Henrico’s Top Teachers – Nancy Niedermayer
Glen Lea E.S., kindergarten
As a student at VCU, Nancy Niedermayer was assigned to Glen Lea as a student teacher. A decade later, it’s still home. Though she taught second and third grade during her first few years at the school, Niedermayer has been firmly entrenched as a kindergarten teacher in recent years and says she loves it.
“It’s a lifestyle and very different from anything else,” she says. “It’s fast-paced. I find it completely entertaining. You can be having the worst day, and at some point in the day, they’re going to make you laugh or challenge you. It’s very hard to be in a bad mood in kindergarten.”
Glen Lea sits in the shadows of Richmond International Raceway and serves one of the most economically challenged regions of the county. But, one colleague wrote in a nomination letter, “Ms. Niedermayer never uses this as an excuse; instead, it motivates her even more.”
Niedermayer feels a strong connection with her students – even after they’ve left her classroom.
“I’m not just interested in them in kindergarten,” she says. “I’m interested in the all the way through. I just feel like when I go to school every day it makes a difference. I feel like there’s lots that I can offer, and the kids offer just as much back. I need them as much as they need me.”
Many students don’t have the type of basic resources at home that might be taken for granted elsewhere, so Niedermayer takes it upon herself to help out.
She has organized an “angel tree” program through her church (Christ the King Lutheran Church) for several years during the winter holidays, during which church members purchase gifts for students who otherwise might not receive any. She’s also partnered with her church to help provide food to students who might otherwise go without.
“Just this past week, I observed her sending one of her kindergarteners home with a bag of food because she knew he was not getting enough to eat,” a nominator wrote.
To Niedermayer, it’s all just part of the responsibility that comes with being a teacher.
“In one day’s time you can go from being teacher, to mom, to nurse,” she says. “You’re not only an educator – a lot of times the love, the stability that you can provide is just as important.”
Niedermayer created a program at Glen Lea called Character Cinema, which rewards students who consistently display good character with an afternoon trip to the movies as a group.
“It creates excitement, it shows that their good character doesn’t go unnoticed,” she says. “Sometimes we’re in an environment where we pay more attention to the bad behavior than the good.”
Niedermayer also has served as the school’s computer contact, assisting other teachers with technology issues on a daily basis, and as the head of the school’s social committee, helping to celebrate the successes of others. And she organized and compiled a staff cookbook to sell at school events, using the money to buy treats for students during SOL testing.
But despite all she does at the school, Niedermayer’s favorite moments are those that need no explanation: Watching students’ reactions at the moment when a lesson suddenly makes sense. Then, she can’t always hold back her enthusiasm.
“Sometimes I’ll do a little dance and they’ll look at me like I’m crazy, and I say, ‘You’ll get it one day.’”
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