Special education teacher helps busy families stress a little less
By Nancy Price
Nikki Purdue knew she wanted to be a special education teacher from the time she was 13.
When the Center Grove resident was growing up and living in Perry Township, a friend invited her to help at Rise Learning Center, a special education school, to interact with the kids. Purdue, on summer break and a middle school student at the time, assisted the school as a peer helper.
“We took (the students) out in the community, to summer camps, to go swimming and to the grocery stores,” she said. “It was a lot of fun. I could help someone out and help them to be more functional in society (later) as an adult. It was the little successes that mean a lot to kids and their families. I volunteered each day during the summers until I graduated high school.”
Purdue went on to study severe disabilities and severe emotional disabilities at Purdue University. There was a dozen of her classmates who were in the same program that allowed them to teach both at the primary and secondary level. “There’s not a lot of us with those skills,” she said. Purdue then attended IUPUI to receive her master’s in early childhood education and began teaching school in Washington Township.
Today, the wife and mother of three teaches special education at Maple Grove Elementary School. Purdue stated that she enjoys watching the kids succeed, laughing with them and making sure their individual needs are met while having a more laid-back classroom environment. In addition, she noted that she has also learned from them.
“Being a special ed teacher has definitely taught me to be more patient and think outside the box. It actually helped me to become a parent. It opened up my family’s eyes in knowing that (the students) are just like anyone else. They just might look a little different.”
Purdue is married to Troy and has two girls and a boy, Delaney, 9, Hudson, 7 and Monroe, 4. Along with being a teacher, wife and mother, while shuttling her kids to dance and ninja classes, she understands that life can be overwhelming.
Purdue decided that she wanted to help even more people with the skills she has learned as a teacher and parent by starting a blog called anchorofthefamily.com (there is also a Facebook page: Anchor of the Family). The blog is devoted to helping busy parents achieve a healthy balance along with other demands in their lives.
“I’ve always wanted to help other people and always wanted to be a momma and have a lot of kids. I saw my friends struggling with their families and they would ask, ‘How do you do that?’ I thought, What if I started a blog? As I’ve gotten older, I see more women struggling. I was just trying to show people how it can be easier when you’re constantly on the go and still make things special for your kids,” she said.
Q & A:
What do you consider your greatest virtue?
My patience and how to always be open, I welcome everyone. I’m nurturing and always have an open-door policy to my classroom. Families come in when they want to. I’ve helped build relationships with families over the years.
What upsets you?
Probably the thing that upsets me the most is injustice and abuse against others. I will never understand how a person can cause ill will to another and how people can be accused of something with no proof behind it. Everyone deserves an even playing field.
What do you like best about Center Grove?
I love that they are always looking for new programs and methodologies to use with students.
What’s your favorite Southside eatery?
We love going to Hotcakes Emporium.
If you had to live anywhere else in the Metro Indianapolis area, where would it be?
I would love to live downtown. I love the urbanness of it; you can walk to go out to eat. You can walk your dog, go get some ice cream. I like to be able to go out and walk to places and the diversity that downtown offers.
If you could begin life over, what would you change?
I think I would have taken more risks, traveled more and had more hobbies and interests.
If money were no issue, how would you spend it?
I would give everything I could to teachers. Many teachers give so much time and money of their own that goes unnoticed. Teachers take on a lot more than people think. And I would give everything I could to families with disabilities. They have so many expenses that the majority of families will never experience. The therapy bills, the adaptive equipment, leaving work to get their kids to therapy and to doctor’s appointments, buying special clothing and buying special food. Just having to deal with all of the unknowns on a day-to-day basis that the rest of us don’t have to deal with.
What makes you happiest?
Being around my family and friends for sure.
Pick three adjectives that best describe you.
Patient, lighthearted and nurturing.
What is your favorite vacation spot?
My top 2 are South Haven, Michigan and Disney World.
What do you do with idle time?
Friday nights we have a tradition: we get pizza and watch a movie in the basement.
What would you change about our culture if you could?
The level of caring and compassion. The wrongdoing and doing horrendous acts to others.
How do you escape from reality?
What do you love most in life?
Being around my family and my friends. Going out and experiencing things. I like to do more experiences because they create longer memories.
Which living person in Center Grove do you most admire?
Ambrosia Sauer for sure. We grew up together and we were best friends in elementary and middle school and she is the reason I got involved in special education. We lost contact and grew apart, but social media reconnected us and found out she was in Center Grove and found about her diagnosis of MS; she has four boys (three of which are triplets!). I only have one boy and he has a whole lot of energy! She is working alongside her husband and living life to the fullest.
What quality do you admire most in another person?
What is your greatest extravagance?
For me, traveling is a must and life coaching. Traveling makes lasting memories and they last forever. I love to be able to see what else lies beyond Indiana. I grew up traveling and still love it. I also like to spend my money on life coaching. It is truly an amazing way to change your mindset and break your outstanding beliefs. It’s not easy and it’s a lot of work. When you put the work in and really listen, it truly pays off.
What is your greatest fear?
What has been the happiest time of your life?
Multiple ones, but I think once I was settled in my job and started raising my own family and coming into adulthood for me.
Is there a special talent you really wish you had?
I would love to be athletic and I am not.
What do you most value in your friends?
Their own level of compassion. Doing things for others and having a tribe mentality of, “you take care of others and they take care of you” and trustworthiness.
What tenet do you live by?
I’ve learned this to be very true in my life, good or bad. How you do one thing is how you do everything.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I’m a history nerd. I love to learn about the history of a region. I love to learn about the ancestry of my family. Learning how people lived and their customs is so intriguing to me.