Henrico’s Top Teachers – Christian Nolde

For Christian Nolde, the chance to be a teacher is a privilege, and he considers himself fortunate to be part of a community like Deep Run.

"Every day," he says, "I get to work hard helping kids, and they make me a more energetic, creative, and compassionate person. 

"They also make me laugh all the time!" he adds.

For his students and their parents, the feeling is mutual.

"We are very grateful for Mr. Nolde and all that he has done for our son," said the parents of a student who has had Nolde as his counselor for four years and as his collaborative teacher for math. After attending two leadership programs for students with disabilities last summer (for which Nolde recommended him), their son has become more social and developed a more positive attitude toward his school work.

"He has taken the initiative with trying out for clubs and honor societies," they said. "He has a deeper drive for achievement in his classes because he feels he can now accomplish his goals of getting better grades."

With Nolde's support, their son has been able to overcome his challenges with reading comprehension, and he will head to college "with determination and self-confidence, in large part from having a counselor and teacher who helped guide him to his successes in high school."

Among other parents who wrote to nominate Nolde was one who said that he is also largely responsible for her daughter's success. After entering high school a somewhat struggling student, the daughter will graduate with an A/B average and has been accepted to "the college of her dreams."

The parents praised Nolde for his accessibility to the students and parents, his caring and patience, and his focus on helping to develop the "whole" student and not simply their academic skills. "He guides them in a way," said one parent, "that makes the student feel comfortable and successful."

Nolde, who attended Henrico County schools, can name a number of special teachers and role models growing up – from Mrs. Thomas in first grade to Mrs. McGrath in tenth. But the ultimate inspiration for his career was working at a summer camp for young students with disabilities while he was in college.  "I knew then," he says, "that working with kids is what I was going to do the rest of my life."

Keeping things relevant for high school students is one of the bigger challenges Nolde faces, and he remembers well that he himself used to get "cranky" if he didn't see the relevance of what he was learning. Another challenge is helping students manage the demands of high school life, when that life (particularly the busy schedules and the social media aspects) is so different from what teachers and parents experienced. "When I was their age," Nolde says, "I certainly didn’t have as much going on as so many of them do today."

But the challenges of teaching are far outweighed by the rewards, such as seeing a struggling student grasp a concept or skill – especially when that student "feels so good about it that they feel like they have to tell everybody!"

Nolde also appreciates hearing from grateful parents, and learning from former students who come back to visit that they are doing well in college or at work. One of his favorite days of the year is graduation, because the students and families get a chance to celebrate the results of all their hard work.

"I work with a lot of students from the time they enter high school till they leave as seniors, and watching them grow is probably the most rewarding aspect of my job," Nolde says.

"They have brought an incredible richness to my life that I couldn’t have dreamed of when I was younger.”
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The Jammin’ on the James concert series at Wilton House Museum, 215 S. Wilton Rd., continues with Another Level from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Bring a picnic dinner and your favorite lawn chair for family-friendly music on Wilton’s scenic terrace overlooking the James River. There will also be complimentary tours and children’s activities. Rain or shine. Admission is free but donations are appreciated. For details, visit http://www.wiltonhousemuseum.org/event/jamminjuly. Full text

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