Zachary High School teacher Nicole Harvey has been selected as a 2016-17 Teacher of the Year semifinalist by the Louisiana Department of Education and Dream Teacher organization.

The science teacher from Crystal Lake, Illinois, said April 14 she feels like she’s already won.

“It’s thrilling just to be nominated, and everyone here has been so supportive,” Harvey said.

Her mentors at Zachary High happen to be peer science teachers as well as previous Teacher of the Year winners, Cathy Raziano (2003-04) and Carol Price (2007-08).

“They have both offered encouraging words and tips on how to prepare for the competition,” Harvey said.

A 1999 graduate of Crystal Lake Central High School, Harvey earned a bachelor of science degree in secondary education from LSU in 2003 and a master’s in natural science from LSU in 2013.

She began her teaching career with the Zachary Community School District when it separated from East Baton Rouge Parish schools in 2003 and has been teaching physical science, physics and honors biology since.

Harvey collaborates with science cohort teachers to design updated curricula for the courses she teaches and says she takes the best from the teachers around her, integrating lessons into her own classroom instruction.

She also stays after school most days assisting any students requiring extra help.

When asked why she thinks she was chosen as a Teacher of the Year semifinalist, Harvey had a difficult time answering, deflecting to a few students instead.

“She takes the time to explain something to you if don’t understand it and tailors her lessons to the students, instead of making us adapt to her lessons,” sophomore Brea Bonin said.

“With honors and AP courses, we’re expected to know a lot already, but Mrs. Harvey will work with you until you get it,” said Kenlee McHugh, an honors biology student.

Harvey did say she relies on visual teaching aids to help students understand a problem better and believes the subject is not as important as the skills she teaches.

“I believe in teaching the whole child as well as skills that go beyond the classroom,” Harvey said. “And I’m only as good as I am because of the people around me. We share the wealth around here. I even pick up disciplines from other English and math teachers.”

Harvey admitted she has exacting standards and expects a lot from her students.

“Our responsibility as teachers doesn’t end when students graduate. It goes beyond that,” Harvey said. “Sometimes, I tell them that a serious mistake later in life won’t send you to the Time Out room but could send you to jail.”

“Nicole does a tremendous job and goes above and beyond always, offering solutions to problems and even volunteering to take on issues,” ZHS Principal Joe LeBlanc said. “It’s probably the reason the faculty nominated her for the Teacher of the Year honor to begin with.”

Harvey has taken on various leadership roles during her career at Zachary High, developed programs for teachers and students, created databases, assisted new teachers with technology and other initiatives, and collaborated with teachers and teams on a variety of goals, projects and programs.

Her focus is on the next step in the Teacher of the Year selection process, which is to prepare for a Skype interview and work on an essay. All teacher and principal of the year finalists and semifinalists will be honored at the 10th annual Cecil. J. Picard Educator Excellence Symposium and Celebration on July 15, where the winners will be announced.

Harvey lives in Clinton with her husband, St. Francisville native Michael Harvey, and their 1½-year-old daughter Ella Rose.