BCSI Teacher Spotlight—Nicole Roberts
Nicole Roberts is the Director of Literacy Curriculum and Instruction for Pineapple Cove Classical Academy at Palm Bay and Pineapple Cove Classical Academy at West Melbourne. She grew up in San Jose, California, and after initially pursuing music, went back to school for education. She graduated in 2007 with a degree in early childhood education from the University of Central Florida.
Tell us about your background and career:
I moved back to California in 2007 and landed my first teaching job as a junior kindergarten teacher. It was a very successful initiative, and I thoroughly enjoyed teaching that age group. However, class-size reduction was being discontinued, and each year the number of scholars in my classroom rose. Teaching 27 four- and five-year-olds without an aide was difficult. In 2011, I moved back to Florida and started teaching for Brevard Public Schools.
After bouncing around the primary grades for a few years, I took a brief leave to focus on my young family. I heard rumblings of a new classical charter school being built very close to my home. My first glance at the classical approach had me questioning whether I would be a good fit. The thought of “direct instruction” all day sounded so foreign. And it surprised me to read that even kindergarteners would have their own desks! But when I learned about the founders and administrators, I decided to go for it.
My interview felt like a conversation with friends. I shared that day how I had become discontent in my teaching profession. Mr. John Moran, one of Pineapple Cove Classical Academy’s founders, told me, “I promise you will love teaching again.” Within the first weeks of teaching kindergarten at Pineapple Cove Classical Academy, I had most definitely fallen back in love. Direct instruction was how I was meant to teach. I felt like I was a performer on a stage keeping the audience captivated with this wonderfully rich content. I found where in the world of education I was supposed to be. It was a tremendous year!
As a literacy trainer, what does a typical day look like for you?
I have the pleasure of working at two schools, Pineapple Cove Classical Academy in Palm Bay and our West Melbourne location.
As the needs of my teachers and scholars change, so does my focus. I start the year observing first-year teachers and providing feedback on their instruction or modeling lessons for them. The manner in which we teach orthography is a new concept to our first-year teachers, so I provide a lot of guidance. Orthography is the study of the spelling system of a language. We don’t merely teach scholars how to spell words. Instead, our lessons are rule-driven, based on the 44 rules of spelling for the English language. I also work with returning teachers and help with one-on-one assessments, modeling, and providing feedback to their lessons.
As we move into the second quarter, we target scholars that may need extra support. Part of my role is to act as an interventionist and work with struggling scholars. I visit classrooms or pull small groups out to provide extra support in areas of need. I am currently seeing multiple small groups in kindergarten through sixth grade.
Do you have a philosophy of teaching literacy?
I have never been more confident about teaching young children to read as I have been since working at Pineapple Cove Classical Academy. The Literacy Essentials program is far superior to any other program or approach I have used in the past.
Teaching explicit phonics along with the rules of spelling gives our scholars all the pieces of the puzzle from the start. As a result, they are able to decode unfamiliar words and become better writers. We spend kindergarten through second grade learning to read, and third grade and beyond reading to learn.
What is your favorite part of teaching?
When I was a classroom teacher, my favorite part of the day was reading out loud to my scholars. Exposing children to the classics is so valuable. I loved how invested they were in these amazing novels and picture books. We aligned our virtues to the characters, which led to many deep discussions. These stories have withstood the test of time and are still relevant today.
As a literacy trainer, I love to see the excitement in children’s eyes when they approach words with confidence. They are empowered. I’m passionate about sharing my knowledge of orthography with other teachers and helping them hone their craft.
Do you have any advice for new teachers?
Ask for help. Our curriculum is hands down the best I have ever taught, but it is rigorous and can feel overwhelming at times. Pineapple Cove Classical Academy prides itself on being a family. Family, to me, means you can be vulnerable and know in your heart someone has your back and cares for you unconditionally. Teachers shouldn’t ever feel like they are in this alone.
Additional advice—never stop learning. We all have room for improvement. Stay consistent in your intentions as an educator, and keep evolving to become the best version of yourself for your scholars.
Anything else you’d like to share?
It’s not an exaggeration to say Pineapple Cove Classical Academy has changed my life. And I am so grateful that it is also changing the lives of my three children. PCCA has already enriched their lives so much. I can’t wait to see where this foundation—both in academics and virtue—takes them.