Raleigh couple wins top teacher honors at Douglas, Jeffreys Grove elementaries

03/29/2014 12:00 AM

02/15/2015 10:45 AM

Nicole Bulloch, a fifth-grade teacher at Jeffreys Grove Elementary, had big news to share with her husband, Nick, earlier this school year.

She had been named Teacher of the Year.

A few days later, Nick, a second-grade teacher at Douglas Elementary had some news of his own: So had he.

Each year, teachers at every Wake County public school nominate one of their peers for the position, who carry the title for the year.

The Bullochs both say it’s been an honor to do so, once they got over their surprise at having been selected.

“I was very shocked because there’s not a teacher in this building that doesn’t deserve Teacher of the Year,” Nick said. “Everybody comes to work every day and gives it their all.”

Nick, 32, and Nicole, 30, met as student teachers in Michigan and arrived together in Wake County seven years ago to begin their careers.

Sharing a profession means they’re able to bounce ideas off one another, develop lessons together and appreciate each other’s everyday triumphs, especially when they can bring home news of a student’s progress.

They both love watching students learn and grow and knowing they’ve made a difference for them. And there are favorite moments every day for each of them when they get to see that difference.

For Nick, a consistent highlight is math, where he’s always on the lookout for fun or silly ways to get his students engaged, like pretending he doesn’t know he’s made mistakes and counting on his students to get a kick out of correcting him.

“I figure if I can get them to laugh about it and have fun doing it, it will stick a little better,” he said.

Nicole loves the end of the day at dismissal time when she can deepen her relationships with students as they chatter about their sports teams or weekend activities. With her fifth-graders, she likes seeing the signs of who they’re going to grow up to be and helping them make the transition to middle school and beyond.

“I really enjoy teaching life lessons and skills and talking about those types of things,” she said.

Teaching together also means the Bullochs can support one another through difficult times, including waves of policy changes or years of stagnant wages. Since they arrived in Wake County, neither has had a pay raise.

That’s tough, says the Bullochs, especially as they prepare to welcome their first children, twin boys, in a few weeks. They’ve tossed around the idea of changing careers or moving elsewhere, but they find it hard to imagine leaving teaching or the life they’ve built for themselves in the area.

“I love teaching these kids,” Nick said. “It’s why I come to work every day.”

Last week, Nick’s students threw the couple a baby shower complete with gifts of quilts for the babies and mini cupcakes topped with bright blue icing. Nicole’s class had hosted a party of their own as well.

Moments like that, when students and parents take time to show their appreciation, help make teaching worth it, they said. They treasure the notes parents drop off for them.

“Those little emails or notes of encouragement or support or thanks, they go a long way, they really do,” Nicole said. “That’s another thing we share with each other.”

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