Nick Mosher, Wines Elementary fifth grade teacher

Wines Elementary teacher Nick Mosher was born in New York and moved to Ann Arbor when he was in third grade after his parents divorced. His mother wanted to return to her hometown to earn her master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan, where her father had been a professor. She then became a therapist. Mosher’s father worked at Carnegie Corporation for his entire career in New York City, specializing in educational consulting and grant work.

Mosher attended Burns Park Elementary, Tappan Middle School, and Pioneer High School, graduating in 1984. After high school, he attended Indiana University for his undergrad in communications. He then moved to Boston and later New York where he worked in film and television productions. After a year of work at MTV as a production assistant on The Big Picture Show, he and his wife, Danelle, moved to Ann Arbor with the intent to move to Seattle—and never left. 

After completing the Master’s program at Wayne State, Mosher worked as a long-term sub for the district before he was hired by Kevin Karr at Northside Elementary where he worked for 10 years as a fifth grade teacher. He then went on to Wines Elementary to teach fourth grade for 10 years before moving to 5th grade this year.

The Moshers have three children. Ella, Henry, and Nate all attended Eberwhite Elementary, Slauson Middle School, and Community High School. Ella followed her grandmother’s path, pursuing a Master’s in Social Work. Henry is currently a senior at Michigan State University and Nate is a junior at Syracuse University.

Wines Elementary Principal David DeYoung says Mosher has created what he calls “the epitome of a positive classroom environment.”

“During a time when educators are hyper-focused on student well-being, belonging, and physical/emotional safety, Nick Mosher’s approach is extraordinary,” says DeYoung. “Nick’s classroom is a place where students are encouraged to be themselves and accept and celebrate each other. Students love being in Mr. Mosher’s class because they feel welcomed, appreciated, and safe. As a result, Nick can then encourage students to take risks in a supportive environment. Mr. Mosher has many skills as an educator. But his clear strength is how is he able to build strong relationships with students and create a classroom environment for all students that is supportive, engaging, and safe.” 

Why did you pursue a career in teaching?
My wife Danelle (girlfriend at the time) went back to get her teacher certification and began teaching French at Community High School.  I did some work with kids and some coaching while working professionally in TV/film/advertising so I knew I wanted to work with kids and being in sync professionally with my wife made sense. So boom, I went back to get my certification and—following the lead of Wines Y5s teacher and dear friend, Shanna Middleton—earned my master’s degree at Wayne State. Meanwhile, Danelle is teaching her 30th year at Community.

Describe an average workday. 
Teaching is a full-time gig.  Meaning, yes, there is downtime and a 3:48 bell to end the day but things don’t stop moving in your brain and heart.  It’s 24/7 in many respects.  I’m always amazed at how it can be so exhausting in equal parts physical and mental.  I often tell my student interns that one of the best pre-teaching job experiences is working in a restaurant, serving folks.  That’s also an exhausting job and I think teaching and waiting tables have overlapping demands of customer service, working with people, being always on the move, and crunching numbers and info on the fly.  So, my average day, 8:45-3:48, is leading a group of kids through a busy and full day but there’s a lot more that goes into the final product.

What are your best tips for classroom management?
Management is holding kids’ attention and motivating them to want to engage, so for me, the best motivation is enthusiasm and positive reinforcement.  Sure, there are negative behaviors and kid struggles but I’ve always been of the mind that not feeding the negative behavior and instead, rewarding the positive, is the best way to go.

Why did you want to work for Ann Arbor Public Schools?
I grew up in Ann Arbor and we returned and eventually raised a family here.  There have been so many influential teachers and friends along the way and I think you need to capitalize on that.  Our students are so lucky to be a part of a great district as well as live in a great town. Life is about relationships and experiences and Ann Arbor has provided.

What do you like about working at Wines specifically?
Wines has a great staff and administration, along with outstanding parent support. That’s a recipe for success, I’d say.

What’s the happiest part of your day?
Watching kids at recess and eating lunch with peers.  Both moments provide positive social time to decompress and power up for the classroom. I also like greeting kids as they come to school.  Those first minutes can go a long way towards making it a successful day, just the same way those first few weeks of strong community building make for a great year.

What do you want most for your students?
We want our students to have a fun time learning.  Yeah, I know, that sounds trite—shout out to former Burns Park 4th grade teacher Veltajean Olson for the introduction to that adjective—but it’s true.  The combination of an enthusiastic delivery and a positive environment goes a long way towards making learning fun.

Favorite podcasts, websites, apps:
I’m not a big podcast guy but I did love Smartless and the subsequent Netflix concert show. Those quick-witted guys had great chemistry and covered a lot of great people and topics. I pay a lot of attention to music, TV, and film. I got my undergrad degree from Indiana University in Radio/TV/Film and thought I wanted to make movies.  I’ve always had a radio nearby and I still pay attention to new music, such as it is! And I never miss an episode of The Dan Patrick Show – a must-listen for Poppy (our 5-year-old English Lab) and me as we take our daily walks through Saginaw Forest.

