Teacher of the Week

Growing up, Nicola Grohler enjoyed helping her mother in her special-education class in Sullivan. After graduating from Sullivan High School, though, Grohler decided to go a different direction and eventually earned a degree to become an occupational therapy assistant.

While working in nursing homes, though, she always felt the pull to go back to school and follow in her mother’s footsteps. Last December, she did just that, and by January, she was already in the classroom as a special-education teacher at Robeson Elementary School.

Since then, she hasn’t stopped. Grohler began teaching summer school in the weeks after the school year ended at Dr. Howard, and her work has been appreciated.

“This summer, she has been working diligently to understand each of her unique students’ backgrounds,” Dr. Howard Principal Samantha Turner said. “She enjoys making her students laugh and building strong relationships.”

I find my work important because … Some kids require more support in school, and I get to be that person. Whether it be helping a student with an assignment or helping them regulate their emotions. I get to build impactful relationships with kids and teach them lifelong skills without them even knowing they’re learning.

I became a teacher because … Growing up, I always wanted to be a teacher and spent many childhood days playing school in my bedroom. Although I didn’t get my degree directly out of high school, I’m so happy I went back to school to pursue my childhood dream. I became a teacher because I wanted to make a positive impact in children’s lives. I didn’t always love school because it was difficult for me at times, so making school more enjoyable for children and showing them their potential is so rewarding to me. I love seeing them grow whether it be academically or in regards to their social-emotional skills and being a light to children who are at a disadvantage and showing them what they are capable of.

My favorite/most unique lesson that I teach is … Unlike a general education classroom that has the same students throughout the day, I teach many small groups throughout the school day. My lessons vary depending on my students’ needs. In my short amount of teaching, my favorite type of lesson thus far is teaching my students executive functioning skills through hands-on activities and showing them how to utilize materials for organization.

My most fulfilling moments on the job are when … my students show growth on their specific IEP goals. I also feel fulfilled when I make my students smile and laugh. Especially for my students who struggle more with their emotions. I love the challenge of finding a way to make someone’s day just a little bit brighter.

I keep students engaged by … incorporating games and engaging activities into our lessons and using humor and student-specific interests throughout each day. I often reward students with activities such as watching a video, listening to music, or coloring after we have completed a lesson or independent work.

Something else I’m passionate about is … investing in real estate. Although it scared me in the beginning, my husband has shown me the possibilities and beauty in investing. We are working on opening an Airbnb in the community, and we can’t wait to grow our hospitality skills.

My favorite teacher and subject to study in school was … Mr. VanDeursen, my fourth-grade teacher at Sullivan Elementary School. Although I’ve never been into science or history, he made it very hands on and so engaging!

If I weren’t a teacher, I would be … Own a coffee shop or boutique and have a bunch of Airbnbs and other rentals.

— Anthony Zilis