Educator Spotlight: Nicole Mancini

Today we are excited to welcome 5th grade teacher Nicole Mancini to the #MGBookVillage as part of our month-long celebration of educators! 

Please tell us about yourself!

I am a fifth grade English Language Arts teacher in New Jersey. I love my small school which is made up of one building for Grades Pre-K through 8. Believe it or not, I started working here when I was just 21 years old; it’ll be 15 years in December! Time definitely flies!! Outside of school, I write articles for a Disney travel site and my own education blog, as well as create curriculum guides for books. I also enjoy presenting workshops and most recently participated in a panel on reading engagement with authors Melissa Roske, Jarrett Lerner, Rob Vlock, and Sally Pla at Barnes & Noble.

Who are some of your favorite middle grade books or authors?

It is really difficult to narrow down my favorites as there are just so many! I actually had to stop asking my students this question because I realized how unfair it is. While I have dozens and dozens of beloved books and authors, I tend to prefer realistic fiction or fantasy. Here are my current favorites:
– Elly Swartz & Finding Perfect
– Melissa Roske & Kat Greene Comes Clean
– Jarrett Lerner & Enginerds
– Lisa Thompson & The Goldfish Boy
– Jennifer Chambliss Bertman & Book Scavenger

What book impacted you most as a teacher?

Without a doubt the book that has impacted me the most as a teacher is Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer. It has completely revolutionized the way that I teach reading. I am forever grateful to her for bringing how I always felt about reading instruction to the masses. My students’ lives (and my life) have been so much richer as a result!

unnamed-3What does your literacy instruction look like?

I used to rely on a novel-based approach to literacy instruction. It was reminiscent to the traditional style English class from when I was a kid. After reading Donalyn’s book, I literally raced into my school two weeks before the new year began and told my then vice principal that I was going to dramatically change things. Luckily, she told me to go for it!! I revamped the entire curriculum into a reading workshop and choice reading model and haven’t looked back since!

How do you get books for your classroom?

Ha – anywhere and everywhere! A large portion of my books come from my overzealous reading life. Because I like to read both kid and middle grade lit, I purchase a lot of our class library texts. Similarly, I am a big fan of Donors Choose which has allowed me to bring in a significant amount of books throughout the school year. My most recent projects focused on filling in gaps in my library as related to diverse books and those containing strong female characters. Also, community members and parents tend to drop off bags of books for my classroom a few times a year; several authors have sent me some too. I feel very fortunate to have so many ways to get books into my students’ hands!

How do you encourage less-than-enthusiastic readers?

I actually get asked this question a lot. For me, relationships come first. I would never be able to recommend a book to child if I didn’t get to know her as a person, so I spend a lot of time in the beginning of the school year doing just that. Learning about a child’s unnamed-1hobbies, likes/dislikes, and “story” allows me to find books related to their interests. That is how we can get them hooked! If a child enjoys soccer, for example, I can easily find informational books about soccer moves, realistic fiction with characters who also love the sport, and so on. It is all about connecting with that student and pushing them towards texts that they would love!

Are you connected with authors online? How do you incorporate authors in your classroom?

I feel that I am very much connected with authors online. Thanks to Twitter, I have developed some pretty incredible relationships – both professional and personal – with many. It has allowed me to break down that wall and get to know several authors on a deeper level. This, in turn, helps me teach my students more about the industry and show that these writers are not these mythical beings out in oblivion somewhere. My students have been able to connect with authors via Skype and in person. They regularly ask me to contact their favorites to ask questions about their books. Some authors have even formed a more personal connection with my students and have supported them in many ways. I am so lucky to be able to help forge these relationships.unnamed-2

If you could go back in time to your first year teaching and give yourself some advice, what would you say?

I’d tell her that teaching is an ever evolving career. What I was doing during my first year is far different from how I do things today. That’s just a part of the process. Good teachers are always learning and improving. It’s how we grow. Remember that you can always modify a lesson plan and make spontaneous decisions in order to help your students. Above all, I’d tell my first year self to steer clear of those with negative attitudes about education and surround yourself with positive, uplifting people who will help you remain true to yourself. 
unnamedYou can find Nicole on her website – – and on Twitter at @MissNikkiIn5th .






What more inspiration? Check out the other #MGEducators interviews and guests posts!



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