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5/2/2014 7:44:00 AM
De La Salle teacher nominated for teaching prize
Michelle Nicola
Michelle Nicola

Michelle Nicola, Spanish teacher and Heritage Club Coordinator at De La Salle North Catholic High School, is a finalist for a teaching award given by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“It is truly an honor to be nominated for something I feel so passionately about, social justice," Nicola says. "Obviously, I want my students to learn Spanish, but if I can also teach them to be kinder, more open-minded and open-hearted people, then I know I am doing my job.”

Nicola, who holds a Master’s degree in teaching from George Fox University, believes that teaching is about giving and receiving knowledge and love.

“I see teaching as a reciprocal act — my students have taught me so much and I try to let myself be influenced by their way of seeing the world," she says. "In this way, we are each other’s co-teachers.”

De La Salle is one of the most diverse high schools in Portland. Nicola incorporates creativity — like lessons in the guise of a soap opera — and movement — dance parties. She also builds lessons to engage individual students’ interests and experience.

Meanwhile, De La Salle senior Enat Arega has been chosen as the winner of a Horatio Alger National Scholarship, given to students who have persevered through adversity.

Self-effacing and hard-working, Arega volunteers at Multnomah County Library Summer Reading Program and Multnomah County Library Youth Council and is involved in many school and community activities. Along with two of her siblings, she moved to the U.S.

from Ethiopia five years ago, learning English only after she immigrated. The $21,000 scholarship, along with other supportive programs and services, will allow Arega to pursue a career in biology or public health. Her brother Melaku, De La Salle's 2013 valedictorian, is a freshman at Johns Hopkins University and has been accepted into a study abroad research program next year at Oxford University.

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