“I often tell my students that they teach me how they learn and it’s my job to take note and make the necessary adjustments.”

A graduate of Norfolk State University, Nicole Taylor honed her trades skills through her building construction technology major along with her industry experience. She worked as a roofer each summer during college, a project manager for two homebuilders after graduation, and as a small business contractor.

Taylor has taught for 11 years at Warren Technical School, which educates students with special needs in career skills as well as core academics taught from a career-oriented perspective. Taylor guides her classes through leveled National Center for Construction Education and Research curricula. Beginning with safety, tool usage and drawings, Taylor’s students advance to basic carpentry, electrical and masonry before diving deeper into specific trades. Students work in pairs, providing each other peer-to-peer tutoring, while Taylor provides group lessons and remediation as needed.

Beyond the classroom, Taylor’s students connect with peers through SkillsUSA, and with industry professionals through work-based learning, career fairs and guest speakers. They also serve the community through special projects, like maintaining and constructing shelters for Atlanta’s unhoused population. A believer in continuously improving her practice, Taylor earned a certification in special education to better serve students.

Last year, Taylor was named a teacher of the year for her school, the only trades teacher to win the honor. She helped place six students in jobs, a particularly important achievement for the students she serves.

“Our special education vocational school receives students with deficiencies in math and reading. Their confidence has been depleted and the traditional methods of demonstrating achievement and understanding have not worked in their favor,” Taylor said in her prizewinning application. The end result of her program, Taylor added, “are students whose self-esteem, confidence and skill sets develop and flourish in ways they could have never imagined.”

“Students enter my program and have a small class setting of like-minded peers. I teach with an instructional model that provides them patience and support for the way they learn which leads to fundamentally sound vocational outcomes. They are provided multiple ways to assess their understanding of the content with the hands-on portion of the classroom being the main component.”