Teacher of the Year Shares Stories of Hope with Future Educators

Indiana Teacher of the Year Kathy Nimmer shared experiences of hope and failure, citing both as important examples of why we need teachers now more than ever

Monday, January 30, 2017

Despite the challenges of being a teacher, you are not alone when you step into a classroom for the first time: that was the message Kathy Nimmer, 2015 Indiana Teacher of the Year, brought to School of Education students last week.

During her hour-long talk, Nimmer reminded School of Education students that experienced teachers are out there ready to help them. She recalled several stories, both of her time as a teacher and from her year traveling around the state as Indiana Teacher of the Year. In her stories, she shared experiences of hope and failure, citing both as important examples of why we need teachers now more than ever.

“You’re going to have opportunities to reach kids who you and only you know how to reach. That is the grace and the beauty of education, because we don’t know who needs us until that need is fulfilled, and then we turn in readiness to serve the next child.”

Nimmer currently teaches in the Tippecanoe School Corporation and also works to support new teachers. She was introduced at the event by one of her former students, Katy Plake, an INSPIRE student. Nimmer reminded the audience that if they are open to possibilities, teaching will bring them experiences they can’t even imagine.

“When I started losing my vision at the age of 7, if someone told me that I would be on the White House lawn shaking the hand of the President of the United States, I would have laughed,” she said. “Trust the vision that you have for a future that is more wildly magnificent than you can even quantify.”

Nimmer told several stories about how she became connected with other students who are also blind. While she spoke, her seeing eye dog, Nacho, snoozed on the floor behind her.

“I hope he’ll be the only one asleep during this,” Nimmer joked.

But her speech was more serious, as she remarked on how testing and ranking had broken the education system in Indiana. “My mission in talking to you and mentoring young teachers is to never be the one who gets so hardened by a broken system that you forget to lend a helping hand,” she said.

Nimmer pointed to the students in the audience as she spoke about the future of teaching.

“What is the next chapter in education? I don’t know. But I know the characters. You and you and you. You are in the next chapter. We are so grateful for that. And we need you,” she said.

“Keep your eyes on the reason you came this way. It’s going to be so easy to forget the heart of helping those kids as the center of what you’re doing. That’s what drew you this direction, and that’s what you have to remember.”