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Alumni Spotlight: Nicki (Yahnke) Dahms

Nicole DahmsBrookfield Central Class of 2000

Nicole "Nicki" Dahms is a Lancer graduate who is impacting the Elmbrook community as a second-grade teacher at Tonawanda Elementary.

Nicki's family moved to Elmbrook when she was in sixth grade where she started at Brookfield Elementary before advancing to Elmbrook Middle School (currently Pilgrim Park) and Brookfield Central. She was the third generation to attend Elmbrook, beginning with her 84-year-old grandmother, and followed by her mother. During her teenage years, Nicki babysat for a number of families and realized she had a passion for helping kids. As a Lancer, she participated in Varsity Soccer, Junior Varsity Tennis, Key Club, AFS Club, Class Council, National Honor Society, and worked with young children in LEAP (Leadership Education Achievement Program). "I appreciate the amazing teachers I had and the expectation that I can achieve at high levels," reflected Dahms. "I one-hundred percent believe that I would not have achieved the academic and social-emotional growth I did without the Elmbrook Schools."

She highlighted her compassionate writing teacher, Alice Rast for sparking her love of writing and helping to boost her confidence as a learner, and student club leaders Ronn Blaha and Nita Hodgson for their impact on her character. Sabrina Hintz's infectious teaching spirit resonated with Nicki, and World History teacher Don Engelhardt showed her that what a great teacher really needs is the ability to connect with students, a passion for their subject material, and being able to challenge students and bring joy to their classroom.

Following her graduation from Brookfield Central in 2000, Nicki attended the University of Wisconsin - Madison. "When envisioning my future, being a teacher seemed to be the best prospect for bringing ongoing joy and purpose to my life," she stated. At UW, she was involved in Delta Gamma Sorority and Intramural Soccer, and worked as a student manager at the Student Union and on the Memorial Union Terrace in the summertime. Dahms earned her Bachelor's in Elementary Education in 2005, and began substitute teaching in Madison and Middleton for a year where she gained experience being in every grade and co-teaching multi-age classrooms with veteran teachers. After that year, Nicki came to Tonawanda Elementary to teach Kindergarten before transferring to Hillside Elementary where she would teach second grade. "I learned a tremendous amount about teaching and building a strong community both with students and staff," stated Dahms. "A year after moving to Hillside, I came back to Tonawanda to fill a second-grade position and ended up with a class full of many of the students I taught during my first year in Kindergarten!"

In 2010, Nicki's second-grade team received a Golden Apple Award for their teamwork and collaboration in teaching. "I enjoy working hard to make a positive difference in the lives of every child that walks through my classroom and to have an opportunity to foster a love of learning. Every student has left a mark on my heart and helped me to become a better teacher and person." Nicki gives credit to her Senior Economics teacher, Marc Stanke for igniting an interest in returning to Elmbrook to give back to a District and community that provided her with amazing opportunities.

Today, Nicki volunteers as an assistant soccer coach for her kids and shares her love of teaching as a Youth Sunday School and Vacation Bible School leader. Her and her husband, Joe, have two children: Ryan (10) and Katelyn (7), and a beloved Boston Terrier named Madison. She began her 13th year of teaching this Fall.

This Fall, the district will be featuring alumni stories of individuals who have given back to the district with their service and commitment.

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