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NEPA Teacher Honored as One of Nation's Top Educators

A local teacher is receiving some high praise. He's been named a finalist for a national education award.
Kingston, Luzerne County -- His Wyoming Valley West Middle School 7th grade English students call him "Mr. Nick". The National Education Association calls Les Nicholas of Kingston one of the nation's top educators. He's been named a recipient of the Horrace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence. "I tease my students. They work hard real hard, do very well and it makes me look good so they work hard and I get all the credit. It just doesn't seem fair," he said.

Mr. Nicholas is teaching a 32nd year in a job he says just doesn't get old. "Everything is new with the kids. You may have taught that story 25 times but the kids will make it new and different." "Mr. Nick" stresses interaction and visual methods along with modern technology to hold the class' attention. Some former students still enjoy talking about those lessons they learned. "He makes them interesting instead of all being words he makes them into activities and games," said 8th grader Brittany Ritsick of Swoyersville. 8th grader Riley O'Neil of Forty Fort added, "He just makes you want to learn it more and more. He'll leave you hanging and the next day he'll tell you something so you'll be interested in it."

Students say they're not only hooked on his technique but also his enthusiasm. "He's very hyper let me tell you. He'll keep you going on your feet" said Ms. O'Neil. Mr. Nicholas agreed by saying, "Teaching is exciting for me so you know I just stand. I just, I can't sit."

One of Mr. Nicholas' greatest honors was being inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame. The plaque commemorating that event stands in the Wyoming Valley West Middle School showcase. He's won several awards to date including the 2004 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year when he was honored at the White House. The latest award is validation that the job "Mr. Nick" loves to do -- he does well. "To me it's just exciting and I need to express that," he said.

Mr. Nicholas receives $10,000 for being named a top five teacher finalist. The National Education Association will award him another $25,000 if he's chosen as the top overall finalist in February.

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