Must-see TV:
Again, a lot of live sports: football (Michigan, Lions, and Red Zone), Tigers, Red Wings, and Michigan hoops.  I like all the four major sports and I am pretty much a homer.  The Ann Arbor Schools and Burns Park Music educators are responsible for my love for all things Michigan as I was indoctrinated on Day One in music class learning The Victors.  They had me at Hail.

If you could keep only five possessions, what would they be?
Swimsuit, goggles, towel, and my E-Z Pass. I only need four.

Was there a teacher who had a particularly strong influence on your career? If so, what did you learn?
My fourth grade teacher, Veltajean Olson at Burns Park shared with me her love for music in the classroom.  There’s not a day that goes by where I’m not channeling her enthusiasm for music in education.  One of my favorite parts of teaching fourth grade was our partnership with The Ann Arbor District Library and their Songsters Program.  We collaborated with Ann Arbor singer/songwriter Joe Reilly for many years and the process and product is something I know those kids will carry with them forever.

The other educator who is still working in the Ann Arbor Public Schools is Russell Fuller.  Rusty retired a few years ago and is now in his third year as a building sub at A2 Open.  Rusty started the precursor to Ann Arbor Rec and Ed Hoops, The Ann Arbor Basketball Association.  He used to help drive my best buddy, Marc Mueller, and me to Scarlett at 7 a.m. on the weekends so that we could referee kid hoops games. Rusty also coached and taught social studies at Slauson for probably 40-plus years and I don’t think there is anyone with more wisdom and experience about coaching and teaching kids, still around in the Ann Arbor Schools.  I’ve always thought someone needs to sit down with him and others like him, to capture their thoughts and recollections of the Ann Arbor Schools over the past few decades to provide some depth and continuity to our district.  It would be a great resource.

Your thoughts on the district’s focus this year on dignity, belonging, and well-being?
Great themes!  A thoughtful focus on self-care is completely necessary for today’s educators.  Making kids/adults feel a part of whatever community you are trying to build is a top priority.

How is teaching different from the way you imagined it would be?
I guess I didn’t realize how hard it was and how much it takes out of you over the course of a year. But I went in thinking that I loved working with kids and coaching and it’s been everything I hoped for and more.

What advice would you give to a first-year teacher?
The best advice I ever got was from a former teacher on my first day of teaching.  I was beginning a long-term sub job in my former third grade teacher’s classroom at Burns Park (how’s that for intimidating?) and a past teacher/basketball coach popped in moments before the day began.  He told me that there are 100 things to do on your list.  Focus on the five most important things each day and pace yourself.  I come back to those words of wisdom quite often.

What’s the best compliment anyone could give you?
It bummed me out once when one summer a roommate called me out for not being a team player and I really took it to heart. I think the best compliment or best attribute in working or playing with others is that you make others and the “whole” better.

What’s your favorite memory of being a fourth grader?
Well, I think you are asking that because I was a fourth grade teacher for 10 years before this year, but as I’ve mentioned, fourth grade was my most influential and important year as a student in elementary school because of my teacher, Veltajean Olson.

I have so many fond memories of that year, but perhaps because it was the year of our country’s Bicentennial, the best memory is learning and performing Fifty Nifty United States.  If you ask any former student of mine, I’m pretty sure they can recite that song and all 50 states in alphabetical order.

What’s the funniest thing a student ever said or did?
I was working hard as a long-term sub in a second grade classroom and it must have been 100 degrees in that non-airconditioned room.  I was working one-on-one with a kid who looked up at me in awe and said, “Wow, you’re really sweaty!”  I was known as “Mr. Sweaty Man” for the rest of the year.

What is the most rewarding part of teaching?
I was coaching a 6th grade girls’ basketball game in Ann Arbor Rec. and Ed a few years back, and around mid-game I pulled a player aside during a time out and explained how to switch off defensively on an offensive pick.  The next time down the court she was in the same situation and did the right thing and the look on her face after she figured it all out—and had success—is why I teach.

Nick Mosher says that one of the highlights of his day is greeting students as they come to school.

If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would that be?
I have dreams of running down a basketball court like Dennis Rodman used to do for the Pistons and Bulls.  I would love to be able to run, leap, and play defense like he did.  However, I’ll take a pass on the strange relationship he has with Kim Jong Un!

What about someone in history?
I’ve always thought it would have been amazing to watch Jackie Robinson play baseball and more importantly ignore the haters, day in and day out, as he showed us all how to lead.

How do you spend your summers?
We’ve had the good fortune of having friends and family in the Northeast so my family grew up going to Massachusetts twice a year for summers on Cape Cod and Christmases in the Berkshires.  I was born in New York and my folks had us there before divorce and a move to Ann Arbor, so those roots are strong.  I love to think of all the past family members who have traveled the path between Ann Arbor, and Boston and what it must have been like over the past 200 years.  I think there are many folks who have that Massachusetts/Michigan connection.

What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? Your personal life?
I’ve just made the transition to 5th grade.  I taught fourth grade for 10 years after having taught fifth for 10-plus years so this is a return to a grade level I really enjoyed.  We’ve had a great start to the year and I just feel like I could teach forever having made this move.  Students have one more year of experience and this is such a big transitional year for 5th graders, it’s a really rewarding experience.

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