The class motto for Libby Nicholson’s 4th-grade students at Broadus Wood Elementary School is: “Bee your best.”
No, it’s not a typo. The theme for Libby’s curriculum is the honey bee -- a vital part of Earth’s ecosystem. She works the insect into all areas of study for her students: math, science, history, and even lunch, so much so that she’s become the “bee class.”
“Honey bees are community insects. They all do their own work for the greater good,” she said. “So that’s what we talk about as a class. We’re all working toward a common goal as a community, but we’re also working toward our own individual goals and we’re all working to be our best.”
For history, Libby teaches her students about how honey bees are not native to America and about how they traveled overseas alongside settlers to the Jamestown colony. For their math lesson, they look at how honey bees use hexagons to build their hives and store honey.
But maybe Libby’s favorite lesson for her class is just how vital the honey bee is to pollination. Each day for one week, she asks one student to volunteer their lunch as an example and together as a class they remove all of the parts of the lunch that would not exist without bees. This includes a wide variety of lunch staples like fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
“It really shows just how important honey bees are to us,” she said.
Libby began teaching at Broadus Wood as a preschool teacher 17 years ago, and before that, spent 17 years as a preschool teacher. Since joining the Broadus Wood family, she’s taught kindergarten, 1st grade, 3rd grade, and 4th grade. What she loves most about teaching has been forming relationships with the students that pass through her classroom.
“Students are like snowflakes. No two are alike,” she said. “I love seeing how different and unique they all are.”
This past year was challenging for her, Libby said. She missed seeing her students in person and said while she was still able to form some relationships with her students, it just wasn’t the same as in-person teaching. And that, for Libby, is the lesson she will take away from this year.
“Teaching online proves to me how valuable that relationship is,” she said. “You can’t replace a teacher’s relationship with their students through technology.”
More than anything, Libby is looking forward to seeing her students in person again.
“Getting to know them and watching them grow up is so exciting,” she said, “which is what I’ve really missed this year.”
But, Libby said, she’s going to do her best to make sure that she shows her students just how much she still cares for them. Even if it means she has to be a little sneaky in the process.
“I’m sneaking down to 5th grade to hug you guys this year, so get ready!”