Middle School Teacher Gets National Recognition

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KINGSTON -- An award, $10,000, and a trip to Brazil aren't what a teacher would normally expect for a job well done. But that's exactly what one middle school teacher from Luzerne County is getting.

For part of this day's seventh grade English period at Wyoming valley West Middle School, Mr. Nick is sitting at the back of the class.

"Remember, one of the things I'm grading you on is how loud you are."

Leslie Nicholas's students are presenting poems, and for a job well done, some are getting snaps.

"Nice, nice work, I like the clicking, very good."

Come Friday night, Leslie Nicholas will be getting the applause. He'll be in Washington, D.C. to accept one of the highest honors from the National Education Association, a Horace Mann Award. With it, comes $10,000, and he's in the running to win even more.

"It is stiff competition. These people are really on top of their game. So it's an honor just to be included among them," said English teacher Leslie Nicholas.

Mr. Nicholas will be out of school for a few days while he accepts his award in Washington, D.C., but he says while he's down there, he'll still be working.

Thirty-eight teachers will be there, receiving honors and preparing for a trip later this year to Brazil, where they'll study the country's education system.

Coworker and former student Ned Whalen says he's not surprised Leslie Nicholas is getting recognized.

"Gone are the days with 45-minute lectures and the kids sitting there and taking notes. You need to be dynamic and he brings that to the classroom," said social studies teacher Ned Whalen.

Between the high school and middle school, Mr. Nick has taught for 32 years in the Wyoming Valley West District. He says he still gets excited to teach, no matter the students' age.

"To see the sparkle of understanding in a student's eye and to know that it's there because you taught a lesson well is an incredible rush. It really is," said Whalen.

The next big rush will come when he's honored Friday night at the national building museum in Washington, D.C.