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Tracy Frank, Published February 05 2013

HerVoice: Fargo educator honored for being kids’ champion

Her Voice is a weekly article about women in or from our area and how they make an impact on the world around them. If you know someone SheSays should feature in HerVoice, email Tracy Frank at tfrank@forumcomm.com.

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If you go

What: Presentation of 2013 Fargo Kiwanis Community Champion for Kids Award at 55th annual Fargo Kiwanis Pancake Karnival

Where: Fargodome, 1800 N. University Drive

When: Award presentation is at 11 a.m. Saturday. The Karnival runs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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FARGO – Nancy Jordheim’ has dedicated her time to improving children’s lives.

Her passion for education is obvious in the emotion evident when she talks about it. It’s also clear in the artwork from students that hangs on her office walls.

One piece depicts a rose with the phrase “You have touched me – I have grown.”

Jordheim, assistant superintendent for human relations at Fargo Public Schools, said it’s a good reminder that educators never know who they will impact or how they will make a difference in a student’s life.

And now she’s being recognized for doing just that.

Jordheim is the first recipient of the Fargo Kiwanis Community Champion for Kids Award. The award will honor people and organizations that have significantly enhanced the lives of area children and families, according to a news release.

When Jordheim heard about the award, she immediately started brainstorming people she thought deserved it, she said. When she found out she was the person Fargo Kiwanis wanted to honor, she started to cry.

“I’ve always believed in kids,” she said. “I don’t think you’re in education if you don’t.”

To have a group say she’s one of the people making a difference in children’s lives is overwhelming, she said.

“I always knew I wanted to make a difference somehow,” she said.

Jordheim has worked in education for 42 years. She’s held her current position since 1995. Before that she worked as an English teacher in Fargo, West Fargo, and Mesa, Ariz., a Concordia College instructor, a high school counselor in Fargo and Fergus Falls, Minn., and an assistant principal and principal in Fargo.

Her first teaching job in Mesa is where she learned that teaching is as much about what she learns from her students as what she teaches them, Jordheim said.

For a lot of her students, English wasn’t their first language, so she traded teaching words with them. She would teach them something and they would teach her something in return.

That’s also when she fully started to understand the importance of connection and collaboration, she said.

Jordheim’s passion for education started at home, she said. Her mom was an eighth-grade English teacher in West Fargo, and there were educators on both sides of her parents’ families, she said.

When she took the assistant superintendent position, she was one of only a few women in the state working in upper level administration in education, Jordheim said.

“I like the fact that I get to work with so many terrific educators,” she said. “By that I don’t mean just certified staff. I also mean non-certified staff, the nutrition people, the maintenance people, people who care deeply about children and families.”

As much as she likes her job, she misses interacting directly with kids, Jordheim said.

“It would be my strongest hope that what I’m doing now, though, is helping connect the right teachers to kids, to buildings, to be that conduit,” she said.

Jordheim’s responsibilities involve recruitment, mentoring new teachers, helping administrators work with teachers, looking for grants and brainstorming ways to make procedures better for students, teachers, and support staff.

“On a really lucky day it’s being in a classroom, kneeling beside a kid and asking what’s happening,” she said. “There’s nothing better than a student who wants to tell you how awesome their teacher is or how great the lesson is or how much they’re learning, when I know darn good and well when they go home they probably tell their parents that nothing happened.”

Jordheim will receive the 2013 Fargo Kiwanis Community Champion for Kids Award at 11 a.m. Saturday during the 55th annual Fargo Kiwanis Pancake Karnival. The Karnival runs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Fargodome.