A Broken Arrow teacher is among the finalists for Oklahoma's 2000 Teacher of the Year. Jo Jo Nichols has been teaching theatre in the Broken Arrow district for 15 years. The News on Six went to Nichols' classroom for a look at what makes her a top teacher.
Pantomime is the day's topic in Nichols' theatre class. She talks with students about reacting to their environment, attention to detail, awareness of movement. Nichols' own love of theatre has become a mission shared with hundreds of teenagers. It's the work she feels she was born to do. "I had a great theatre teacher and she loved it and she gave it to me," she said. "And now I'm able to give it to someone else. And I love being that link."
Nichols is a passionate believer in arts education. The arts broaden s student's perspective in important ways, she says, helping them grow and discover their individuality. "You see them opening up. You see them take risks they never took before,"she explained. "You see them talking to people they never talked to before and you see their opinions start to evolve."
Students say Mrs. Nichols helps them in life, as well as school. One of Nichols' students, Amber Moffatt says she was shy until she took her first drama class last year. "I carried myself with my shoulders rolled and everyone knew I'm by myself," Moffatt said. But now my walk of confidence says 'I'm here,' and everybody knows it." T.J. Hawkins, also a student of Nichols, said , "I think as a teacher Mrs. Nichols is a very motivating person, and inspiring. She really teaches us to delve deep inside to what we have inside us."
Nichols acknowledges the challenges of today's classrooms. She says when she's down, students bring her back up. "Somebody better be there for those students," she exclaimed. "It's a very needed profession and I feel blessed that I'm given some sort of coping device to do it."
Nichols says she's humbled to be a finalist for Oklahoma teacher of the year honor, considering all the outstanding teachers that go unrecognized year after year. "I'll be thrilled if I get to be the Oklahoma Teaching ambassador," she said. "But if I don't, I'll be among great company, and was just honored to be there." Nichols and the 11 other finalists have one more round of interviews. The Oklahoma State Teacher of the Year will be announced September 29th in Oklahoma City.