After 14 years in the Bass Lake School District, the past four as Oak Creek Intermediate School principal, Nicole White is leaving to take a vice principal position at Garfield Elementary School on the Buchanan Educational Complex in the Clovis Unified School District.
White has taught fifth and sixth grade combination classes at Wasuma Elementary School, as well as serving as principal at Wasuma prior to her OCI assignment.
"I will miss the close working relationships I have with my Oakhurst families," White said. "I think we can really do some wonderful things for students when we work together as a team with the common goal of success for each child. The best outcomes have come from these positive relationships."
"I feel like the Bass Lake District has provided me with wonderful growth opportunities but it's time to try something different," White said.
White looks forward to working with principal Jessica Mele, a Clovis veteran, who White feels will be a mentor to her.
"As an educator, new learning opportunities are very important to me on a personal level," White said. "I believe that we must work at continuously improving our craft and developing new skills. Clovis is a large district that can provide new challenges and opportunities for me professionally."
White said she has had very positive experiences in her dealings with her cohorts from Clovis and she appreciates the Clovis commitment to educating the whole child in 'Mind, Body, and Spirit.'
"I'm looking forward to working with the team in Clovis and learning as much as possible," White said.
She comes from a family of educators. Her father was the Chancellor of the State Center Community College District, who after being retired for 15 years, just returned to that same post at the age of 79. Her mother was a migrant resource teacher in Fresno County who also taught at Juvenile Hall.
"When I was little, my mom used to bring home spare copies of worksheets from work, and I would set up my dolls and stuffed animals in little circles and read to them and ask them questions and teach them how to complete assignments," White recalled. "To be honest, I'm not sure what the actual learning objectives were for my toy students, but I was very interested in teaching and had very good modeling at a young age."
White also credits her own teachers with inspiring her to follow a career in education.
"I had outstanding teachers growing up ... as a teacher, I recalled moments, as their student, that assisted me in my professional work ... I still do," White said. "The teachers I had growing up were masters and made learning rewarding. I remember them all very clearly for their different individual talents. I grew up wanting to be just like them."
White and husband, Zach, moved to Oakhurst in 2000. It was a return trip for Zach, though, as he had attended Yosemite High School his junior and senior years, after he was orphaned when his father died. An aunt and uncle, Jan and Mel Chevoya, brought him to their home. Soon after enrolling at YHS, he got involved in the cross country program with the encouragement of cross country coach Ellen Peterson.
The Whites moved to the mountains because "Zach wanted to repay the support he had received as a teenager," White said.
Zach worked at the Raymond Elementary School and for Bass Lake Joint Unified Elementary School District, and also was the assistant wrestling coach at YHS with his cousin, Kent Lincoln.
The Whites have two children, Katelynn, a sixth grader at OCI and Garrett, a sophomore at YHS.
White sees a three-tiered challenge facing education today.
"We have to find a motivating, positive way to encourage the right people to come into education and then support them in innovating ways so that they want to stay," White said. "Every decision we make needs to have students' needs at the forefront. We need adults in the classroom that are able to find ways to motivate around the many varied obstacles that our students bring with them."
White also said schools need to have a way to let people who are unable to meet the challenges of teaching move on to other opportunities.
"We are not doing anyone any favors by retaining them in a profession where they are not experiencing the level of success we must expect," White explained. "The third tier to this challenge is that we have to support our teachers in new ways. Teaching is incredibly demanding. The public, in general, just doesn't always understand that teaching done right is back breaking. We support teachers the way we have always supported teachers. It is not innovative and does little to 'fill the sails' of talented teachers."