Nikki Gallentine

Nikki Gallentine of South Beloit, has taught fourth grade at Prairie Hill Elementary for five years. Her students’ academic abilities range from first grade through sixth. She previously taught Kindergarten for 10 years. Nikki decided on her perfect career in third grade. Her passions until then were ever-changing: artist, veterinarian, Miss America or President of the United States. But in third grade, she met the teacher who inspired her to be for future students what that teacher had been to her. “Since teaching didn’t run in my family, I did not realize the extent of what I would need to give of myself to be successful in this profession, and likewise, I couldn’t imagine the extent to which this job would fill my heart.” Celebrated educator, Rita Pierson, knew that children first need to feel valued and safe in order to learn. She gave them a saying which Nikki’s students recite daily: “I am somebody. I was somebody when I came. I’ll be a better somebody when I leave. I am powerful and I am strong. I deserve the education that I get here.” Nikki knows that children with different backgrounds, strengths and challenges learn in different ways and considers it her job to make sure every child is learning. Her determination is accompanied by some very creative methods on her part. “It is not unusual to see me standing on a table and students standing on chairs. We are unapologetically loud at times, materials are not always meticulously organized, but some intense learning is happening in here … learning can be messy.” Principal Kevin Finnegan was initially hesitant to bring in a Kindergarten teacher to teach fourth grade, but Nikki’s spark caught his attention immediately. He no longer balks about applicants with Kindergarten experience! “Her creativity is only surpassed by her incredible instruction …. Ms. Gallentine shows daily in her fun, energetic, powerful, colorful, engaging, loving classroom that she has taken the lessons from her kindergarten days and made them perfectly fit an older age.” One day, she may provide detective props for students to use text evidence and inferencing skills to solve a mystery of who kidnapped the principal. Another day, she may transform the classroom into a restaurant for a “book tasting.” All students must listen, watch and participate; their involvement elevates their level of understanding. A lifelong learner, Nikki strives to bring best practices to her class, school and district. She’s completed courses about building student vocabulary, incorporating technology, addressing anxiety and understanding Autism, ADHD and Dyslexia. Her next endeavor is to obtain needed resources to use with Dyslexic learners. “This journey involves my sacrificing months of my time outside of school and a large amount of money in order to do what’s best for my students, but I firmly believe that when students don’t learn the way we teach, we need to teach the way they learn.”