“I Am Off to Inspire a Nation”

INSPIRATION and a Teacher’s Reality from Nichole Bontomasi, 2014 Oakland County High School Teacher of the Year…

Oakland SchoolsWhen I was a new teacher, I thought the “Teacher of the Year” must obviously be the best teacher around, but I have learned that many of the best educators are far too unassuming to be recognized easily. However, I can stand up here as a symbol of these quiet, hardworking souls, who spend their lives happily serving in the classroom for the good of all of the children with whom they have been entrusted.

While we may think we are amazing teachers as we walk across the stage to accept our still-wet diplomas, none of us becomes good at what we do without help. Chances are you are sitting next to the people you have found to be most helpful along your path. They are the people who help you get through your day…your colleagues, administrators, and loved ones.

Many times it is our families who are cheated most by our profession.  We put our heart and soul into our students, and they become as much ours as if we had brought them into this world. In return, we work late hours, sacrifice vacations and time with loved ones, and respond to most requests with “I can’t, I have papers to grade.”

Too many people think teaching is static and anyone who can read can teach – especially if you teach social studies. It would be nice if it were static; it would certainly be an easier job. Our students come to us every day with varying levels of knowledge, skill and stability at home. When we accepted the title ‘Teacher’ we embraced the challenge of somehow getting information into the minds of children who often go to tremendous lengths to prevent this knowledge from sinking in. So, how do we manage? By recognizing that teaching is fluid and there is a constant ebb and flow to the tide of knowledge, the structure of education, and most importantly the needs of our children.

Everything I do in the practice of teaching is motivated by the needs of my children. My children needed a way for me to bring their world and an ancient world together and so I went with the tide and I changed. In the last three years, with the support of my Lamphere family, I have changed my teaching so much I barely recognize myself. Three years ago, I was proud of myself if I managed to turn the Smart Board on without needing help from a student, but too many students were drifting away from me. I embraced technology, diversified my teaching and their learning in order to reach my students and open doors for them I never dreamed could be opened. Now, I create web-pages, hold video-chat office hours, replaced chairs with giant rubber balls and use anything else I think might spark their intrinsic need to know.

We have the most important job in the world – we change the world every day with our thoughts, our actions, and our behavior. We cannot expect our students to be engaged in their learning unless we are engaged in our teaching. We cannot expect our children to be successful leaders of this nation if we do not hold them to high standards and challenge them daily. We must diversify our teaching to meet their needs without lowering our expectations.
Oakland Schools
We must inspire our children to lead the world to greatness. We must teach them to take risks and to see that failure is not the end but rather an opportunity. We need to provide them with positive role models to emulate, before we all ‘catch up to the Kardashians’. Not only should our students see us confident and successful in the areas we have mastered but they must see us take risks, too. They need to see us fail and try again. They need to see us step out of our comfort zone and challenge ourselves. They need to see us never give up.

Receiving awards is certainly humbling and motivating. But none of us do this for the recognition; we do this job because we love children and we want to make our world better. I spend my morning drive chatting with a wonderful friend and when I arrive at school she tells me to “go mold young minds” and I often respond “I am off to inspire a nation.” That is my motivation every day. I want to inspire my students to challenge the status quo of their thinking. I want them to question the world around them, to recognize injustice and faltering liberty. I want them to stand up and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that their voice is loud and valid and forceful. I want them to understand that they have the power to impact the world around them, one vote, one voice, one action at a time. All of us in this room know that is possible because each of us exercises that power daily, one child at a time.

~ Excerpted from Nichole’s Teacher of the Year Award Program speech May 8, 2014. Ms. Bontomasi teaches at Lamphere High School.

Oakland SchoolsOakland County’s Outstanding Teacher Honorees 2014

Also Awarded: Middle School Teacher of the Year Erin Wynn, Abbott MS, West Bloomfield; and, Elementary School Teacher of the Year Lisette Battershell, Lessenger ES, Lamphere.

More Info

2014 Oakland County Outstanding Teacher of the Year Awards PROGRAM


Blog Editor: Jean MacLeod, Communications/Oakland Schools


 Oakland Schools • 2111 Pontiac Lake Road • Waterford, MI 48328-2736 • 248.209.2000

 Oakland SchoolsTWEET THIS > “I Am Off To Inspire a Nation” (because that’s what TEACHERS do) http://tinyurl.com/nxflcha  #MichEd #OTOY14


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