Mother, daughter each named teacher of the year

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By Tom Wilmoth

Martha Nowlin and Kim Bollinger have a lot in common.
    They’re both teachers at elementary schools in Bedford County—Martha at Big Island Elementary and Kim at Body Camp Elementary. They both love teaching; they both serve as coordinator for their school’s Consultation Team.
    They’ve both been named as their school’s Teacher of the Year.
    And there’s one more important connection they share—they are mother (Martha) and daughter (Kim).
    “I thought it was really neat, really special,” stated Martha about being named as teachers of the year, the same year.
    Martha is in her 23rd year of teaching, her 13th here in Bedford County. The family moved to Big Island in 2001 and much  of  her  teaching  career was spent at Bedford Primary School as a reading specialist.
    When Wayne Lyle moved from BPS to be principal at Big Island, Martha moved as well. “It was a logical move for me,” she said about working closer to home and being able to get to know her neighbors better. Now she’s teaching second grade at the school and enjoying being with the same students all day.
    “I hadn’t been in a classroom for 12 years,” Martha said of making the move from reading specialist to classroom teacher. “But I absolutely love it. I like teaching all of the subjects.”
    Kim is in her third year of teaching at Body Camp, teaching fourth and fifth grade language arts and history. For her, a teaching career seemed natural. In addition to her mom’s teaching experience, her dad, Melvin Nowlin, has also taught at the Air Force Academy and at Central Virginia Community College.
    “There’s something special about Body Camp and the children I work with,” Kim said. “I love the kids there.”
    And no matter what is going on, every day she looks forward to going to school. “It’s a family there,” she said. “I’m happy to be a part of that.”
    Understandably, Martha is proud of her daughter’s accomplishments and the leadership roles she already has. “That says a lot of her skills,” Martha said of Kim.
    Kim, 23, was part of the first class of students who attended Early College at CVCC in Bedford, graduating from Liberty High School in 2009 along with her Associate’s Degree from CVCC. From there she went to Lynchburg College, graduating in May 2011. She plans to seek a master’s degree in administration or counseling.
     The family moved to Bedford County when her dad retired from the Air Force. Originally from Salem, they were glad to be back in the area. This is actually the second time Martha has been named as a school’s teacher of the year. While working at the Primary School, she earned that honor in 2006.
    But, in only her third year at Big Island, she wasn’t expecting the honor again.
    “I’m very, very honored,” Martha said.
    Teaching is the career she always wanted to pursue. “I played school as a child,” Martha said.
    Kim did, too.
    Kim said her third grade teacher helped solidify her desire to be a teacher. “I loved her dearly,” Kim said. “She wanted to get to know you and who you were.”
    And that’s what she attempts to do with her students. “Unless you understand who they are, you’re not going to be able to reach all of them,” Kim said.
    Martha, 53, agreed, noting that students need to be taught as individuals. “A partnership with the parents is extremely important,” she said. “They’re the first teachers.”
    And both mother and daughter hope they can help their students feel special, every day.
    “You’re not going to reach each child in the same way,” Martha said. “You need to think outside the box. Knowing how each child learns is important.”
    There is also a need to set the bar high, Kim added. “They’ll amaze you at what they can accomplish,” she said.
    Mother and daughter bounce teaching ideas off each other and support each other anyway they can.
     Now Martha and Kim are competing, in essence, to be named as the county’s teacher of the year, along with each school’s respective teacher of the year candidate. But they’re not even thinking about that.
    “I’d be thrilled for her,” Martha said, if Kim were to win that honor. “And I know she would be for me, too.”