Nick Leduc, who was awarded this past March, earned his master’s degree at USFSM in 2012.
“I remember taking an education law class and the way the class was taught, it just made it real to me,” he said. “I thought to myself, ‘If he can do that with a law class and make it applicable, why couldn’t I do that with my fourth and fifth graders?’”
Leduc earned a master’s in educational leadership but realized long before that his heart was in teaching, not in serving as a principal or district administrator. “I wanted to become an educational leader but realized I’m just better with kids.”
Leduc was born to a school teacher mother in Providence, R.I., but grew up in Bradenton.
A pre-med student at the University of Florida, he changed majors after a summer job supervising youngsters showed him he had a knack for teaching.
Currently, he teaches fourth graders at Braden River Elementary School.
His students and their parents nominated him for Educator of the Year, and after a lengthy review process he was honored during an elaborate red-carpet affair at Manatee Technical Institute. In addition to a plaque, he received $5,000 from the SunCoast Credit Union and $1,000 from the Macy’s Foundation.
The winner was announced as Leduc and other nominees sat in the audience.
“After the initial shock wore off, the first thing I thought about was my mom,” he said, noting that she had died a few years earlier. “We used to talk every Sunday.”
During his acceptance speech, he praised his fellow educators, insisting the judges erred.
“I walk among giants,” he told the crowd, including many of his students who waved signs with his image. “I walk among people that are doing the impossible every single day.”
He enrolled in USFSM’s Master of Educational Leadership program seven years ago to advance his career, possibly as a principal, and although he realized he’d rather teach, he still values the experience and his master’s degree. Someday, he said, he may pursue a doctorate in education.
“What I learned there made me a better teacher,” he said. “The style of the class wasn’t just sitting and listening. It was in groups. Not only did I learn the administrative side, but I learned what administrators deal with, seeing from their side. Seeing the decisions that districts make or principals make, it made more sense to me. Everything made more sense.”