BY MARCY SHORTUSE – Island School teacher Nicole Tillotson is just settling into her new classroom this week. She is sharing the duties of teaching third, fourth and fifth graders with last week’s profile subject, J.T. Tremaine, and it appears she is a beautiful fit with our community, our school and our children.
Nicole grew up in St. Petersburg, and always loved being outdoors as a child. She spent much of her younger years swimming, camping, bike riding and taking trips to the beach, much like any other Florida-born child, with her sister, Lauren.
Nicole’s father, Lee, worked in the automotive industry restoring classic luxury cars and managing a body shop. Her mother, Debbie, worked for Allstate Insurance for most of her professional career, but her last job prior to retirement was in technology support.
Nicole’s love of animals started in her own household, as her family always had cats. She lists anything furry as one of her greatest loves.
She attended school in Pinellas County, at Tyrone Elementary School, Baypoint Middle School (where she entered the MEGSSS math magnet program, designed to challenge mathematically-gifted students) and Boca Ciega High School.
When Nicole was a child she always thought she would be a doctor when she grew up, and in high school she attended a medical magnet program. This program is designed to prepare high school students interested in the medical field for college courses of the same ilk.
“I learned a lot about the medical field in high school,” she said. “I started college as a pre-med major. Once I got a few semesters into college, I realized that medicine was not for me, and I wanted to explore teaching. I changed my major and never looked back!”
Nicole said her mother told her later she always knew she would be a teacher.
“My mom and dad were huge influences in my life as a child,” she said. “They taught me to be the best person I could be, and they supported my decisions every step of the way.”
“I loved school; learning was rewarding for me, and I liked working hard to earn good grades,” Nicole said. “I joined the drama club and learned to work backstage and run the show as a stage manager as well. I graduated as co-valedictorian of my high school class.”
Nicole said her favorite subject was always reading.
“You had to pry the books out of my fingers, and my mother would catch me staying up late at night, reading books with a flashlight under the covers,” she said.
When Nicole graduated from high school in 2000 she enrolled at Florida State University and moved to Tallahassee. She majored in English Education, and her focus was middle school teaching.
“I interned in a sixth grade language arts class and loved it,” she said.
Nicole graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 2004 and decided to continue at Florida State to get her master’s.
“Again I majored in English education, this time with a focus in community college education,” she said. “I interned at Tallahassee Community College in a composition class. Once I graduated with my master’s in 2006, I moved to Orlando and was hired by Maitland Middle School in Orange County to teach seventh grade language arts.”
Since graduating from college she has been a classroom teacher for nine years. She taught seventh grade language arts at Maitland Middle for two years before moving on to Park Maitland School, a private school in Maitland. She taught second grade reading there.
“I was lucky to be able to focus on one of my favorite subjects with my students,” she said. “While I was teaching throughout these nine years, I also taught literature and composition classes to adults at the college level at night. This year at The Island School will be my tenth year teaching.”
Nicole said she is very excited to be able to continue her teaching career at The Island School, and is psyched about teaching elementary students.
“I am looking forward to our year together; I think it has gotten off to a great start!” she said. “In the future, if I had the opportunity to go back to school to earn my PhD, I would love to further my education. I would focus either on education or literature.”
Right now, though, she has her hands full getting into the swing of things at a new school with new students … and many more adventures to come.