A tribute to Ms. Northcutt on her last day of class

For her photo essay final exam, digital media student Addison Wagoner chose to capture her last class with departing teacher and Mac legend Nikki Northcutt

GRATITUDE AND FAREWELL: Ms. Northcutt decided earlier this year that it was time to say goodbye to McCallum, and possibly teaching in general, once and for all. “I am a teacher to my core. Northcutt said in a email to students and family. “I love McCallum and planned to be here until I retired; however, these last few years have revealed to me disheartening truths that I can’t unsee. I am no longer willing to work at an unsustainable pace at the expense of my mental heath and the health of my family and I can’t figure out how to do this job at any other pace without sacrificing my integrity.” A lot of other teachers at McCallum have also expressed their annoyance with the work circumstances provided by Austin ISD.

Addison Wagoner, Mac photojournalism

For her semester final photo essay, digital media and women’s studies student Addison Wagoner chose to take pictures of her teacher Nikki Northcutt during the last women’s studies class of the school year on May 23. 

Wagoner said she chose to make Northcutt’s last class with her the subject of her photo essay because this is Northcutt’s last year teaching at McCallum and possibly her last year as a teacher. She is leaving McCallum and will start her job as a curriculum designer with UT High School later this week.

To showcase Wagoner’s excellent photo essay and to celebrate and say farewell to Northcutt, we are please to make the essay our Tuesday Top 10 photo essay for this week even though school’s out for summer.

Throughout the year Ms. Northcutt has welcomed the class in a variety of different ways. Whether it was a quirky question or which cat your mood represented that day, the class often erupted in laughter at the responses.  For the very last welcome question, students were to answer which David Rose represents their mood for the day.

SAFE SPACE: Ms. Northcutt always provides a comfortable, judgement free environment where everyone is welcome. A beginning of class ritual was doing a breathing exercise, meditating to the sound of the ocean, or even taking it outside to let the students arms flail in the sunlight. These few minutes of peace and laughter were quick to relieve stress and make the classroom feel safe and friendly.

GRATITUDE AND FAREWELL: Ms. Northcutt decided earlier this year that it was time to say goodbye to McCallum, and possibly teaching in general, once and for all. “I am a teacher to my core. Northcutt said in a email to students and family. “I love McCallum and planned to be here until I retired; however, these last few years have revealed to me disheartening truths that I can’t unsee. I am no longer willing to work at an unsustainable pace at the expense of my mental heath and the health of my family and I can’t figure out how to do this job at any other pace without sacrificing my integrity.” A lot of other teachers at McCallum have also expressed their annoyance with the work circumstances provided by Austin ISD.

CRAZY CAT LADY: Ms. Northcutts’ classroom is riddled with cat posters, cat figures, cat books and cat paintings.  “I’ve loved cats as far back as I can remember,” Northcutt said, “ But I like them because they don’t need me; there’s something nice about that.” Among books, a candle, and a crystal that she received as goodbye presents from students, Northcutt received a book called, How to Be a Cat.

EDUCATORS INSPIRE: While looking back on her time at McCallum, Ms. Northcutt reveals the reason she became a teacher, “ I think I always wanted to be one,” Northcutt said, “ But I had a couple influential English teachers, and I wanted to be like them.” Now, she has done her fair share of inspiring, and even has a teacher of the year award.

A HIGH FOR LOWE: Sydney Lowe shows Ms. Northcutt her senior legacy project. A reflection of the past four years, the assignment is an anthology of several artifacts including a letter to their first-grade self and an an imaginary time capsule with 10 objects. Lowe said that her favorite part of the project was a photo collage that included all of the people important in her life. She said Northcutt really liked the colors she used and how expressed her ideas visually. Lowe said the last day in Northcutt’s class was bittersweet. “We are all sad that she is leaving McCallum but at the same time very happy for her to take different steps in her career,” Lowe said. “Just the same as it is bittersweet to me knowing that my four years at McCallum were coming to a close but opening up my future to brighter things.” Lowe said Northcutt connected with students because she cared about them and because she shot straight with them about the most important things in life. “Her room is always a safe space for kids to go to when they need to just be somewhere other than where they are,” Lowe said. “She always has coloring book pages and cool books at the front of her room for anyone to pick up. She’s also very real and is unapologetic about who she is as a person and I think a lot of developing minds admire that in an authoritative figure.” As part of her farewell, Lowe took a pair of matching Polaroids of her and Northcutt. She gave one to Northcutt and kept one so they both could remember each other. “This was the first semester I had her, but she is an incredible teacher, and I would’ve been lucky to have her before this year.”

SIGN OF THE TIMES: On the last day of her women’s studies class, Risa Darlington-Horta asked Northcutt to sign her senior yearbook. Meanwhile, senior Wynter Winston waits her turn for Northcutt to sign her yearbook. Darlington-Horta said she enjoyed Northcutt’s class because she was always very sweet and funny. “She had a really comfortable classroom,” she added. “I liked a lot of the books we read in her class, and I loved that she would always encourage us to discuss them.”

GAZE OF GLORY: After 15 years of teaching, Ms. Northcutt stares at her students gathered at the door, reflecting her time at McCallum. “It’s been the best experience of my life: the most rewarding, the most challenging,” Northcutt said. “This is the high school I wish I had gone to.”

Northcutt posted an image of this chalkboard farewell message to her professional Instagram account along with the succinct caption: “I hate goodbyes.”