By Shirley Shuman
Nikki Harper, fourth-grade teacher at Little Birch Elementary, has been named Teacher of the Year. Harper, a Braxton County native, just finished her sixth year at Little Birch, and she said she truly enjoys teaching there.
The Braxton County High School graduate received her bachelor’s degree from Glenville State College and a master’s degree from Western Governor’s University. She has 11 years of teaching experience. Following graduation from Glenville State, she taught two years at Braxton County High School. Then came three years at Gilmer County High School. She explained her move back to Braxton. “I became homesick,” she said.
Replying to a question asking what she likes best about teaching, Harper said, “I love watching the progression of a student from the beginning of the school year to the end. I like watching them achieve their goals even if it’s just [understanding] a concept they’ve been struggling with. Most of all, I love being with the kids.”
Acknowledging that problems do occur in schools, Harper said she thinks the biggest problems at Little Birch “are that we’ve had so many split classes and lost staff because of budget cuts.” She added, “Especially in our area, the needs of our students are great because it’s a poverty area and what our students have experienced. It’s difficult to meet our needs because of the small staff.”
Harper’s philosophy of teaching centers around “a growth mindset.” She explained. “I believe that mistakes are powerful and nothing to be afraid of because we learn from our mistakes. When students struggle, I remind them they shouldn’t be discouraged. They’re just not ‘there’ yet.”
When she is not involved with school, Harper enjoys a variety of activities. She likes gardening along with kayaking and fishing. She is also involved with her church.