’s the caring side of Nicholson that parents appreciate most. Adapting her schedule to what works best for parent and student and inviting parents into the classroom to teach them the skills they will need to help their children are just the beginning. “Not only is she one of the most patient teachers I have ever known, but she is always very supportive and encouraging,” says Stacey Ferguson, whose two kids, Caelan, 12, and Keita, 10, have both had Nicholson as a teacher. And, adds Ferguson, her rewards system is also extremely effective: “Mrs. Nicholson is famous for her pink peppermints!”
Tara Thompson says that she has seen a huge transformation in her son Wyatt, 7. “Homework was a battle before Wyatt starting reading recovery because I didn’t know how to help him and he couldn’t help himself,” Thompson remembers. But, with Nicholson’s help, that’s all changed—Wyatt is now on the right track, and homework time is pleasant. “Students love her because her methods work well and they see results quickly. Parents love her because we see our children get excited because they are reading well,” says Thompson. “When you help a child learn to read well, you potentially change the way that child learns for a lifetime. That’s why Helen is the best!”
CF: What do you love the most about your job?
Helen Nicholson: I love the students, our staff and our school community! Teaching is the thing that allows me to play some small part in the life of a child. We are a small school, so I know students and colleagues on a personal basis. It is a privilege to watch each child grow and develop as an individual over a 10-year period.
CF: What was your most challenging teaching moment?
HN: Recently, I was faced with a particularly challenging student. However, after an extended period in reading recovery, the child did in fact learn to read and write. At the end of one text, he suddenly blurted, “I can read now!” That says it all. Sometimes your biggest challenge is your greatest reward.
CF: How can parents best follow-up on what you have been teaching in the classroom?
HN: Communication between home and school is of utmost importance. As a parent, educate yourselves on how to support your child with homework. Your child’s teacher is your best resource.
CF: How can kids get the most out of the school day?
HN: Children should leave home in a positive frame of mind, void of adult worries. They need to come to school happy and ready to learn, well rested and with a good breakfast and healthy snacks to feed their brains and bodies for the busy day at school.
CF: What’s the most important value to teach children?
HN: If parents and teachers place value on learning and share that information with their children on a regular basis, then children will aspire to make learning a priority during their time at school. As a result, they will have a much greater chance to lead happy and successful lives.
CF: What is the biggest lesson you have learned from your students?
HN: To be proud of your accomplishments, no matter how big or small.
John MacInnis wears many hats—and so do his students. As...