Kathy Nimmer has finally returned to Harrison after spending a year touring as the 2015 Indiana Teacher of the Year.
Ms. Nimmer, who is blind, taught English and Creative Writing for more than 20 years before being selected as the Indiana Teacher of the Year in the fall of 2014.
She was also one of the four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year.
Ms. Nimmer spent the majority of that year celebrating and visiting places like the White House, but she also still taught during this time.
Last year, however, she took time off teaching to focus on her year of service, which involved an incredible amount of public speaking.
Three hundred and seventy speeches in 10 months, to be exact, so it’s a good thing that Ms. Nimmer loves all kinds of public speaking.
“It was crazy, and it was great because most Teachers of the Year don’t get invited to that many places,” Nimmer said. “But I have the guide dog, you know? I have a different angle so that even elementary schools wanted their kids to hear [me]. I will probably never again have a time in my life that is that focused on public speaking, but I will never stop doing that in some shape, way, or form.”
In those 10 months, Ms. Nimmer traveled around 12 states ‒ during which she visited classrooms and teachers, served on some committees with the Department of Education, participated in national trips with other 2015 State Teachers of the Year, mentored student teachers from Purdue University, and maintained a blog on the Huffington Post.
She also met and worked with various blind and visually impaired groups.
“The unemployment rate for those who are blind or visually impaired is about 70 percent. Very few people have jobs [in general] and jobs that are tapping into their talents. I was able to meet with them and brainstorm with them and help change that number,” said Nimmer.
Now that she is back at Harrison, she is in a hybrid position. She teaches two classes of Creative Writing in the morning, but she is also TSC’s new teacher coach/mentor.
“All of the new hires in the 19 buildings throughout TSC, whether they are a new teacher or just new to TSC, are under my care. I help them,” said Nimmer.
“It could be anything as simple as connecting them to resources, like ‘My email isn’t working right, who do I ask?’ or ‘I want to change the contributions to my retirement plan, who is that person to go to?’ I am their resource, but I am also helping them if they have challenges, and new teachers tend to have challenges,” said Nimmer.
Ms. Nimmer observes new teachers, can fill in for them if needed, and provides professional development.
Basically, Ms. Nimmer provides teaching advice to anyone who needs it.
She is the first to have such a job title, but does not know if that title will stay in the years to come.
“We are all taking this one year at a time,” says Nimmer. “It was a perfect solution for this year because I wanted to get back to a class of my own, and I also wanted to use the information that I had gained this last year and a half through the Teacher of the Year experience.
“It allows me to benefit people and the best people to benefit are new teachers. It allows me to be a teacher and not put to waste the special training that I had.”
While Ms. Nimmer loved her time serving as Indiana Teacher of the Year, she did miss some things.
“What I missed was having a group of students that I saw regularly and watch them grow,” said Nimmer. “I saw students like crazy ‒ thousands and thousands of students. I always felt that I met these great kids and then will probably never see them again.”
Luckily, Ms. Nimmer was so busy traveling and speaking that she says she didn’t have much time to mourn not having a constant group of students.
“It was wonderful for what it was. I loved it and I grew a lot and enjoyed it, and yet it is good to be back with students ‒ and I know their names!” said Nimmer.
During her absence, Harrison gained 200 students, and that did not go unnoticed.
“There are certainly more students here,” Nimmer said. “The halls are incredibly intimidating and dense. I never liked traveling during passing periods anyway and now, oh no! [Nacho and I] are definitely waiting.”
Some things have stayed the same, however. Ms. Nimmer notes that the K-wing is still very cold.
Ms. Nimmer’s time as the 2015 Indiana Teacher of the Year was no doubt a wonderful experience, but like all great times, they must come to an end.
“It feels great to be back. It feels like last year was like a dream of sorts. I never saw it coming, and then it came, and then it seemed endless, and then it was suddenly over. And now it’s back to reality,” says Nimmer.
“Harrison has been my home base for many, many years. And even though I’m fulfilling a different role now, and I feel in some ways like a different person... it’s still walking through those doors, walking down those hallways. It’s like returning home.”