2009-10 Teacher of the Year - David Nycz

Release Date: 

Greetings to you all, members of the Oregon Small Schools Association. I am honored and humbled to have been chosen as this year’s OSSA Teacher of the Year. In years past, I recall reading many of the Small Talk articles written by previous recipients of this award. I would often wonder what it took to receive such an honor and discerned if I would ever become of the proper caliber as an educator to even be nominated or considered. Well, my wondering is over and many of my thoughts regarding this reward lead me to reflect on how I arrived at this illuminated point in my career.

My teaching experiences have all been in small schools. I began my student teaching in the communities of Silverton, Jefferson, and Independence, Ore. The Neah-Kah-Nie School District in Rockaway Beach, Ore., became my first step into the education profession. Following 10 years of teaching in the coastal community, I returned to my home romping grounds of eastern Oregon to be closer to family. I now work in the educational community of the Stanfield School District and reside with my wife and children in my hometown of Hermiston. My professional experience is rich in the aspects of the small school climate, but also includes the perspectives attained by living in three regions of our beautiful state.

Reflecting on where I am in my profession leads me to recall many key mentors, authors, and important events in my life. My hope is to give honor, this year especially, to those people who impacted my life, propelled my career, and helped to build my character as a successful educator. I believe this award is not a reflection of my efforts alone, but by the culminating lifelong positive influences of good people, both of the past and in the present. It was one of these mentors who said that “it is the things we honor and respect that we also receive, attain and assimilate in ourselves.”

Just this last year, I began a master’s program. Large portions of the initial books for the courses related to the practices, disposition and integrity of the teaching professional. Relating our effectiveness in a learning community to our character, the authors would suggest that all professionals take time to reflect on what brought them to teaching. Dr. Sonita Nieto (What Keeps Teachers Going? 2003) offers this perspective:

“Teachers do not leave their values at the door when they enter their classrooms. On the contrary, as much as they might want to hide or avoid them, their values and beliefs slip in the door with them. In fact, teachers bring their entire autobiographies with them: their expressions, identities, values, beliefs, attitudes, hang-ups, biases, wishes, dreams, and hopes. It is useless for them to deny this; the most they can do is acknowledge how these may either get in the way of, or enhance, their work with students.”

Through this type of reflection we can identify those powerful qualities which foster learning. In the same reflective manner, professionals also address and prune traits which have an opposite effect on the entire learning community.

The application and screening process for the Teacher of the Year award brought me to reflect and identify key attributes in my teaching practices. The letters of support for the nomination, provided by coworkers in my professional community, revealed to me what my colleagues perceive, respect and value in me. Upon receiving the award, my heart reflected deeply towards all those who contributed to this honored recognition. The autobiography I bring to my classroom and professional community has been written, in part, by many good people, and continues to be written today. These people, be blessed! For they have my dearest gratitude, tribute, and respect. My honor be their honor.