Excellence Abounds at UICS for A+ Teachers

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Amazing educators work at United Inner City Services (UICS). At UICS, we know they’re strong, determined, dependable, and innovative, and we’re thrilled that our community recognizes this too!

“I am lucky to have colleagues who truly care about early learning and their practice,” said UICS-Metro Center Training and Curriculum Manager Annette Farrell.

This year, we had three teachers receive awards for their talent in the classroom. Marshon Hubbard, UICS-Metro Center pre-K teacher, won the Excellence in Early Care and Education award from The Family Conservancy (TFC); Nicole Gunnels, a fellow UICS-Metro Center pre-K teacher, was awarded Teacher of the Year from Show Me KC Schools; and Nancy Bickel, an infant/toddler educator at UICS-North Center, was recognized for Excellence in Teaching by the Northland Regional Chamber of Commerce

UICS educators go the extra mile for their students, but these teachers proved that not even 2020 could stop them from supporting their little learners. Nicole’s Teacher of the Year award came from a nomination that spoke volumes about Nicole’s quality teaching for the Animators classroom at UICS-Metro Center. Her anonymous nominator had this to say: 

There has been no other year that better exemplifies the challenges of being an early childhood educator. Ms. Nicole is a model for high-quality early educators in Kansas City and we are so fortunate to experience her excellence.”

Nicole is a thought-provoking instructor. Her projects are so strongly driven by her class’ interests, that the students lead the discussion. 

“Nicole is kind and this is exhibited in her relationships with families and the children,” Annette said.   

UICS teachers, like Nicole, meet their students where they are. Marshon in UICS-Metro Center’s Photographers classroom also individualizes her approach to meet the needs of every student. She invites her students’ parents/caregivers as partners to support kids’ social and emotional needs.

“This is my passion. This is what I love to do,” Marshon said.

Peer teachers across all three centers also expressed enthusiasm for this year’s recipients. Shuryce (Niqui) Hill, teacher in UICS-St. Mark Center’s Red classroom, wrote this to Marshon after her award from TFC was announced, “The award has only been in existence for three years and UICS holds two of them! You totally deserve it! You are such an amazing spirit.”

Niqui was recognized for this impressive achievement in 2019. 

While these teachers have been celebrated for their excellence, they continue to participate in continued professional development opportunities to enrich experiences for their students. Nicole participated in Project Approach to be better attuned to the interests of her students. (The Project Approach refers to a set of teaching strategies that enable teachers to guide students through in-depth studies of real-world topics.)

Marshon will be graduating with her second master’s degree this year. Marshon said that her studies offered a deeper appreciation of childhood development and gave her new ideas to bring to her classroom immediately. 

“Learning more about how children learn and develop, I was kind of like a mad scientist with it!” 

Annette believes that Nicole and Marshon’s leadership skills are what set them apart. 

“Both teachers are outstanding due to their excellent partnerships with their co-teachers and dedication to their craft,” Annette said. “This is essential to have success in the classroom or center.”

Then there’s Nancy Bickel at UICS-North Center, who handles challenges with immeasurable grace and patience, all while engaging with energetic two-year-olds. 

“She has her hands full, but you wouldn’t know it,” said Early Learning Specialist Merrill Hunt. Merrill considers herself to be “the teacher of the teachers,” but she considers Nancy to be the mentor. 

Nancy is a seasoned preschool teacher that has worked with students with a variety of different needs in her career. 

“I think Miss Nancy is very impressive because no matter what’s going on, she puts her children first when she steps into the classroom,” Merrill said. 

Nancy teaches in the Caterpillars classroom. She holds her students to a high standard with Conscious Discipline, (the approach UICS uses to integrate social-emotional learning, discipline and self-regulation), but it’s because she believes they can do anything. 

“She’s very calm and she’s very kind. She works hard,” Merrill said. “I just like her as a person too.” 

UICS teachers do amazing things. While Teacher Appreciation Week may have recently ended, we appreciate them as much as their little learners do. Every. Single. Day!