Teacher allows his students to be more independent.
| 12:30 p.m. March 8, 2017
Teacher Nicholas Leduc wandered through a maze of desks at Braden River Elementary, pondering whether it was the right moment to start his 26 fourth-graders in their regular 30 minutes of “wonder.”
It is an important part of Leduc’s teaching philosophy, as he allows them independent time to be stimulated by the activity of their own choice.
“We call this free choice ‘rotations,’” said Leduc, whose passion and love of education were rewarded March 8 when he was named Educator of the Year by the Manatee County School District.
“They can build things, code, make origami, do math problems or some students have started drawing their own maps. I am allowing them to specialize in something at a young age, which is important.”
Before he released them to their time of “wonder,” Leduc told the students to think about what they were going to be doing and envision what they would look like.
He afforded them a few seconds to ponder the next 30 minutes, then released them to go their own direction.
As an educator, Leduc has been allowed to go his own direction at times, and that led to a speech he never anticipated making. He stood in front of a packed house at the district’s Excellence in Education ceremony, and addressed the crowd after he was selected over three of his peers to become Educator of the Year.
“I’m afraid you have the wrong man,” said Leduc, who is 44. “This is really hard for me because whenever I leave my classroom and walk down the hallway at Braden River Elementary, I see the Mount Rushmore of teachers.”
His students who attended the ceremony, along with their parents, let Leduc know he should be considered among the best at Braden River Elementary. They jumped to their feet, cheered wildly and waved sticks with a photo of Leduc at the top, kind of like a big lollipop.
Leduc’s teaching style is related to the belief he never should underestimate his students.
“When I saw the students during independent time, when I saw them setting their own goals and achieving them, I realized that they are capable of doing a lot more than we teachers might let them,” he said.
His ability to push his students to the highest level possible has led to Educator of the Year nominations in the past, but he never has accepted those nominations.
In the past, he was not a fan of competing with other teachers. However, he decided to accept the nomination this year to honor his mom, Leslie Leduc, who died two years ago.
“My mom was a teacher in Manatee County and she always wanted to be a finalist,” Leduc said. “I have turned the nomination down multiple times, and when my mom found out she got upset. So, I am here because she would want me to do it.”
While Leduc obviously values the past, he doesn’t live in it. He said his teaching style is subject to change, and he loves trying new things.
“It is so easy to get lost in the teaching regimens of today,” Leduc said. “The moment we stop trying to change something, we lose our edge.”
Cora Augustine, a fourth-grader in Leduc’s class, sees a lot of positive qualities in her teacher.
“He gives us the freedom to do stuff, and he makes work fun,” she said. “A lot of other teachers yell, but Mr. Leduc likes to talk it out, pull us to the side without embarrassing us.”
Fourth-grader Eli Askins likes the high energy in Leduc’s class.
“Other teachers made us sit around all day and he lets us move around a lot,” Askins said. “He also makes learning fun. He makes songs up for us to memorize multiplication and division.”
Leduc throws all the credit back to his students.
“The biggest thing here is that I stay out of the way,” Leduc said. “They revolve around me, but I let them do their own thing. I’m just the tallest person in the room.”