THIS MONTH'S WINNER: Nicole Packer  |  NOMINATED BY: Stell Moric

Hopi first grader Stella Moric’s nomination included more than a dozen compliments in support of her favorite teacher, Ms. Packer. Stella remembers her kindergarten teacher with words like “sweet, kind and loving.” However, it was the comment Stella made just before the surprise presentation of the Teacher We Love award that was the most impactful.

“She taught me how to read.” 

Nicole Packer knows it takes a special kind of person to take on the task of educating those little ones at the ages of five and six. She had worked with kids before, but this was a little different than her babysitting job she held at age 11. 

“When I was student teaching, I wasn’t sure if I could do it,” Packer said. “They were so little. I’d be tying shoes all day long, reminding them to close the door when they go to the bathroom. It just seemed too much.”

It was Packer’s mother who encouraged her to give it some time, knowing it would get easier and she would eventually ‘love it’. 

“That’s exactly what happened,” said Packer. “Now, I can’t imagine teaching another grade.”

This may explain why she has been teaching kindergarten at Hopi for 17 years. She also has a unique way to relate to her students, having gone to elementary school herself at Hopi, before going on to Ingleside and Arcadia High.  

There are some benefits (or hazards, depending on the point of view) to teaching in your hometown. The next generation of students might include some offspring of those you grew up and went to school with.

“Arcadia is such a tightknit community, people come back and raise their own kids here,” said Packer. “And it just so happens I’m teaching them.”

Having a childhood relationship with the parents of the student you are teaching is something Packer enjoys, since the communication is already established. There’s more to it than that, though. 

Last year, Packer had her own baby, so things are a little different. 

“Being a parent gives me a new perspective,” Packer said. “Now I know how the little things can affect every day.” 

It’s the “organized chaos” of a day in kindergarten that Packer relishes the most.

“We have a lot of structure, but you never know what they are going to say… it’s that, and their love because they really want to be here.”

Which is a perfect match when the teacher loves kindergarten so much she doesn’t see herself teaching another grade. 

For the future, Packer would like to obtain a Master’s degree. She most recently earned her National Board Certification from the National Education Association, which is a rigorous, voluntary process that is considered one of highest credentials a teacher can receive, according to the NEA.  

Winning teachers receive Arcadia News gift items, a gift certificate for The Spa at The Phoenician and a gift certificate for Postino. All winners are invited to an end of school year celebratory luncheon. Nominate a teacher you love at arcadianews.com.