Bethel Park teacher a finalist for Teacher of the Year

Published May 8, 2013 at 11:03 am (Updated May 8, 2013 at 11:03 am)

The first reaction Nicola Hipkins said she felt upon learning she is one of 11 teachers across Pennsylvania to be selected as a finalist for Pennsylvania’s 2014 Teacher of the Year was “shock.”

“I’m very overwhelmed by the attention, but it is shocking. I’m a little bit uncomfortable about the attention,” Hipkins said.

She has worked in the Bethel Park School District for the past 15 years, where she teaches English 10, Film as Literature and SAT Preparation.

Finalists were nominated by students, parents, colleagues or members of the community who want to recognize teachers’ accomplishments in and out of the classroom.

“I believe it was my principal,” she said of who nominated her. “He asked me and I said I would, and so I’m assuming it was him.”

Her students learned of the nomination May 3, when she told them about a class she was to record and teach in which the students were to participate.

To reach the final 11, Hipkins wrote six essays. Now that she is a finalist, she must film a class and complete interviews on DVD, along with some speeches.

The graduate of West Allegheny High School and Indiana University of Pennsylvania, said her family was excited about her selection as a finalist. When asked specifically if her mother was pleased, Hipkins said, “She is happy. She’s on cloud nine. I’m the first one in my family to go to college.”

Hipkins did her student teaching at Fox Chapel High School, followed by a long-term substitution stint at Fox Chapel and another in the Canon-McMillan School District. When a position came open in the Bethel Park district, she was hired and has been there ever since.

As for the Film in Literature class, Hipkins explained she teaches the language of film, like different shots, angles and framing. Students study film clips, not full-length movies.

If Hipkins is selected as the 2014 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, she will be expected to carry out the duties of the state teacher of the year, which were not specified, and will compete as the state’s nominee for National Teacher of the Year.

No date was given for when the winner is selected, and Hipkins said she was not certain of the date.

“I congratulate these outstanding educators for being selected as finalists to compete for this award,” said Gov. Tom Corbett. “These individuals represent the thousands of excellent educators in classrooms across the state who are dedicated to educating children.”

Two other finalists in the area are Carol Aten Frow, from the Belle Vernon Area School District, and Jen Klobucar, of the Yough School District, both in Westmoreland County.

“These individuals and their colleagues are committed to encouraging their students to excel,” said state Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis. “Each and every day across Pennsylvania, teachers play a pivotal role in preparing our children for academic and personal success. They are to be applauded for their hard work and dedication.”

Hipkins, her husband Dan, and children, Abigail, 11, and Anthony, 8, live in North Strabane Township.

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