Truckee Hometown Sears – Sierra Sun select fifth Teacher of the Year finalist
TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; Truckee Elementary kindergarten teacher Amalia Niewendorp has been selected as the fifth finalist for the Truckee Hometown Sears-Sierra Sun Teacher of the Year. The selection committee acknowledged Niewendorpand#8217;s ability to excite students, parents and the community about learning. Nominators praised Niewendorpand#8217;s integration of cultural and community events into her classroom and her commitment to meeting individual studentand#8217;s needs. Niewendorpand#8217;s enthusiasm and devotion motivate not only her students but parents as well.
and#8220;Ms. Amalia is an inspiration to all those around her,and#8221; wrote one parent nominator. and#8220;Her dedication to teaching and to the kids inspires others to rise up and contribute in any way possible.and#8221;
Niewendorpand#8217;s ability to connect to each of her young students, recognize their unique needs and guide them to meet high expectations makes Niewendorp a notable teacher. On April 27, Charles Riley, owner of the Truckee Hometown Sears Store, presented Niewendorp with a Finalist Certificate and $100 Shopping Spree award at his store.
Nomination letters for Amalia Niewendorp, almost always referred to as Ms. Amalia, stood out. They included stories of the nurturing and teaching going on in an exciting kindergarten classroom. One young kindergartner, anxious to be apart from his mother, sits on Ms. Amaliaand#8217;s lap, as she instructs the class she pats his back and the tears dry on his face. Another student, hesitant to share, is coaxed out of his shell with soft encouragement, and after being told in Spanish he may answer in any language, he responds in English. There are celebrations for Chinese New Year, Dia de la Muerta and the Harvest Festival integrated with rigorous curriculum. Students, following Ms. Amaliaand#8217;s example, look for opportunities to help and support each other.
and#8220;Amalia has clearly found, in room 8 at Truckee Elementary, a little place on earth where she shines so brightand#8221; wrote one parent nominator. Niewendorp shines using her talents, skills and life experiences to reach her students, which is why she was selected as a finalist for the Truckee Hometown Sears-Sierra Sun Teacher of the Year.
Amalia Niewendorp was born in Puerto Rico to Cuban immigrants. At the age of 7, her family moved to Mountain View, Calif. As a new immigrant Niewendorp faced multiple challenges. She remembers having teachers who could not communicate with her and suffering what she describes as an identity crisis. She didnand#8217;t look Latina, but she had a Spanish name. She wanted to succeed in school, but it was difficult to communicate. She struggled to fit in, but was embarrassed and did not know where she belonged.
Becoming a role model
After graduating high school, Niewendorp was not immediately interested in becoming a teacher. In her late 20s she decided to earn a college degree. Her job, at the time, involved working on the San Francisco Tobacco Free Project. Working with kids trying to make changes in their community, Niewendorp discovered she really enjoyed teaching. She also reflected on her own experiences as an immigrant. She realized immigrant children need to have role models to help with the identity crisis she experienced as a child and that she could have a greater impact on the community and the immigrant population if she became a teacher.
After completing her general education requirements, Niewendorp transferred to San Francisco State to complete her bachelorand#8217;s. At this time, her husband was diagnosed with cancer. He continued to support Niewendorp, and push her to work hard and complete her studies. Due to her high GPA, honors thesis and community involvement, Niewendorp received a scholarship to attend Dominican University. There she earned her teaching credential and masters degree.
Tahoe Truckee calls
As a child Niewendorp had often come to Tahoe for holidays, and despite being born on an island, she always felt the most and#8220;decompressedand#8221; when above 2,500 feet. Her love for the Tahoe area and community brought her to Truckee even before finishing her program in the Bay Area. During the last year of her masterand#8217;s program, Niewendorp substituted in both Truckee and San Rafael.
In 2004, Niewendorp was excited to start a full time position teaching kindergarten at Truckee Elementary.
and#8220;I couldnand#8217;t ask for a better job or a better place to live,and#8221; said Niewendorp. She is particularly grateful for the love and support the community showed her throughout her husbandand#8217;s illness and death. In 2007, Niewendorpand#8217;s niece, who is her and#8220;pride and joyand#8221; came to live with her and has benefited from living in this amazing community. In addition, Niewendorpand#8217;s mother and sisters have moved to the area.
Niewendorp also thinks of her students and their parents as family. and#8220;They are my kids, I speak from the heart,and#8221; said Niewendorp, and#8220;I really do make a connection with each one and their families.and#8221;
Students and parents at Truckee Elementary School have formed lasting bonds with Niewendorp and praise how her efforts have strengthened the community.
and#8220;She is helping to mold not only intelligent and inspired children but good citizens,and#8221; wrote one parent nominator. Truckee Elementary principal Valerie Simpson agrees that Niewendorp stands out.
and#8220;Sheand#8217;s pretty amazing,and#8221; said Principal Valerie Simpson. and#8220;[Niewendorp] is the complete package; she is super fun but has high expectations for the kidsand#8217; education and behavior.and#8221;
Niewendorp is excited to have been nominated for Teacher of the Year. She feels particularly honored to be recognized alongside fellow nominee Lisa Furr, who was her coach when she started teaching.
and#8220;I had [Furr] nurturing me and being my mentor, saying yes, you can do it,and#8221; said Niewendorp.
Niewendorp looks forward to continuing her work in a and#8220;cutting edgeand#8221; district. She is enthusiastic about working more with National Core Standards and getting students to think at a higher level. Next year Niewendorp will assume a new position at Truckee Elementary as the English Learner Coordinator. Regardless of her position, Niewendorp is clear the kids are her number one priority.
and#8220;I want to tell them to be proud of who you are, where you come from, and most importantly, who you can become,and#8221; said Niewendorp.
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