When did you first realize you wanted to be a teacher?
Since I was a child, I always envisioned myself being in front of people, disseminating information. As I grew older, that vision manifested into a career as an educator and my vocation as a minister. The moment it became undeniably clear that I was supposed to be an educator was during my junior year at Fort Valley State University. I was in my third summer serving as a summer camp counselor at the university, and the campers and I developed a special connection. We enjoyed laughter and learning, and they responded well to my instructions—even when they were corrective. It was then that it was clear that I was destined to do this for a living.
What keeps you in the classroom?
There is a magic that happens in the classroom that cannot be replicated anywhere. This magic is found in the fiber of healthy, professional relationships with students. Witnessing a student grow along the continuum of personal and academic excellence is the most mesmerizing experience I have ever had. Even when opportunities outside the classroom present themselves, it’s the magic—the joy—that keeps me rooted.
What character qualities make great teachers?
Teachers must be compassionate, reflective, intrinsically motivated, friendly, and committed to learning. Without these traits, teachers will have a difficult time connecting to and supporting their students.
What is your favorite part of the school year?
My favorite part of the school year is not confined to one season or one day. Instead, my favorite part of the year is when I see the difficult student become agreeable, the nervous student become confident, the depressed student become happy, the self-conscious student become proud of who they are or the doubtful student become self-assured.
What is the funniest thing a child has ever said to you?
My students love to make jokes about my last name (Nichols) by calling me Mr. Quarters or Mr. Dimes. I always tell them that it’s lame, but I privately laugh at their creativity.
What is your favorite technology to use for engaging students in learning?
I made the conscious decision to embrace the growing influence of technology on students’ learning and engagement. Thus, I actively seek opportunities to integrate students’ cellular devices into my instruction. Rather than attempting to hypocritically debunk their technology-dependence, I teach them responsible use and create activities and assessments that allow them to explore the myriad functionalities of their electronic devices while they expand their learning and knowledge.
Everyone likes to know the morning routine of successful people. What is yours?
Each morning, I get up at 5 a.m. and begin my meditation. I make affirmations about my day, and then I watch the news while I get ready for work. I eat my breakfast, and am out the house by 6:20 a.m. I arrive at work by 6:45 a.m., and put on a smile as I welcome more than half of our 1,100 students to the cafeteria for breakfast.
What do you tell students when they need encouragement?
I remind my students of the Personal Affirmations they recite at the beginning of each class session. The affirmations include statements such as:
- “I am valuable, important, and capable of rigorous learning, influential leading, and purposeful living.”
- "Can’t is not in my vocabulary.”
- “I press harder when things get difficult, push myself to reach my goals, and dismantle barriers to my own success or the success of others.”
What do you tell other teachers when they need encouragement?
When other teachers need encouragement, I implore them to return to their core—their center—and remind themselves about why they entered the profession. Naturally, the daily challenges of engaging with hundreds of students can cause anyone to fall off center, but I remind them that they are dealing with precious clientele who deserve their best efforts and their purest love.