Alumni Q&A: Nicole Dixon '98 :: Teacher by Day, Artist by Night
By Andrei Ferrera, Director of Publications
Q. Can you tell me about your position as a supervising teacher at Nia House?
I am Head Teacher at Nia House Learning Center, a Montessori School in Berkeley, a 35-year-old non-profit serving a diverse community of families and providing scholarships to families who would ordinarily not have access to Montessori education. Well into my sixth year, I am still one of the newer additions to the school. We are proud to have teachers with over 20 years of experience at Nia House. I am in my second year as head teacher, and am responsible for overseeing the implementation of the curriculum, the progress of children, communications with parents, and monitoring staff. In addition, I am the staff representative on the Board of Directors. I am also a practicing visual artist, and I facilitate the monthly Family Day art workshops at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MOAD) in San Francisco. I am participating in the ProArts East Bay Open Studios in June, and I am in an exhibition in Vallejo, CA later this month.
Q. Can you talk about the path that brought you to teaching and Nia House? Did you pursue education or a teaching credential in college?
I was an artist while at Head-Royce and was a Studio Art major and Women’s Studies minor at Spelman College (2002) in Atlanta. But coming from a big family, I was also always involved in childcare and teaching on some level since I was a young girl. Even my Head-Royce senior project was interning at the preschool I attended as a child. During college, I studied abroad for over a year in Botswana and Nepal, and I was even a guest art teacher at a desert school in the Kalahari. When I moved back to California after getting married in 2004, my first instinct was to apply for teaching positions, and I was hired as an assistant teacher at Nia House. I was also able to lead the art curriculum for the children. They paid for my education and after two years of rigorous work, I received my Montessori Teaching Credential for Preschool. So, I am a Montessori teacher by day, and an artist by night.
Q. What was your favorite non-academic activity at HRS?
I loved art with Jill Erickson, and free periods with friends.
Q. What is one piece of advice you would give to young people entering your field?
Be prepared to: have tiny people make you confront your most deeply hidden shortcomings on a daily basis, work harder than you ever have to grow toward your highest self, and burst at the seams with laughter, pride, awe, and gratitude as earth’s most precious beings inspire you, test you, and snuggle you all day long.
Q. What is one piece of advice that YOU received that you are grateful for?
“This too shall pass.” All adolescent dramas are temporary. We grow up, wounds heal, and life goes on.
Q. Overall, how did Head-Royce help prepare you for your professional life?
Not only did HRS prepare me for my current profession, but it gave me the skills to excel in any profession I choose—critical thinking, problemsolving, perseverance, and resilience.
Q. Overall, how did Head-Royce help prepare you for your college and graduate studies?
HRS prepared me for college so thoroughly that both my sister and I received full-ride scholarships to our #1 choice universities, and graduated with honors. I thank HRS, because I’ve never had to pay off student loans.