Teacher’s act of generosity lifts spirits

It has been tough to muster much Christmas cheer this season. It is a tense, stressful time. There is a theme of hopelessness radiating from the headlines — from the madness of Sunday’s murder of two police officers in Brooklyn to the murky, looming confrontation with a North Korean dictator.

Thank goodness for people like Nicole Bollerman.

The third-grade teacher at UP Academy on Westville Street displayed astonishing generosity this week. After winning a $150,000 cash prize in a contest from Capital One, she elected to donate her winnings back to the school.

A graduate of Stonehill College who hails from Connecticut, Bollerman had responded to the company’s call for entries in their Wish for Others promotion. In her entry, she wrote: “My #wishforothers is that my voracious, adorable, hard working, loving scholars all leave for their December break with a book in their hand. Their love for reading and life is contagious and I would love for them to have the gift of a book they love to read over break.”

In picking Bollerman as its winner, Capital One delivered three books to each of her students for them to take home for the holiday break.
“As with most holiday gifts that mean the most, Nikki’s wish for her students is a simple gesture - but one given from the heart,” said Shelley Solheim, director of Corporate Communications for Capital One. “The gift of a new book from a beloved teacher is a treasured moment for any child and embodies the true spirit of the holidays.”

Said Bollerman in a video produced by the company: “I really just wanted them to have books of their own that they could take and treat and share with their families. It made them feel really important and they are really, really important kids.”

Capital One also sent Bollerman the check for $150,000. The prize was hers to keep, but instead she turned it into a teaching moment for her kids and for the whole community.

“Nikki Bollerman is an example of the enormous amount of potential in Boston’s future and in our next generation. Thank you, Nikki, for your dedication to Boston’s young people, your kindness, and your generosity,” said Mayor Martin Walsh, who hosted the teacher at City Hall this week.

“We have thousands of teachers in BPS who go above and beyond for their students every day,” said John McDonough, the interim superintendent of BPS. “We are so proud of Nicole and her students, who are setting such wonderful examples of excellence in public education.”

Bollerman’s act also brought welcome attention to UP Academy, which opened in August 2013 in what was previously the Marshall Elementary School. The Marshall was a chronic underachiever and so far – according to most measurements — the re-booted school has been a big success. MCAS test scores have shot up in Math and English Language Arts — the highest increase in the state.

With teachers like Nikki Bollerman in the classroom, it’s evident that the students at UP Academy are in amazing hands. That’s the kind of story we all needed to hear this week.