Teachers affect eternity; no one can tell where their influence stops. (Henry Brooks Adams)
My oldest son is a college senior this year. He’s a happy, (relatively, ha?) well-adjusted Finance major at Xavier University in Cincinnati. Even though we all worry about our kids, no matter the age, the fact is that there is some corporation, bank, or other organization out there who will undoubtedly find this hard-working gem I call my son. I have some friends who joke with me about the fact that we are all pretty sure our kids are going to live in our basements forever. The truth is, Nick Thieme is ready to fly. He hasn’t found his job yet, but he will because a sharp kid with a strong work ethic is always going to land on his feet. It’s the very fact that I am using words like “career” and “corporate” in the same sentence as my baby that has me a little rattled, frankly. How can this child of mine be about to embark on the real world? It’s impossible to think that he’s 22 years old. It seems like 5 minutes ago he was in Nicholle Wewora’s first grade class at St. Louis de Montfort!
Nicholle Wewora is now Nicholle Smith. She’s got two incredibly adorable children and a handsome husband named Marc. I haven’t seen her in person in many years, but I do keep an eye on her through social media and sometimes I get updates from a few of her old colleagues. Because my mother was a teacher, I know how much hard work it is to do that job. However, the best thing about being a teacher, in my opinion, is that it matters. The influence of a great teacher like Nicholle can never be erased.
Is Nicholle Smith even in a classroom anymore? I don’t even know. However, I do know this. When my bright little squirrel was a first grader, he could not stay focused. She was a very young teacher and she called me one day to say he wasn’t finishing his work, and she suspected it wasn’t because he couldn’t do it, but because he just lost interest halfway through. I laughed and talked about how he was probably counting ceiling tiles or looking out the window, and I told her I would try and talk to him. She said, “No, I have an idea. I just want to get your permission first to try it.”
She went on to explain how she and Nick had bonded over their mutual love of the Purdue Boilermakers and that she’d learned he was a competitive, sports-loving boy. She didn’t want to stress him out, but she wondered if making a little competition out of the work might be tried. I agreed. So, it was then that Nick began trying to beat Miss Wewora’s timer. He got great joy out of telling me how fast he was with his math facts, for instance, saying things like “I set an all time record getting math facts done today, Mom! I cut 4 seconds off my time!!”
Now, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that this young man is still a procrastinator sometimes… but he always hits the deadline with good work. Here’s the thing. After first grade, he never needed that timer. He learned how to focus better in school and his grades have always been excellent. You see, he got off to a good start with a spunky, creative, energetic teacher who used her giftedness and sunshine to influence a young man in a way that stuck. I believe Nicholle to be the kind of person who always lights the way for others. I strongly suspect that she continues to patiently nurture the young people in her life to this day.
As my oldest finishes his “school years” this year, his old teacher, Nicholle (Wewora) Smith is on my mind today. I’m feeling thankful to her for the articulate, helpful, and kind human being she has been to SO MANY young people over the years including to my two oldest sons. Certainly, she made a positive impact the Thieme family. As the daughter of a teacher, I know circling back years later to say THANK YOU is definitely not too late. You were a gem right out of the box, Nicholle. The world is a much better place for your positivity and fantastic influence on others. I may be a day late with the birthday love, but I do believe in the festival approach to such celebrations anyway! IT’S STILL YOUR BIRTHDAY WEEK SO… HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NICHOLLE!!
P.S. Also, Nicholle? You were good with photos even way back when! I spotted a CD you made of that class 16 years ago not so long ago and it was filled with beautiful smiles you wanted to share with us parents. The images warmed my heart even more these many years later. Thanks for being a giant scoop of awesome!