We’re telling stories about San Francisco public school teachers during the month of May as part of Teacher Appreciation Month. Visit thankateachertoday.org to show your gratitude for a local teacher!
Nikki Taura comes from a family of teachers. Her brother, sister, aunts and cousins all took up the profession and paved the way for her to do the same.
While she initially broke with the trend and went into finance, the family business eventually called her back.
“I just started thinking more about what I wanted to do with my life,” Ms. Taura said. “I found myself volunteering. I was a Girl Scout leader and tutoring kids at a food bank… I remember building a relationship with two in particular who I saw week after week, and it seemed like they just needed someone to listen to them.”
She realized she wanted to be that person, especially for children who might be experiencing challenges like poverty. “I ultimately believe that they’re just kids, and they have lives outside of school, so I’m just trying to support them and give them opportunities to be who they are inside school,” she said. She decided to go into the San Francisco Teacher Residency program and began teaching at Visitacion Valley’s El Dorado Elementary.
Now, four years after becoming a full-time credentialed teacher, Ms. Taura is praised for her warm and caring demeanor, the high expectations she sets both for herself and her students, and the way she constantly strives to improve her practice.
“She is super reflective and really cares about meeting the needs of the kids,” said Principal Silvia Cordero. “She takes the time to get to know her kids and figure it out what it is that they need to continue to grow. I think she sees herself as always learning, too — a lifelong learner. She embraces that quality.”
Principal Cordero cites how Ms. Taura, who teaches third grade, takes on additional coaching and professional development. This year she received training in student behavior along with literacy and math education.
“Any time there are opportunities I try to take them,” Ms. Taura said.
On a recent Wednesday toward the end of the school day, Ms. Taura guided children through a science experiment, in which students mixed oil with other materials, such as water or candy. She asked students to make predictions about what might happen when the two substances combine. Though children are especially susceptible to distraction at the end of the day, and at the end of the year, she managed to hold students’ attention until the last bell rang.
One practice she’s picked up from the behavioral coaching is giving students daily affirmations. Now, she takes time to complement each and every child before they leave school for the day. She praises students on how well they paid attention in class, how they did on an assignment or how often they participated.
“She always notes the positives,” said Laura Schlueter, who volunteers in Ms. Taura’s classroom through our Literacy Program.
While Ms. Taura expects the best from each student, she does so in a way that’s always patient and kind. “She really cares about her students,” Laura said.
She also notes that Ms. Taura gives off the appearance of a veteran educator.
“You would have thought she had much more experience under her belt if you watch her, because she can be doing multiple classroom management techniques all at once,” Laura said “… She has this great ability to multitask and keep a million things in her head while maintaining a calm demeanor.”
Laura remembered one instance where rather than move on from a particular lesson, Ms. Taura improvised, gathering students around when she thought they might not have all grasped the material. Together, they reviewed the lesson once more before tackling the next one.
“I am Nikki’s biggest fan,” Laura said. “She’s a really personable, sweet warm and caring person, and I just think she is an excellent teacher.”
If you love this story, share with your friends on social media and spread the word about the amazing work teachers like Ms. Taura do in our schools. Want to learn more about how you can thank a teacher in San Francisco? Visit thankateachertoday.org.