Kean University is proud to see one of its alumna, Nicole Halkias, being awarded Teacher of the Year in Cranford at Brookside Place School, another example for students to see how much of an impact Kean can have on a student's ambitions and goals.
Halkias attended Kean University in 1994 and again in 1998 for her master's degree. Being a fifth grade teacher in Cranford is not just a job for her. She enjoys teaching students and being a part of a student's development.
With that philosophy in mind she was able to be anonymously nominated for the Teacher of the Year Award. Halkias is nominated for Union County, and now Teacher of the Year for N.J.
But what does she owe her success too?
Halkias has a passion for teaching, which she has earned from the start of her studies at Kean University. With being a mother and an educator it is easy for her to work with children and instill knowledge among them.
Growing up in her houshold, Halkias recalls getting her phone taken away so that she could learn to enjoy the art of reading and writing. From there she could be seen teaching her little brother all the lessons she learned in class that day.
It is refreshing to see that at a young age Halkias was able to love teaching, a love that continued to show at Kean University and now at Brookside Place School.
"I definitely owe my success as a teacher to Kean. I had two very important people in my life during those years," said Halkias. "Dr. Debbie Allen, was my senior year field work supervisor and pushed me into doing everything during that time. She had me presenting to fellow student teachers on lessons that were superb and also had me attend workshops on my own. She always said, 'Nicole, my little chicka-dee you need to find the strength in each child and go with it. Then you need to find the weakness in each and support it.' I lived by those words and had a very successful field work experience, ending with Student Teacher of the Year."
Halkias has credited Kean University’s education program for helping her diversify her skills and creating the foundation for what would become her personal teaching style. Her teaching style consists of being stern, kind, fun and she makes sure that every student feels safe in her classroom.
Halkias' mentor, Dr. Searson, had a lot to express when asked if she thought Halkias deserved the award.
"Dr. Michael Searson also played a very important role in my time at Kean. He was one of my professors as an undergrad student and again during my master's degree," Halkias said. "He approached me and asked me to help write a chapter in a book he was co-authoring on technology in the younger grades. At this time I was teaching first grade and had computers in my classroom. I researched and reported and wrote his chapter. It was definitely an honor for him to think that much of me. He put that seed of technology into my teaching career and now I thank him as I teach fifth grade using Google Classroom with my students. He made me realize how important technology is, no matter how old. He truly was an inspiration to me."
"Yes, she is an innovative, dedicated and talented educator," said Searson. "When I taught her she was inquisitive, hard-working and well respected, and liked by other students. As I never actually saw her teach -- I had her as a graduate student -- but I can imagine a very student-centered and supportive classroom teacher. When I taught her, I saw a student with a deep understanding of the issues and practices supporting."
Halkias also shows that finding a job in education or any field after graduating can be obtained through perseverance.
"If I have any advice for future teachers from Kean I would tell them to make a goal each day for yourself and do anything you need to do to reach it," said Halkias. "It may be as simple as making one child feel special, or spending a little more time getting to know why one of your students is not themselves. Give 150%, be flexible, be understanding and love what you do!"