Hi and welcome to Teaching on the Run!
I’m Nichole, a second year teacher and fitness enthusiast who enjoys living a fast-paced, busy life. This is my little corner of the internet to share with you all my adventures as a teacher, journey with health and fitness and in general all things life!
So who am I?
I am 27 years old and reside in Michigan. The cliff notes version of me would be as follows; brain surgery survivor, double-degree graduate (BA & Masters) from the University of Michigan-Flint and in pursuit of my Doctoral in Organization Leadership at Grand Canyon University, ex-professional dancer for the Detroit Pistons and all around lover of life. Thus far I have experienced several twists and turns in my life, much like I am sure many of you have also experienced a time or two or 500, and each experience has helped develop and shape me into the person I am today. Where I am currently is not where I thought I would be 5 or 10 years ago, heck even 2 years ago, but I could not be more thankful for my journey, the good, the bad and the ugly, and where it has brought me.
I am a high school ELA teacher at Henry Ford Academy in Dearborn, MI and loving every minute. One thing I quickly learned was that as a teacher I am here to provide so much more for my students then just the content that needs to be covered. Although days are long, emotional, and stressful they are also uplifting, inspiring and fun and I wouldn’t change them for the world. However, when I set out to go back and further my education teaching was not the original plan. Many moons ago, aka when I graduated with my undergraduate degree back in 2014, I had my mind focused on eventually going back for my MBA. Preparing for this, I worked as a Marketing Director first out of college and later landed a job with the Detroit Pistons in Entertainment Social Media and Marketing (I also was a dancer, but we will get there later). While my career path took a change over the last few years I am fortunate enough to still be apart of the Pistons organization and just concluded my 7th season.
Let’s get personal.
For several years I never really talked about or publicized what I am about to share. This was not because I am embarrassed of what I went through, but because I am one who typically does not like to talk about herself (weird because I’m writing a blog right?). I learned overtime however, that sharing my story didn’t mean I was trying to put myself in the lime light, but rather it was allowing me to help and inspire others (something I do enjoy doing!). Since this realization I talk openly about what I have gone through, even to the point of agreeing to this piece being created while I was dancing for the Pistons.
Back in the summer of 2009 I began to feel very ill. I felt constantly run down, had indescribable headaches, lost a lot of weight and felt very depressed. I was not living for life, I was living through life. After countless doctors appointments and no answers being found, fast-forward two years later, in December of 2011, when I was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation. This is a rare neurological disorder where the cerebellum descends outside of the skull crowding the spinal column. Being raised in a medical family (I am the only one not in that field) I was fortunate to have people in my corner advocating for me. They did not take no for an answer, especially my Mom. I am positive that to this day I don’t even know all the hours of research she did and nights of lost sleep she had. She discovered the Chiari Institute in New York and we decided to send my records to request an appointment. Upon hearing back we found ourselves making the trip from MI to NY in July of 2012. As we sat in the doctors office I anticipated being prescribed some sort of medicine or physical therapy and so forth, I did not anticipate hearing the recommendation of brain surgery. The doctor left my parents and I for several moments to discuss what we would like to do. While decompression surgery for Chiari is not a cure (there is not current “cure”) we decided, as a unit, that if I could get even a few months of relief from surgery it was worth it. We left awaiting a call with my surgery date and weeks later I was scheduled for my first brain surgery on August 14, 2012. The first surgery was 9 to 9 1/2 hours long and seemingly went well. However, I had a postoperative complication in the recovery room leading me to undergo a second surgery, a repair surgery, 2 weeks later to the date. While the road to recovery was not an easy one, since my second surgery on August 21, 2012 I have had no further hiccups. Over time I began to slowly implement things back into my life which I was not able to do for years. I had felt for a long while like I was simply going through the motions of daily life, trying to get by, but now I was actually back to living life!
Dancing in the NBA.
For as long as I can remember I always dreamed of dancing professionally. As a little girl I would attend Detroit Pistons games watching the dancers, at the time called Automotion and now Detroit Pistons Dancers (DPD), thinking how I would love to be one of them some day. I am a huge sports fanatic so being able to combine my love for basketball and my passion for dance seemed like it would be a dream come true. When I was put on hold for my health in 2009 I slightly gave up hope that this dream would ever have the chance to become a reality. I was not dancing and I was unsure if I would ever be able to dance again. When I was sitting in my neurosurgeons office that July he said it would be our goal to get me back to dancing and shared an inspirational story of an Arizona Cardinals Cheerleader whom he had done surgery on and she was back to cheering. My hope was slightly restored, but the future was still unclear. Following the instructions of my physical therapist I began to reinstate dance little by little over the next several months post August 2012. I happened to see a social media post in the spring of 2013 made by the Pistons introducing a one day masters class being held at the Palace called The Drop featuring Misha Gabriel. I decided to attend not knowing how my body may handle it or what I was in for. When I left I grabbed a DPD audition flyer for that summer. I remember going home and setting it on the mirror in my room, looking at it everyday. The dream I wanted for a lifetime was there in front of me, yet I was indecisive on if I should pursue it. I hadn’t trained in dance for years, would I even be a competitor? I decided to sign up and give it a shot because in reality…what did I have to loose? Nothing. But what did I have to possible gain? Everything. As the various cuts happened and I found myself still standing I felt utter shock and excitement. Then I received my bootcamp invitation and I remember actually pinching myself. I don’t think it really truly hit for several days. Receiving my “Congratulations and welcome to the team” email is certainly in the top 5 best moments of my life. My rookie season on the team was the 2013-2014 season and I proceeded to dance with DPD for 4 years. I ended my time as an NBA dancer when the Palace closed its doors in 2017 before the teams move to Detroit. These were 4 of the best years of my life. I grew not only as a dancer, but as an individual. The experiences I had ran so much deeper then practice and performances and the relationships gained are indescribable. During my second season I was able to take on a role of running the dancers social media which then led me to an even greater opportunity where during my third season I was brought on to work in the front office to help run all of the entertainment social media and help with marketing efforts for the teams. Deciding to stop dancing was not an easy decision by any means. When I received my acceptance letter into my graduate program I had a hard choice to make as I knew I would not be able to give 100% to both while still working full time. After much back and forth I decided to close the door on one dream, dancing, and to pursue another, furthering my education. Thankfully for the last 2 years however I have still been able to be apart of the entertainment family by working game night operations.
Family and Friends.
On the blog you will see me talk about my family and friends quite often! They are at the core of everything I love. I am blessed to have some amazing individuals in my life and that is something to be shared. My family is quaint, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. My immediate family consists of me + 3; my mom, dad and brother. Growing up I only had one grandparent still alive, but I did not lack in anyway. My grandma played the part of 4 grandparents and then some. She passed away in March of 2010. While there is so much I wish she was here to be apart of, I know I have the best guardian angel watching out over me from above. Throughout my whole life I’ve never been one to just have one friend group, I have always been one to bounce around wherever life takes me and to whom it leads me to. I am nothing short of shy and love meeting new people. This has led me to finding some incredible people that I get to call my friends. For sake of time I will introduce you to them as they appear on the blog, but know they are some special people!
(some most recent favorite pictures, certainly doesn’t cover everyone I’m thankful for! )