Having something to look forward to can be pivotal during these unprecedented times, which is exactly what the Melissa Nickel, principal at Taylor Exemplar Academy (TEA), is doing. She has gone above and beyond during the unexpected COVID-19 school closure to lead her school community, and her weekly bedtime stories are only the start of it.
“As principal of Taylor Exemplar, Ms. Nickel has consistently demonstrated her willingness to serve the needs of the school community,” said Shawn Leonard, director of school quality at National Heritage Academies (NHA). “Reading a bedtime story to her students is just another example of her commitment to these needs during this COVID school closure. Her passion to serve continues and we are proud to have her leading the TEA school community.”
The videos, which she posts on the TEA Facebook page, have become a Thursday night ritual for the school community. But these aren’t just any bedtime stories – they’re Moral Focus books that were specifically selected because they align with the NHA Moral Focus virtues. NHA is passionate about developing the whole student, heart and character included, which is why virtues like gratitude, compassion, and perseverance are in their education.
Some of the books she’s read virtually are “Allie’s Basketball Dream” by Barbara E. Barger for encouragement, “Ruby the Copycat” by Peggy Rathmann for integrity, “Hurty Feelings” by Helen Lester for compassion, and “Bear Feels Sick” by Karma Wilson for compassion.
The books were planned to be read by teachers for the remainder of the school year, so when the school closed due to the COVID-19, Ms. Nickel made sure to grab Moral Focus books from the school. Though, she wasn’t originally sure how she wanted to use them.
As a fun addition to the ritual, Ms. Nickel’s kids, who have attended NHA schools, participate in some of the videos. Here is a sneak peek of the bedtime stories.
In addition to the bedtime stories, Ms. Nickel sends staff and parent newsletters weekly, which are filled with useful information. Her intention was to have a central location for the resources her school community might need. She also sends weekly video messages to families, which are featured on the TEA Remote Learning page.
Ms. Nickel is committed to supporting her school community through remote learning, and she strives to ensure personal connections are still happening. She believes in the importance of connecting with students by letting them see and hear her and her staff. To further support engagement, the school has held multiple spirit weeks in a row. Some of the photos are planned to be featured in the yearbook.
“Our goal is to connect with our families, ensure that they are OK, and celebrate those who are doing wonderful things in hopes that others may jump on board,” said Ms. Nickel. She mentioned the priority is the safety of her students and families, and ensuring they have access to the resources they need during this time, including the meal program and remote learning.
Ms. Nickel believes that her staff go above and beyond what is expected of them to ensure the needs of all scholars are met. “It is clear that the goal of our staff is to ensure that our scholars emotional, mental, and academic needs are at the forefront of their teaching each and every day,” said Ms. Nickel. “They truly behave with care and I am so lucky to be able to work with each of them.”
Keep up the inspiring work, Ms. Nickel and TEA!