Grade: 4th grade
Subject(s): Math, Science
TNTP defines, “irreplaceables as teachers who are so successful that they are nearly impossible to replace.” Ms. McNicholas is truly an irreplaceable teacher and Deneen School of Excellence could not replace the passion for teaching and the high level of rigor in instruction that Ms. McNicholas provides for her students every day.
Ms. McNicholas’ journey into teaching actually began at the grade school that she attended in Kirtland, Ohio. The teachers who made a difference in her life when she was a student were now her colleagues! Ms. McNicholas received tremendous support from her former teachers and thrived in such an encouraging environment. After two years of providing math and science instruction to 6 – 9th graders, Ms. McNicholas made her way to Chicago’s Bronzeville Lighthouse Charter School and eventually to Deneen School of Excellence as our irreplaceable 4th grade math and science teacher.
Walking into Ms. McNicholas’ classroom, it would not be unusual to overhear students sharing which algorithm they used to solve the problem or explaining their thinking to their group. Ms. McNicholas excels at providing a stimulating learning environment that encourages students to “talk math” with each other. I am continually inspired by how Ms. McNicholas’ students use SOLVE sentence stems and Accountable Talk to provide the reasoning behind how they solved the problem. This should not be surprising as Ms. McNicholas infuses the importance of the “why” and the “so what” with her students every day. She is passionate about providing instruction that encourages her students to see math not as a set of numbers and rules, but as a logical system of patterns and a rational way to explain the world that we live in. Ms. McNicholas expertly unpacks her instruction and differentiates to meet her students’ needs. Ms. McNicholas sums it up best, “It is meaningless to teach our students a rule without the why.”
Outside of her classroom, Ms. McNicholas is irreplaceable to our school community. As a member of our PBIS team, Ms. McNicholas collaborates with colleagues to coordinate our whole-school incentives that encourage positive behaviors. Her efforts to support our students in making logical choices boosts school-wide morale and provides a platform for character education that will truly help our students develop the skills needed for success in life “after Deneen.”
Additionally, Ms. McNicholas continues to enhance her content knowledge as a member of the AUSL-Museum of Science and Industry PLC. Through her commitment to enhancing her own instruction, Ms. McNicholas has become an integral member of Deneen’s instructional leadership team. She continually pushes herself to elevate her students’ experiences with math and science and she uses her teacher leadership position to support her colleagues to do the same.
Despite Ms. McNicholas’ very busy schedule! – I was able to track her down and learn more about her journey to teaching and what continues to inspire her…
“I truly never gave any other career a chance. From when I was in elementary school, I knew I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children, just like my teachers made a difference in my life. I became a teacher to help students become lovers of learning math and science and to be a positive role model in their lives.
My co-workers inspire me. I work with hard working people who truly are passionate about making a difference in the lives of the students they teach. I look up to so many of my co-workers and the inspiring work they do. They motivate me to be a better teacher and a better person. Of course, my students also inspire me. They are the reason I wake up early every morning and take work home with me. I enjoy forming relationships with them and watching them grow.
My advice for fellow TchAUSL community members is to work together. Everything becomes easier when you have a motivating friend to plan with or just a friend to discuss your ideas with. Our jobs are demanding and our time is limited. We should all try to work smarter not harder, but still keep in mind what is best for our students.”