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Growing young minds: Mount Si High School horticulture instructor Nick Kurka is Educator of the Year

Mount Si horticulture teacher Nick Kurka, center, helps students in the school greenhouse, where they are prepping plants for city flower baskets and the school plant sale in May. - Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo
Mount Si horticulture teacher Nick Kurka, center, helps students in the school greenhouse, where they are prepping plants for city flower baskets and the school plant sale in May.
— image credit: Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo

Nick Kurka, horticulture teacher at Mount Si High School, has been teaching students for 13 years, 11 of them at Mount Si.

Named one of four Educators of the Year for 2014 by the Snoqualmie Valley Schools Foundation, Kurka below answers questions about his approach. Kurka’s original degrees were in water supply and wastewater technologies, from Green River Community College, and he received his Career and Technical Education (CTE) certification from Bates College through Pacific University.

What do you love about teaching? Did you always want to teach?

“To me learning should be fun; if I am not having fun while I am learning, then I am not going to learn. I want my ‘kids’ to know and experience that learning can be fun. I give them my best and I expect them to give me their best in return!

“They know they are respected and I value all of them, even when they do not make the best choices.... We learn from (mistakes) and move on. What I love most is being allowed to be a positive influence in their lives and see how it changes them. I want them to know that ‘Life is Good.’”

“I came into teaching late in life, even though I have probably been teaching all my life, but not as a career. I laugh that I get paid to teach, it is an honor not a job.”

How do you feel you help create a positive scholastic environment?

“My classroom is known to be a safe place to be and express yourself in a respectful manner. It’s a place where you are respected and valued. “

What do you do for fun when you’re not working?

“I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. Outside in my backyard I am fortunate to have deer, bald eagles, ospreys, ducks, geese, otters and many different types of fish. It is a great place to enjoy friends and watch nature.”

What do your students teach you?

“They teach me every day through their actions and questions. I am amazed daily by their clarity of thought and their maturity. They make me laugh and keep me young.”

Celebrating with Nick Kurka for being selected the High School Educator of the Year are, from left, previous award winner Kim Sales, Principal John Belcher and Assistant Principal Greg Hart. Courtesy photo

 

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