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Kristine Nuivert left world of fashion merchandising for forests, rivers, small-town life

POST PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - Kristine Nuivert teaches a combined class of third- and fourth-graders at Welches Elementary School. Like many young people, Kristine Nuivert had dreams of living in the big city. After growing up with a father in the forest industry and graduating from Estacada High School, Nuivert thought Portland was where she wanted to be and pursue her calling of fashion merchandising.

It wasn't long before she realized the forests and rivers she'd grown up with had become part of who she was — and what she needed in a hometown. On top of that, she found the world of fashion was "too competitive" for her personality.

For the past 28 years, Nuivert has called Sandy home. She has taught in the Oregon Trail School District for 22 years, serving most recently as a third and fourth-grade teacher at Welches Elementary School.

"When I think about where I would want to be, this is just right," she said.

Teaching was not Nuivert's first career, but after having children, she volunteered in her daughter's classes and found a passion for education.

"I fell in love with just being in the schools through volunteering," she noted.

In her early 30s, Nuivert went to college to pursue her love of art and found herself dreaming of being a teacher.

"I was just excited to be back in college," she said. "I just left the school one day thinking 'I loved working with kids,' so what am I going to do?"

Nuivert's daughter's first-grade teacher mentored Nuivert and encouraged her to pursue a degree in education. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in social science and a master's in education from Portland State University, Nuivert got the opportunity to work her dream job at Firwood Elementary for four years.

"It was a great experience," she noted. "It's kind of amazing how everything just fell into place each step of the way."

After Firwood, Nuivert taught at Sandy Grade School for 14 years, before leaving for Welches Elementary. After more than 20 years in the educational field, Nuivert is just as in love with her job as she was in her first year.

"I love teaching because I can be honest with the kids," she said. "Each step of the way they're learning, and that's one of the things that makes it so exciting."

For Nuivert, the challenge of teaching is striking the right balance.

"Trying to keep a balance of making education interesting and still doing what's required (is difficult)," she said. "I try to give them a choice in their education."

That choice is what creates the environment Nuivert so enjoys in her job. Nuivert offers the kids a small amount of "choice time" at the end of the day to write, draw — whatever they choose.

"I love the creativity. To me it was always about the art," she said. "Art got me back in college. I love being here because (Welches Schools Principal Kendra Payne) really lets us integrate the arts."

Nuivert said she tries to be creative in how she approaches certain subjects of learning. And when those methods work, she also reaps the reward— "when you see kids overcoming a challenge."

In her tenure, Nuivert has seen students behind in reading levels make two years of growth within one year.

"Just when a child is proud of their achievements ... they're confident in what they're doing and feel successful, (it's rewarding)."

When she's not teaching, Nuivert likes to get outside by hiking, gardening or traveling. In the classroom, her adventure is "making kids excited about learning." And outside, "to me it's like an adventure can be hiking in the forest or hopping on a plane to Hawaii."

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