Teacher of the Week: Nardi Routten

NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) – This week, our teacher of the week is Nardi Routten. She is a fourth-grade teacher at Creekside Elementary in New Bern, and she’s also one of the finalists for this year’s North Carolina Teacher of the Year Award.

We went to visit her classroom, met some of her students, and found out what makes her so special.

A classroom built on the foundation of communication and relationships is how 4th grade Creekside Elementary teacher Nardi Routten teaches each and every one of her students.

“She is probably the best teacher I’ve ever had,” says student Aria Goldberg.

“She’s really fun and really helpful,” says student Abigail Cinni.

As a child herself, Routten says she led a classroom of her siblings and toys for many years but pursued a career in finance until she dropped her youngest son off at daycare one day and noticed something along her route.

“…and no lie, we literally pass that elementary school. I saw myself in front of the classroom teaching, and I went home, I told my husband and he said ‘Well you gotta go back to school.’ and that’s what I did. And here I am, 26 years later,” says Routten.

Before calling North Carolina home in 2019, she lived and taught students in Florida for more than 20 years. Routten says she tries to make her classroom a student-centered one.

“No matter what, I want them to feel that I believe in them, and I do,” says Routten.

Routten says she fell back on her teachers as a child to guide her. Her mother, originally from East Germany, traveled back to the States with her father, an Airforce Sergeant, with little knowledge of the English language.

“They tell me what they need from me, and I try to provide what they need, just like what my teachers did in the past,” says Routten.

Even outside the classroom, Routten engages her students with afternoon tutoring and a program she calls Math Detectives…

“That is like my favorite thing,” says Routten.

Combining her love for escape rooms and the amazing race with a desire to make math more fun.

“They solve a problem, the problem unlocks a box, the box gives them a clue and it takes them to another classroom where they solve a problem… it’s so much fun,” says Routten.

Third, fourth, and fifth graders get to school early on Tuesday mornings to solve her math adventure mysteries!

“When we get done, we get like a special treat. And then we can talk about all the math problems inside the classroom once everyone is done,” says Goldberg.

“They are just fun because it’s like we can all work together and if you aren’t getting it, someone else can help you,” says student Abram Salsman

Bringing peers together is a challenge she takes to heart.

“I get students from different cultures, different backgrounds, different baggage to be honest with you… And they all come and I need to reach all of them,” says Routten.

“I’m a shortie and she provides me with the things I need so I can work and feel comfortable while I’m doing it,” says Abigail Cinni, a student. “I’m also getting a new chair because when I sit in a chair, it’s way too low and it’s like up here making it hard to work. And I think that because she provides me with the stuff I need that makes her a good teacher.”

Developing her students, herself, and public education is what keeps her coming back, day after day.

“This is… Teaching is my passion… it really is and I honestly feel it’s a mission, it’s my calling, it’s what I am meant to do… it’s what I am meant to do,” says Routten.

And that passion and commitment shine through to her students.

“No matter what you do, if you scream in class or anything, she will still care for you,” says Cinni.

For those reasons and more, Mrs. Routten is a teacher who demonstrates a passion for improving public education for her students and public education for the future.

As part of the nomination for North Carolina Teacher of the Year, she is inducted into a cohort of teachers at the regional level…

Routten says she can’t wait for the opportunity to learn from other educators.

She has earned local and national recognition in her teaching career. She received the Milken Educator Award in 2014, was selected as a member of Leadership Florida Education in 2016, and was selected as a Florida Teacher Leader Fellow by the University of Florida in 2016.

North Carolina Teacher of the Year will be announced on April 5th in Cary.