The following story appeared in the September 8 Idaho Catholic Register.
The Nichols family celebrating the graduation of Missy’s daughter, Faith. From left to right Adam, Faith, Missy and Elle Nichols. (Courtesy Photo/Missy Nichols)
By Emily Woodham
“I’ve always viewed my life’s work in education as ministry,” said Missy Nichols, who sees her role in education, whether as a teacher or administrator, as a vocation. “No matter what we do in education, it is an opportunity to speak life into our students.”
Nichols is the new vice principal of Academic Affairs at Bishop Kelly High School in Boise. Nichols came to BK in 2016 after teaching in public high schools for 14 years. Her role as vice principal is her first in administration.
“I think one of the awesome things that Missy brings to the table is that she’s just out of the classroom,” said Dr. Sarah Quilici, principal at Bishop Kelly. “She comes with her experience in teaching and knows what we need to do and think about as we make classroom decisions.”
Nichols became a teacher because of the power of relationships and wanting to follow the example of her father, a Lutheran pastor. “I want to follow in my dad’s footsteps,” she said, “just as he follows Jesus’ footsteps by engaging with others, helping them grow and understand the value God intends them to know about themselves.”
Wanting to engage with and help others, combined with her love for speaking, led her to choose a career in education. “Studying literature and participating in college discussions revealed to me the power of story in teaching, how both relationships and the study of human culture demonstrate virtue and teach lessons.”
Nichols graduated in 1997 from Pacific Lutheran University in Calif., earning a bachelor’s in Secondary Education and Teaching. She received her master’s in Educational Leadership and Administration from the University of Idaho in 2002.
Through her love of athletics, Nichols also learned the values of teamwork, personal goal fulfillment and understanding different roles. She coached and participated in sports throughout her career. Nichols coached softball in public high schools in the West Ada school district (and taught English) before coming to Bishop Kelly to teach and coach in 2016.
Although she is not Catholic, Nichols is now participating in the Order of Christian Initiation for Adults (OCIA). Even before entering OCIA, she saw participating in a Catholic school as an opportunity to live out her faith. “How could someone not see education as a vocation, a calling?” she said. “To work with future generations and instill work habits, moral virtues, and a life-long love of learning, while revealing one’s love of a specific subject matter all nicely contribute to what the Catholic intellectual tradition requires.”
Her interest in becoming Catholic came from her relationships with people who witnessed the faith. “These Catholics demonstrate by the way they live that their walk with Jesus is alive and real. If I didn’t see that, it wouldn’t have ever made me wonder if there was anything more or different than my experiences in evangelical denominations,” she said.
Nichols has found that Catholic identity means different things to different people. Identity can mean displaying symbols of faith, such as the Cross or images of Mary and the saints. It can also mean integrating faith practices such as prayer in classrooms, daily Mass, or having opportunities for Adoration and Reconciliation.
For Nichols, she has enjoyed the timelessness of Catholic teaching. “I have enjoyed the fidelity with which the Catholic Church has tried to preserve the teachings of Jesus through scripture, the evidence of His Holy Spirit working through people in the lives of the saints, and the commitment to traditions the Church maintains to provide unity.”
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