‘Teaching is Not Easy’: Ms. Vollmer Tells Her Story of Overcoming Setbacks

English+department+chair+Nicole+Vollmer+has+adapted+to+pandemic+needs%2C+but+looks+forward+to+using+the+teacher+tools+she+knows+are+best+for+students.

Jakirah Bowman

English department chair Nicole Vollmer has adapted to pandemic needs, but looks forward to using the teacher tools she knows are best for students.

Jakirah Bowman, Staff Writer

Teacher of 11 years Nicole Vollmer expresses how taking on a new school year in COVID affected her working environment. Ms. Vollmer was 17 when she decided she wanted to work in the teaching field. “I didn’t want to be a teacher as a child. It wasn’t my choice career. I wanted to go to law school. I did, however, decide to be a teacher when I was 17 because it worked well with the circumstances of my life during the time.

Ms. Vollmer was not inspired by a good teacher, but by one who didn’t support her. “It wasn’t a good teacher who inspired me to be a teacher, but it was one who was not understanding or supportive of my situation as a student.” Ms. Vollmer decided she wasn’t going to be like that teacher because she wanted to be better than that. “I decided that I would be the teacher who didn’t allow kids to make excuses, but figure out ways to work with them based on their individual circumstances.”  She never gave up on that and has continued to help her students for that past 11 years of her teaching career. “I had my first child at a pretty young age, and I knew that I wasn’t going to let that stop me from going to college, so I picked a career that allowed me a schedule flexible enough to be present for my daughter. I am happy I chose to be a teacher. Sometimes having a teacher that didn’t necessarily help you through tough times [can] help you find something positive to come out of your life.  

Ms. Nicole Vollmer started as a teacher teaching all senior classes. “My first teaching position was at Harrison High School. I taught all seniors. It was rather challenging because I was very close in age to the seniors. I started teaching when I was only 21. I found that kids had a difficult time seeing me as a teacher and wanted to be my friend. I learned so much my first year.” Teaching an older group at a young age is a challenge. Was it challenging to learn how to be a teacher in your first few years? “Teaching is not easy, especially your first year. I think it takes a good five years to feel confident and if you don’t figure it out by year five, you should probably find a new profession. Knowing if you are willing and able to figure out how to be a teacher that will help students isn’t hard to figure out in the early times of working in that profession. Teaching high school right off the bat can be a struggle, but Ms. V continued and is still teaching at the high school level. 

Ms. Vollmer never had to transition into teaching high school because she started off teaching the last grade level of secondary school. “After working at Harrison High School, I moved to teaching middle school at Janitell Jr. High. This was not by choice; it was where I was offered a position. I could only teach middle school for four years. It takes a special person to teach middle school kiddos. I learned to be a good teacher while teaching middle school because classroom management was challenging. Middle schoolers say and do things that you never really expect, so it became very important to act quickly and appropriately.” Teaching in general is never easy but sounds like teaching middle school is more of a challenge, especially with the way they may act towards their peers and teachers.

“I always tell people I left a part of my soul at the middle school, and I do not believe I will ever go back to teaching middle school ever again.” Travel plays a big role in where teachers apply for job positions. “I heard of a job opening at Doherty four years ago, so I applied. It was close to my house, and I went to Doherty as a teen. I am happy to call Doherty my home. I love the staff and students!” It is always nice to go back to a place that you are familiar with, especially when you are comfortable there and you know the environment. Staff and students may make wanting to work in this kind of environment hard.  

There is always going to be something in your profession that makes you want to quit. “In any work environment there will be individuals who are hard to work with. One thing I have learned in my many years of teaching is that it’s key to find something positive about each individual. You have to have the ability to do this as a teacher because you will work with students who will challenge you, sometimes daily. I work with some amazing people, and I think of them as my work family.” There is always a bright side in situations, and it may be hard, but you should always look for it. 

Ms. Vollmer is a pregnant high school teacher in a year where everything is different because of the pandemic. She feels that working in this environment is harder than in past years. Working in a pandemic in a high school she says it does worry her. She states, “I am not super sensitive to COVID, but it does worry me a bit.” Anyone would be worried to be anywhere in a pandemic. She moves forward in saying, “I could easily work from home, but I would rather be safe in the classroom and be in person with kids. I like working from home sometimes, but it really isn’t teaching.”  

For teachers, adapting and learning how to teach both students online and in person may be challenging. Ms. Vollmer communicates, “I have adapted, but I do not like it. I don’t know that I would stay in this profession if teaching both online and in person became an expectation. It isn’t because it is hard, but it is because it’s what is best for students or teachers.” Online may not be the best option for students and or teachers, and Ms. Vollmer makes a statement explaining her opinion on teaching both online and in person students at the same time. 

Is making sure that both groups of online students are engaged in their learning? Ms. Vollmer gives voice to her opinion in saying, “I have adapted, but I don’t like it. I don’t know that I would stay in this profession if teaching both online and in person became an expectation. It isn’t because it is hard, but it is because it isn’t what’s best for students or teachers.” Ms. Vollmer is not only thinking about herself in this, but she also is thinking about what is best for the students to get a better education. Technology is a big part of students’ learning these days. There are many pros and cons of using technology for almost every aspect of learning nowadays. 

Are there many challenges that come with using technology? “I think as a student, you are able to see my struggle. I think I am better than some. I have been open to learning and trying new things. I have also had to accept that sometimes I am going to look incompetent in front of students. I have learned to laugh at myself.” Laughing at certain situations is better than blowing it out of proportion and making the situation worse. Adjusting to the way one person works in COVID–19’s environment is a very challenging task for anyone doing anything. 

There were struggles in every aspect of the world, but this year made it harder than ever. “I am not sure confusing and hard really encompass the feeling. I think it just depends. I have so many mixed emotions about why things are the way they are. I just started to whisper to myself, “I can only control what I can control, and I can only do so much.” There are really no words about how the way COVID has changed the way we have learned to live. There are so many new things that we have had to change our ways of living in the world.  

Ending on a positive note, “The 2018-2019 school year was my best year of teaching. I taught two freshman classes and three junior classes. Personally, it was a challenging year for me, so my students and job became my outlet from my home life. I developed some long-lasting relationships with students and learned so much about life, teaching, and forgiveness. Those juniors were the class of 2020 (COVID Class). It killed me that their senior year was stolen by the pandemic, and I was just as sad that I would not get the chance to see them cross the stage. Some were going into the military or moving away. Though it was hard to see many of them struggle, I saw most of them focus on something positive. They always had a way to take some of the most negative circumstances and find something positive.” Never give up on what you want. Keep pushing, find the positive in every situation, and reach your goal.