Photograph of Nicole Z.

Nicole Z., one of Salsarita’s 2022 Teachers of the Year.

The second annual Salsarita’s Teacher of the Year winners have been announced! Our contest is designed to recognize the hard work from teachers over the past year. We had over 1,000 nominations for this award, so instead of picking one winner, we picked five winners. Over the next few days, we are excited to introduce you to the winners of this year’s Teacher of the Year!

First, we meet Nicole Z. who teaches at Lincoln Trail Elementary in Lamar, IN. We asked her a few questions to get to know her!

Why did you want to become a teacher?

I wanted to be a teacher because I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to be able to be the person I needed growing up for other children. I also think it’s fun creating things to use in lessons and finding different ways to make learning more engaging.

How long have you been teaching?

I have been teaching for 16 years.

Do you have a favorite classroom moment/memory?

My favorite memory wasn’t from the classroom, but it was from my students. My first daughter was born two months premature and was in the NICU for over a month. This happened during school, and I ended up being out of school for almost an entire semester. My students wanted to make something for my daughter and I to show their support and to brighten up her NICU cubicle. They created a name sign just for her so everyone in the hospital could know her name and all of my students signed their own names as the background image. It is something I will always treasure.

What’s your favorite thing about teaching?

My favorite thing about teaching is just being with the kids. I’m helping them grow, not just educationally, but socially and emotionally.

What’s your LEAST favorite thing about teaching?

It’s HARD! It’s hard to shut off the thoughts and worries for individual students. It’s not an office job that you walk away from at closing and don’t worry about until the next day. The kids stick with you, the lessons keep running through your mind, the fears that you aren’t doing enough. It’s hard, but worth it!

What are your favorite things to do outside of the classroom?

I’m a book nerd. I’m always reading something. I also have two young children who keep me pretty busy.

What inspires you to be the best teacher for your students?

I have teachers that impacted me that I still think of often. I want to be that for other kids. They need to know there’s a person on their side, no matter what.

What’s your go-to order at Salsarita’s?

I will eat chips and salsa all day!


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