Long-Time Instructional Assistant Receives Grant to Achieve Career Goals
Picture you’re back in elementary school and your teacher asks you what you want to be when you grow up. How many of you are in a career that you wanted to be in back then? For some of our Tempe Elementary educators, they found their passion to teach early on and knew that this was what they were always going to do. For others, they found their passion later and oftentimes in unexpected ways. For Behavior Interventionist Nichole Lynch, she considers herself a part of the latter.
Almost eight years ago, Lynch was at a crossroads and wasn’t sure which career she was going to step into. Thanks to a suggestion from a family member, Lynch decided to apply for an Instructional Assistant (IA) position at the Tempe Elementary School District.
“I hadn’t considered a career in teaching before applying as an IA,” said Lynch. “But I found out pretty soon after I got the job, that it’s clear I am a teacher at heart.”
Lynch was assigned to work with Student Support Coach Kirsten Proctor, who at the time was a Special Education Teacher at Thew Elementary. It was in her classroom that Lynch found her passion for teaching special education students.
“Kirsten was an amazing teacher and mentor and I learned so much from her classroom,” said Lynch. “After working in her classroom for two years, I knew that I wanted to make the official decision to pursue my education in becoming a special education teacher.”
Proctor also enjoyed working with Lynch and seeing her passion grow. She could see that Lynch had found the career path she was meant to be on.
“Nichole's vision that all students can learn and that she is willing to do whatever it takes to help students reach their maximum growth makes her a great educator,” said Proctor. “Her ability to think outside of the box to find solutions to behaviors and academic needs also makes her an outstanding educator.”
Although the passion and drive was now there, the biggest roadblock for Lynch was determining how she was going to afford her college education. Lynch was saving up money by continuing her work with students as an IA at Aguilar Elementary in Kelly Belousek’s SPARK classroom for another three years when one day she received an email from her previous mentor.
Proctor had let Lynch know of a grant that had just opened up and would be a perfect opportunity for her. The Grow Your Own Program - Special Education Teacher Tuition Assistance (SETTA) through the Arizona Department of Education which was a grant written by Tempe Elementary Student Support Department. They were accepting applications from Tempe Elementary educators who wanted to pursue a career in special education.
Lynch’s wish had been answered! Soon after applying, she found out from Student Support Director Tracy Harvester that she had been selected as the grant recipient. Lynch promptly signed up for a dual teacher certification program in elementary and special education at the Northern Arizona State Phoenix campus.
“It was such a relief to have this grant and be able to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher,” said Lynch. “One of the grant requirements was that I would return to Tempe Elementary after graduation, but that was a no-brainer for me! I already knew that this was the place I wanted to be.”
This past month, Lynch graduated from her program and applied for the Behavioral Interventionist position at Aguilar Elementary, where she had been an IA for the past five years. When she received the news that she had been offered the position, Lynch was excited to continue her work with Aguilar students as a full-time educator.
“It was just one of those things where the stars aligned and I got to continue working at Aguilar,” said Lynch. “This was my ultimate wish and I am so happy it turned out this way.”
Along with her duties as the school’s Behavioral Interventionist, Lynch also has the opportunity to continue working in the classroom with Belousek through a co-teaching model.
“The most rewarding thing about working with my students is helping them develop positive relationships, learning about them, and seeing them grow,” said Lynch. “I always remind them that no matter what challenges they have, that if they persist and try their best they will reach their goals.”
Tempe Elementary extends a big congratulations to Nichole Lynch for achieving her goal and for being a shining example of excellence in our District!