South Cache Middle School Teacher of the Year, Nicki Latimer, strives to create genuine connections with students
Nicki Latimer, South Cache Middle School’s 2023-24 Teacher of the Year, views the different languages her students speak as a way to foster more profound connections through various learning activities and individualized attention.
Hailing from Cache Valley, Nicki Latimer attended River Heights Elementary School, Spring Creek Middle School, and the South Cache Freshman Center. She graduated from Mountain Crest High School. Latimer attended BYU-Idaho for two years before transferring to Utah State University. She graduated with a degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis in English as a Second Language (ESL).
Latimer began her teaching career at the Logan School District for one year, followed by 17 years at the Logan English Language Center, where she focused on teaching adults how to speak English. Currently, she is entering her fourth year of teaching as an ELL and Language Arts teacher at South Cache Middle School. She has taught ESL for an impressive 20 years.
“I fell in love with ESL from the beginning,” Latimer explained. “I don’t see myself ever changing because I love what I do.”
With just ten desks in her classroom, Latimer has a unique opportunity to establish deeper relationships with her few students. This classroom setting allows Latimer to get to know her students more personally. She has found that in this setting, she can value the diversity that her students bring to the school and be more empathic about the challenges they face.
“First and foremost, I want them to know they are loved. I create an environment here where my students know they are awesome,” Latimer said. “So, I create a safe environment in the classroom. Once you do that, they know they’re loved. They’ll then be able to learn. They won’t be able to learn until they know that this is a safe place to learn. They know I have an open-door policy.”
Within her classroom, Latimer communicates in English with her students. She does not know any other language besides English. Among her students, some speak Arabic, Spanish, and even Marshallese. Latimer uses games, flashcards, real-life experiences, and even Google Translate to navigate the language barrier. Despite the language barrier, her genuine commitment to helping her students has not gone unnoticed.
According to Randy Bennion, South Cache Middle School Principal, Latimer does a tremendous job addressing her students’ physical and emotional needs and creating a nurturing environment. “Nicki does a great job of making her ELL students feel included, important, and accountable. She is great at building appropriate relationships, ensuring everyone is learning, and ensuring no one falls through the cracks. She is an awesome educator, and I know that she sincerely cares about the students that she helps each day.”
Latimer will be honored at an upcoming board meeting.