Nicole Chilla ’03
In 2004, Nicole Chilla ’03 won Washington D.C.’s Outstanding First Year Teacher Award. An English teacher at a diverse, inner-city high school, Chilla was also nominated twice for “Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.”
“I did what my professors at Cornell told me every teacher is supposed to do: work hard, care about students, communicate well, work within the system, and help for educational reform where needed,” she says.
Chilla has now begun a doctoral program at Columbia University’s Teachers’ College. She chose the program because it emphasizes hands-on, experiential learning to bring theory into practice.
“I want whatever I decide to do to truly alter education for the betterment of teachers and students,” she says, “and I wanted to be alongside them while I was learning how.”
Chilla majored in English and secondary education at Cornell. She says the “standard of excellence” among Cornell faculty paved the way to her own success as a teacher.
“I remember one of my professors giving me back a paper and telling me it might be an A for any other student, but it was not my best effort and I would have to redo it,” she says. “I never again handed him something that was great but not excellent, which meant I had to work hard. But that stamina is what I expect of my students now, and I know that he was right.”