“I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do after high school,” says Amanda Nikkel, kindergarten teacher at Valerius Elementary. A few mentors, who also happened to be good friends of Nikkel’s, suggested she try education. While at Dordt College, she tried high school education first. “I didn’t enjoy the classes that much, so I switched to elementary and loved it!”
In spite of the switch, Nikkel says another reason she initially considered a major in secondary education was the impact her own high school chemistry teacher had on her. “He cared about each of us more than he needed to. I loved chemistry but sometimes struggled with it, and he was always there, ready to help with a bowl of Smarties!”
Although she switched her major to elementary education, the impact her chemistry teacher had on her went far beyond any particular grade. “He taught me the importance of making those connections and relationships with my students right away…even in kindergarten.”
Learning how to build strong relationships has been valuable for Nikkel. During her four-year teaching career she has taught three different grades at three different schools. “I’m thrilled to be in kindergarten for the second year in a row!” she says.
With one year of kindergarten already under her belt, Nikkel says she is enjoying being able to improve her curriculum, now knowing what resonates with students and what doesn’t. “I’m excited to teach Everyday Math and Words Their Way again.”
Another concept she is excited to expand is poetry. “The students love it, and we can do so many fun and educational activities with it to help us learn,” says Nikkel. “I’m hoping students will be able to write their own poems by the end of the year!”
When asked what she loves most about teaching, Nikkel responds, “I have the awesome privilege of teaching kindergarten. It’s so amazing to see how much they grow from day one to day 180 – academically, emotionally, and socially.”
Knowing that kindergarten is a significant transition for children, Nikkel strives to incorporate her students’ likes and interests into classroom lessons. The bonds that are formed don’t stop at the end of the year either. “It’s also fun to see them next year in the hall, out at recess, and in the lunchroom,” she says.
What do you like best about Miss Nikkel’s class?
“She has a lot of books.”
“I like doing math centers.”
“Doing the videos.”