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Teacher of the month: Whitlow teacher leans on her own struggles in math to help students
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Whitlow Elementary School fifth-grader teacher Nicole Trocina poses for a portrait in her classroom on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. Trocina was voted the Forsyth County News' Teacher of the Month for October. - photo by Brian Paglia

Nicole Trocina was not a math person growing up. The Forsyth County native struggled to learn the subject as she progressed through Vickery Creek elementary and middle schools.

“When I was learning it, there was one way to learn the skill,” Trocina said.

Teacher of the month ICON WEB

Nicole Trocina

School: Whitlow Elementary School

Years teaching: 5

Subject: Fifth-grade math and science

Then Trocina became a fifth-grade math and science teacher at Whitlow Elementary School and discovered a new way. There she learned the school system’s “multiple strategies” approach to teaching math that allows students to choose a method that works for them. Trocina finally found the fun in math, and she wants to share it with all her students.

“I don’t want the students to feel the way that I did when I was little,” Trocina said. “I think because of that it’s made me super passionate about teaching it.”

Trocina’s passion must be infectious: she was voted the Forsyth County News’ Teacher of the Month for October by a wide margin.

The FCN talked with Trocina about her getting over her fear of public speaking, dressing up as a SWAT team member and why she loves teaching.

FCN: Who was your favorite teacher growing up?

Trocina: “Oh, hands down David Rooney [now a marketing teacher and football coach at Forsyth Central]. I had a huge fear of speaking in front of anyone. I signed up for his marketing class, and he told us on the first day that we were going to have to present every day, and I was like, ‘Nope, I’m not.’ I told him, ‘I’m going to drop your class.’

“And he was like, ‘Well, what career do you want to go into?’ And I said, ‘I want to be a teacher.’ He laughed at me. He was like, ‘You think you’re going to be a teacher and not have to talk in front of people?’ I was like, ‘Well, I’m just going to be talking to kids.’ He was like, ‘No, you’ve got parent meetings.’

“I really had a turning point with him where I found the confidence to do things I was not comfortable doing. Just from that conversation, he kind of changed my path.”

FCN: What’s your most embarrassing teacher moment?

Trocina: “When I taught fourth grade, we decided we wanted our STEM project was composting, which was with worms. We decided that we wanted to dress up as SWAT - students, worms and teachers. So we got SWAT outfits.

“We had a STEM tour, and I was getting my students real pumped up for it, because some of them were really nervous about maybe having to talk to the adults that were coming into the room.

“I didn't realize that the tour had started yet, but I was standing on my table in a SWAT outfit with a mustache on, tie on, standing on the table, cheering the kids on ... and then the STEM tour walked in.

FCN: What advice would you give new teachers?

Trocina: “Each day is a new day. So don't let whatever happened the day before carry over into the next. You can choose what to make of it. That's what I would've told myself, because I did spend a lot of time carrying a lot of stress with me when I could've just let it go and move on to the next day. The work will be there tomorrow. It's OK if you don't get it done that day. Just keep pushing forward.”

FCN: What’s your favorite thing about teaching?

Trocina: “That’s easy — the kids and the people that I work with. I’ve been super-blessed to be on teams where we all get along, we collaborate. I think it’s super important having a team that you can count on.

“But the kids. They make each day exciting. There’s just something so rewarding about seeing my students find those ‘Ah, ha!’ Moments and realizing, ‘OK, I can do this, I am smart, I am a great person.’ That’s the most amazing part of this job.”

Have a favorite teacher that you want to show your appreciation for? Nominate them for the NovemberTeacher of the Month contest! The winning teacher will receive recognition and gifts from Fountain Financial Advisors and Primrose School of Cumming North. To nominate a teacher, go to forsythnews.com/teacher.