Pre-kindergarten teacher learns of $10,000 award through storybook

Oct. 1 was to be a normal day for Nicole Lowery. She read aloud to her students a special book, "The Good News Bird." Lowery had not read the book and had no idea of its plot or ending.

By the last page, she was weeping.

Lowery, a North Las Vegas resident, is a pre-kindergarten teacher at Summerlin KinderCare Learning Center, 3085 Desert Marigold Lane. The book she read was about a bird that traveled a great distance to inform a teacher that the teacher had received acclaim for her work. Lowery read aloud as she had done with countless books before.

"So who is this very special teacher who won this awesome award?" Lowery said.

She turned to the final page.

"Our very own Nicole Lowery," it read.

Lowery broke down into tears as her students cheered.

She won the Early Childhood Educator Award from Knowledge Universe, an Oregon-based education company that operates more than 2,600 KinderCare centers nationwide, including seven in the Las Vegas Valley.

So why did the bird bring the good news to Lowery?

Page eight reads: "She was chosen because of the wonderful job she does with children in class, with parents and with other teachers."

Wendy Johnstone, district manager for Nevada KinderCare centers, elaborated on the bird’s reasons.

"Every time I’m in her classroom, I never want to leave," Johnstone said. "I just want to be involved. I want to participate.

"She really adapts her teaching style to each one of her children. … She has the most captivating classroom that is all done through her children’s work."

Johnstone said Lowery’s classroom is always at capacity and there is a long waiting list to get in.

"Everybody wants Miss Nicole," she said. "Nicole sets them up for success."

Lowery has been a pre-kindergarten teacher for 15 years, nine in Las Vegas. She went to college in Northern California, originally with the intent to become an elementary school teacher but developed a passion for younger children while raising her daughter during the same time.

"My daughter was what made me fall in love with it," Lowery said. "Through the process of attaining a degree and watching my child grow and develop, I discovered how much I really like the younger children and their blunt honesty."

In order to trick Lowery into reading a book about herself, KinderCare told her the company was recording a training video, which helped explain all the cameras and visitors from corporate. Besides, Lowery had watched plenty of company-made training videos during professional development days.

"I swear to gosh, I did not know," Lowery said. "As I read it, I thought I was going to read off a different teacher’s name."

A few pages earlier, on page seven, Lowery learned "she will also be awarded a check for $10,000."

Lowery’s first thought was that she had to call her mom. Her second thought was how she could finally afford to help her daughter, a freshman at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, buy a car. Her third thought was how she could buy new toys for her classroom.

Knowledge Universe also plans to fly Lowery to an education conference in Atlanta in November as part of her prize.

Lowery was presented with a giant $10,000 check in the classroom and was given a smaller check after the event. One person, though, saw value in the giant check.

"My mother has the big check nailed to her bedroom wall," Lowery said. "Anyone who comes to her house, she has to show them. She’s an extremely proud mommy right now."

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier@viewnews.com or 702-224-5524.

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