Get to know Daisy Nassis, a middle school social studies teacher at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic School. She encourages her students to think critically, develop strong communication skills, and dream big.
When did you know that you wanted to become a teacher?
When I first had this passion, my goal was to work with at-risk youth. I wanted to be a missionary teacher; I actually taught overseas in Tanzania. But when I met with my mentor over there, my calling changed. Your well gets really empty when you’re working with at-risk youth, and I learned the hard way that I had to scale back the emotional output of my job. I’ve really had to learn how to be a mom and a wife and still honor and invest in the work that I wanted to do.
What’s your favorite concept to teach?
I like history and teaching stories. I like to dissect history; I like analytical things; I like stories. I like to learn about people and how life was before, and compare it to now. The number one thing I like to teach is relationship because that’s who we are! We’re created in God’s image and He’s three persons in one; in Himself, He’s a ball of relationship and love. If I can tap that into that with middle school students who are checking their identity at the door and questioning everything, we can take all of that anxiety and project it onto something else. We take these critical questions that they’re asking themselves at this age, and we flip it and do it with history.
How do you engage your students in the learning experience?
We do things that make students talk about their opinion, and we have no hand raising. We focus on three forms of engagement: clock partners, equity sticks, and open floor. For clock partners, students have a different partner at each number, and they spin the dial and meet with that partner. For equity sticks, I pull names and ask students questions about topics. I prep students with certain needs to warn them they’ll be talking; I want to make interactions safe and not awkward! For open floor, I pose a question and say “think about it.” They can’t speak; I put my finger to the temple. And when I say, “open floor,” we operate like the legislative branch in Congress. When two people interrupt each other, they’ll say, “excuse me, you go first.” They figure it out and it becomes an open conversation. Middle school kids so love to be taken seriously! They don’t interrupt or make jokes — they follow the rules to a T.
What’s something that you do in your classroom?
I instituted the Lincoln Douglas debate. It originated from speeches of Abraham Lincoln versus Steven Douglas, and it focuses on the merits of debating ethical values in a persuasive manner. My middle schoolers debate, but not with any current events; they do it with history and not things that are so sensitive today, which is really good for middle school students. They can think about the things that affect them without knowing they affect them.
What do you hope your students take away from being in your classroom?
I want them to walk away knowing the power that they hold within them. I want them to walk away learning from those that have gone before them, and I want them to walk away inspired, confident, and big. They can do anything, dream anything.
Get to Know Daisy Nassis
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I grew up in Oklahoma a small town called Shawnee. I lived in the same town and same house all the way through senior year of high school!
Q: What do you like to do for fun?
A: I have two baby girls and I’m married, so a lot of fun comes from enjoying things together. We love the outdoors! I’m a big outdoors person; I like to be outside as much as possible. I like looking at the moon because it reminds me of home and being out in the country. I also like women’s groups! I like to be a part of a fitness group or a Bible study. I need community to fill my cup.
Q: What’s your favorite book?
A: I’m a big theater junkie, so of course, I love Hamilton. I like anything that’s historically based! I like studying World War II, so one of my all-time favorite books is The Book Thief.
Q: Do you have a favorite movie or TV show?
A: I don’t watch any TV. If I watch something, it’ll be a documentary or The Bucket List Family. I really like listening to podcasts! My favorite is Rise and Rise Together.
Q: What do you enjoy about working at a Catholic school?
A: Getting to do things that involve our faith is such a gift, and that piece of praying together has been so fruitful.
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