Kathy Nusbaum, Teacher of the Year (Secondary)

Why did you choose to work in education/at a school?

My parents were sponsored to America by a church in Demotte, Indiana 1980.  I remember both my mom, dad, and myself picking blueberries for money.  After-work, our sponsors made my dad take night classes so he can learn English and get his GED.  After seeing my parents work so hard in their lives, I knew that education was going to be important in my life.   Growing up in a bilingual family, I did feel that my language barriers was hindering my learning experience.  It wasn’t until fourth grade that a teacher saw past my barriers and made me feel like the “smartest kid” in class.  I want to thank Mrs. Robarge from Jefferson Elementary for giving that much needed confidence.  Because of my fourth grade teacher  and my upbringing, I wanted to pass that “feeling” to other students.  The feeling that dreams can come true with hard work.

What brought you to Elkhart Community Schools?

I was discovered at a Teacher’s Fair at Ball State University by Pam Cozart.  My first job in the district was to teach 7th grade geography at West Side Middle.  I taught 7th grade middle school for five years. While at West Side, you could find me participating in many school events.  I was dedicated in inspiring young students to reach their dreams.  I coached girls basketball, drama club sponsor, quiz bowl sponsor, student council leader and took the students to Washington D.C.  I even helped raise money for their first West Side Mascot costume.  My experience at West Side Middle School, led me to challenge myself further in education.  I had decided to transfer to Elkhart Central High School.  I wanted to continue inspiring students, while also improving myself as an educator.  At Central High School I’m a teacher for the  Early College Program and  a Dual Credit U.S. History teacher for Ivy Tech.  I love teaching the Early College students because many of these students are the first ones to go to college in their families.   I try to instill in all students  that anything is possible with hard work.   At Elkhart Central High school,  I grew as a teacher and as a school leader.  I was involved in the school improvement team, 8-step team, coordinator of Blazer Connections, Junior Sponsor, Dollars for Scholars Program, a school representative for the Elkhart Education Foundation, and Social Committee Member.   After being an educator for over 14 years, I chose to get my administrator’s license from Bethel College.  My administrators license has given me a larger perspective on school leadership.

How long have you worked at ECS? Your school?

14 years at ECS, 9 years at Central

Any touching work-related stories you’d like to share?

When I taught 7th grade at West Side Middle School, one of the things we did was to raise money for the annual Crop Walk.  We learned about the living situations in Africa and how people would sometimes walk 3 miles for fresh water.  We created a 3 mile path surrounding the neighborhood of West Side so students could understand what a 3 mile walk feels like.  Our class ended up raising the most money.  I had a student that donated a $100 dollar bill from his money collection.  I called his mom to make sure if he was sure and if that was okay.  She said “yes” and that it was his money and he could do what he wanted.  The student said the students in Africa needed it more than him.  Months later we found the young man was living with only his Grandma and mom.  His mom was diagnosed with Cancer.  Every year the students would do an Economics fair and all the money raised is donated to a charity.  The students wanted the money donated to the young man’s mom to help with bills.   Within 2 hours, the student raised nearly $1000 dollars.  The Social Worker and I went over to the student’s house and handed over the check to his mom.  She couldn’t believe that people who she had never met were willing to help her out with medical bills.  That is one thing that I always instill in my kids is to be nice to everyone.  You never know what the other person might be going through.  Years later the mom did pass away from Cancer.  I know the students felt so proud of themselves that they could help another student.

We talk about our students finding their passions – what are your passions?

I have many passions in life and they all seem to surround education and helping others.  I’m passionate to be like my fourth grade teacher who gave me the confidence that I could be something one day!  I’m passionate about being a great mom to my daughter.   My passion is to make a positive difference in the world.   I want to spread love, acceptance, and tolerance.  I’m always inspired by the works of others and love that I have the opportunity to inspire young minds every day!

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I like fishing with my husband and daughter.   We live across the river and my 6 year old often catches more fish than my husband and I.  The joy from her face from catching a fish is what drives me to put on the bait for her and to unhook the fish myself.   I really enjoy experiencing new things and traveling.

We have a strong focus on literacy at the district – what are you currently reading?  I have two types of reading.  My serious reading is “From Good to Great” by Jim Collins.  I have aspirations to be a great leader in education and found the book to be interesting with making schools good to great!.  Than I have fun books that I read to my daughter.  We really enjoy the Nibbles series.  It’s about a character that nibbles holes into books and somehow is involved in the plot.  It’s a great book for all ages.