Faculty Friday: Julie Alford

Each school year, the faculty at Nichols School provide tremendous guidance and encouragement to help their students learn and grow. Our faculty members are empowered to craft the curriculum as they see fit, to make learning relevant and rewarding for every child.
Faculty Friday features the outstanding teachers of Nichols School and showcases the work they do to help our students and our community.
Julie Alford teaches Middle School math and science and has taught at Nichols for nearly two decades. As a 1984 graduate of Nichols and as a former Nichols parent, Mrs. Alford has seen the Nichols experience from many different angles. She shares a bit about how she brings learning to life for her students and what makes a Nichols education truly special in this week’s feature!
How long have you taught at Nichols?
I have taught at Nichols for 19 years.
How do you bring learning to life in math and science classes for your students?
Bringing learning to life is one of my primary teaching goals for my Middle School math and science classes. Most children (and adults, too) learn best by doing!
In sixth grade science, we have turned the classroom into a scaled solar system by building physical models of the planets and sun. I teach the sixth graders about Earth’s history from the point of view of the Grand Canyon, then I take them to Letchworth State Park, the “Grand Canyon of the East,” for whitewater rafting on the Genesee River.
In sixth grade math class, we have a stock club. The students research and “purchase” stock from a company, and we watch and graph the stock price’s change over time. At the same time, I am teaching the class about how to make coordinate graphs, calculate percentages, percent change, and short- and long-term capital gain/loss taxation. The students design and conduct Citizen Science projects, collecting and analyzing data from Upper School students and the community.     
As a Nichols School alumna and former parent, how special is it for you to teach the next generation of Nichols students?
I’ve gotten to wear many hats and see many perspectives. Mostly, I just have a lot of gratitude to come to school every day and be welcomed and embraced by this community of devoted teachers, eager students and supportive parents. 
What are some of the most impactful changes that have taken place at Nichols since you were a student here?
Nichols have evolved since the 80’s when I was in high school. Nichols today is a more student-centered, diverse and inclusive school. Certainly, the work of diversity and inclusion is ongoing, but this community of educators and administrators know that this community (and all communities) are stronger and better when a collection of diverse voices come to the table and are heard and respected.
Why do you enjoy teaching?
There is so much joy and satisfaction in watching children learn and grow, and helping students discover a love of learning. Teaching is a calling. The teachers at Nichols heard the call, including me!
What do you enjoy most about Nichols?
There is so much I enjoy about Nichols! Collaborating with my colleagues, those “aha!” moments when students finally understand a tricky concept, the emphasis on professional development opportunities and creating life-long learners, watching the procession of students at graduation and, of course, the fro-yo machine!