It takes a special person to be a teacher, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2019-2020 school year tested teachers all over the world on their adaptability skills. It may be summer, but we still feel that a teacher’s hard work should be noticed.
Meet Nikki Silva, 3rd grade teacher at Carteret School District in Carteret, New Jersey. Nikki is an upbeat and passionate person who hopes to spread this behavior to her students. As an avid reader and writer, Nikki dreams that one day in the future she can publish a children’s book that encourages them to be who they are.
The desire to encourage children follows her in the classroom, too. One of her favorite things about teaching is that she’s able to impact the future by making a difference in students’ lives. To her, nothing feels better than watching concepts click together in her students’ heads, giving them that “Aha!” moment.
When it comes to reinforcing life skills like kindness and empathy, Nikki says “it needs to be sprinkled throughout the school year.” She recommends that other teachers find it in everyday life and bring it to the lesson, rather than trying to plan lessons for the topic.
“Not everyone has those cheerleaders in their lives to teach them that kindness, empathy, and friendship is important. They’re in school for most of the day, so we have to teach them to be the best little humans,” Nikki said.
One example she thought of was when her class was reading a book called “An Extra Yarn.” As they read through the book, she pointed out occurrences of kindness throughout the story. She’ll also tie in other current events to showcase the kindness and empathy that can be taken from the stories.
Outside of small comments during every lesson, she tries to teach her students that not everything in life is perfect, but it’s important to try to make the best of every situation. Nikki and her students will have morning meetings where they talk about how even the smallest gestures can improve someone’s day. If she’s having a rough morning, she’ll let them know, but also tell them that seeing them made her day better.
Nikki also feels it’s important to praise her students when they naturally perform kind actions. She tries to teach them that not everyone is good at everything. For example, she has “tech students” that will help other students with connectivity issues.
“Some students are just spirited that way in which they’re helpers and want to do it themselves, which encourages other classmates,” she said.
They also have a “secret” gift they give to other students outside of their classroom, called kindness tickets. Whenever her students see someone outside of their class doing a kind deed, they give out kindness tickets to reward others for their actions.
Like many teachers, the COVID-19 pandemic has made Nikki’s way of teaching change. She’s learned to try new things, such as even more programs and technology. They used FlipGrid, Kahoot, and participated in virtual field trips to make learning remotely more exciting. She and her students still held morning meetings over Zoom, but it wasn’t exactly the same because the personal aspects were missing. Her solution was to split her students off into smaller groups so there was a little bit of closeness.
She has definitely missed hugging her students and doing other hands-on activities with them. Despite the change to remote learning, she still feels they maintained their connection. She drove by their houses to see them, and when she did so she gave each student a rock to paint. This rock signifies that they may be separate now, but they will always be part of her third grade family.
When Nikki isn’t teaching her students, or working on her novel, she’s spending time with her daughters. Keep an eye out in the future, and maybe someday you’ll see Nikki’s novel out there in the world!
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