Four and a half years into his career, Dominique Nichols is already making a lasting impression on his pupils and peers.
The Westside High School educator was named runner-up for Georgia’s 2018 Teacher of the Year during a ceremony at Callaway Gardens’ Mountain Creek Inn on Monday night. The top honor went to John Tibbetts, an economics teacher at Worth County High School.
The other finalists were Jonathan Deen, Putnam County; Gerald Kosoff, Atlanta; Paulette Allard, Cobb County; Suzette Weinhardt, Fayette County; Jamie Lynn McFarland, Gwinnett County; Susan Donlin, Marietta city schools; Paige Cole, Oconee County; and Laura Gerlach, Sumter County.
Thirty-three family members, co-workers and students showed their support for Nichols and represented Bibb County at the banquet, he said.
Nichols, 25, is a 2008 Rutland High School graduate who earned his bachelor’s degree at Fort Valley State University and master’s degree at Georgia College. He teaches world literature and AP literature and composition, and Westside High is the first school where he’s taught.
When Westside Principal Julia Daniely interviewed Nichols when he was 21 years old, she saw someone who loved children and had the personality, strength, conviction and passion to change their lives, she said.
“When you get those types of people that come in and want to be educators, you’ve got to grab them quickly,” she said. “(Nichols) came in wanting to create a classroom culture of college and career readiness, a culture of professionalism. He’s still the youngest person on staff, but he has an old soul.”
Nichols doesn’t just teach English but about life and how to handle difficult situations, he said. He spends a lot of time building his students’ self-image and self-awareness and showing them that their power and potential are limitless
“I’ve loved every minute of it, and I haven’t looked back,” Nichols said. “It’s the never-ending possibility of being able to positively impact a person’s life (that keeps me teaching). I know that sounds like the cliche answer of the teacher, but that’s my heart’s truth.”
Nichols said he wouldn’t be the teacher he is today without “driving forces” in his life such as his mother, Lisa Corbin; Gail Smith, pastor at Universal Light Christian Center; Barbara Franklin, his mentor and friend; Joann Canady, his favorite teacher at Progressive Christian Academy; Betty Tolbert, founder of Progressive Christian Academy; and Daniely.
“He works hard. He comes early, and he stays late,” Daniely said. “Everything he does, he does it with quality and he wants results from it. There’s nothing he has done that hasn’t been done at the highest level.”
Nichols said he’s humbled and thankful to have been recognized at the state level at such a young age. Daniely sees him doing something great and changing the face of education as he continues his career.
“I’m excited about the opportunities that will present themselves in the near future as a result of this recognition,” Nichols said. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know I’ll continue to mold and shape as many students as I possibly can, and allow myself to be molded and shaped by my experiences with them.”