Wallis will receive the UEA/dõTERRA Excellence in Teaching award on May 18 during the KeyBank Superstars in Education banquet.
Video profiles on each of the winning teachers, produced by KUED TV, will be shown at the awards ceremony and are available online at kued.org/teachers.
Most of the students Wallis teaches come from very humble circumstances. Many travel on dirt roads well over an hour to get to Bluff Elementary from remote homes, which makes her commitment to students all the more remarkable.
“Not only was Nicole working hard in the classroom, but she was willing to meet with parents, doing many home visits,” said her principal, Barbara Silversmith.
Wallis recognizes her students’ circumstances are largely out of their control, and their parents are doing the best they can with very limited resources. Sometimes the main constant in these students’ lives is their teacher.
Two years ago, Wallis’s husband, Darin, who taught at San Juan High School in Blanding, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. She helped with her husband’s treatment while continuing to teach. Her husband passed away on the Thursday prior to the school’s SAGE tests.
Knowing her students would perform better with her in the classroom and not wanting the hard work of her students to be overshadowed by her personal loss, she returned the next Monday to be with them and administer the test.
“It’s the greatest job in the world,” Wallis says, “and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”
She was selected for the excellence award based on her impact on individual students or groups of students. She also receives a poster to display and a check for $1,500.