This week we’re profiling Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award recipient Nicholas Bernier, who teaches seventh-grade social studies at Agawam High School. As you’ll read in his responses to questions we posed to him this spring, Nicholas knows the importance of nurturing positive relationships with students and reflecting honestly about his practice.
What support did you receive, or wish you had received, early in your career? I received all of the support I could ask for from my colleagues and principal at St. Mary’s Academy in Longmeadow. I worked closely with teachers there and learned the in’s and out’s of the profession that one cannot learn in college.
What keeps you enthusiastic about teaching/education, and where do you find inspiration? Seeing students grow into young adults, become more independent, and discover things about the world is very inspirational. Being a part of that keeps me enthusiastic.
Who has been a role model for you and why? My parents gave me all of the tools that I needed to succeed and taught me how to have a good work ethic. For this, I would consider them to be role models.
What do you find helps you to effectively interact with students? Forming positive relationships is a good start. Also, when any sort of negative interaction occurs, ensuring that it is discussed and fixed so there can be closure and the student knows that there is no grudge. Younger kids sometimes think that when one thing happens, then you dislike them for the rest of the year. It is crucial that they know that all is well between you. Also, caring goes a long way. A student can sense who cares about them like a dog can sense fear. If a student feels cared about, they will work hard for you and you will get along great.
What is some of the best advice you’ve been given? Or what is a favorite quotation? My mentor teacher, Lesley Brodeur once told me that in teaching, you will often question things that you do or how you may have handled something, but if you can go to bed at night and put your head on the pillow and know that you have done a good job, that’s all that matters. If you are honest with yourself when you reflect, you can continue to become a better teacher.