He Changed My Life

He Changed My Life

I have a story for you today friend; one about an educator and how he changed my life 21 years ago. It’s in this chat that we’re shining a spotlight on some unsung heroes – our educators.

From late and long hours to supplying our students with the things they need to succeed, our educators fill the gaps without being asked.

As Teacher Appreciation Week approaches, I was encouraged to send a note to a teacher that made a difference in my life 21 years ago. In this chat I am sharing that story and what happened after I sent that note.

This is the perfect time for us to show up for our educators. We’re working with The National Education Association this Teacher Appreciation Week. You can join in by sharing a story about an incredible educator in your life. Just go to NEA.org/TAWstory to submit your own!

Thanks for being here today friend and THANK YOU to all of our educators! We support, love, and appreciate you!



Hey, hey, hey, it’s your virtual bestie, Nicole Walters, and we are here with another couch chat. Now, friends, what is so great about our times together is that we get to keep it real and we tackle topics that matter. But today I want to shine a spotlight on some unsung heroes. Our educators, those amazing individuals that are shaping our little one’s future one lesson at a time.

So friend, picture this. We’ve all been in those classrooms that are just bustling with energy, filled with eager young minds that are ready to learn. But of course, We want to remember who’s at the front of that class. That’s right. It’s our educators pouring their hearts and souls into nurturing the next generation.

And of course, it’s not just our teachers at the front of the classroom. So when you walk in and you’ve got the crossing guard, or you, you head to the front office and that administrative professional, That we all know has been there for what like 30 plus years. They know where everything is from fixing the copy machine to making sure we’re signing out our kiddos correctly and remembering their birthdays.

I mean all of these wonderful people play a valuable role in making sure our kids are safe, secure, and well. But let’s also talk about this. Let’s talk about the big elephant in the room. There’s hard work and sacrifices that our educators are making every single day from early mornings to late nights.

These champions are putting in the hours to ensure that our children have the tools that they need to succeed. And if you’ve kept up with me online, you already know that I run this clear the list campaign for years where teachers will send me a list from Amazon with the supplies they need for their classroom because some of you may not know this but a lot of our public school educators are coming out of pocket of their already way too small salaries to make sure that our kids have everything they need from snacks to supplies to even soap for those kids who are in school systems where they’re struggling to make sure that their clothing is clean every day.

And the clear the list campaign allows me and you to help out some of these teachers serve their kids better. So You understand that our teachers are coming out of pocket to make sure that our children have no gaps in their lives and their learning. And it’s so important that we don’t forget about the sacrifices they make.

And I love having this conversation here with all of us because so many of you are teachers yourselves. And some of you are educators or social service workers and we’ve got mothers and daughters and fathers or we’ve been raised by teachers. What’s beautiful is that every single one of us has been influenced, supported, loved, or impacted by an educator and we don’t want to forget about everything they’ve done.

Sometimes they put their own needs or show up just a little bit later to their own babies at home just for the sake of their students and for people like us. Now, why do they do it? What drives these amazing individuals to keep pushing forward despite the challenges, right? We all know, just like many of us who work corporate jobs or are entrepreneurs, it’s not the paycheck.

We know it’s not the summertime break because they’re spending that time writing out content, grading papers, building things out. It isn’t that y’all. It’s actually really simple. It’s a passion for service. Educators choose this profession because they have a burning desire to make a difference, to leave a lasting impact on the world.

And let me tell you, the impact that they’re making is nothing short of extraordinary. Educators are not just teaching math and science. They’re instilling our values. They’re fostering creativity. They’re empowering our children to become the leaders of tomorrow. I want to share a story with you of how an educator impacted my life and how things have come full circle just as recently as last week.

And you may be wondering why I’m choosing to really highlight and lean into loving on our educators. And it’s because It’s almost teacher appreciation week. That’s right. In case you didn’t know, teachers are underappreciated, undervalued, and it is up for us when teacher appreciation week rolls around every year to fill in the gap.

Do you know that when educators were surveyed and asked what would be the most meaningful gift they could receive from teachers and parents and people that are near them? What would be just transformative for them? It wasn’t money. It wasn’t an increase. It wasn’t features or vacations or anything cool like that.

It was a meaningful note of appreciation. So that’s why I’m taking the time to do this, because that’s all our educators want, and that’s just to be seen for all that they do. So I wanna talk to you about an educator in particular. That means so, so much to me. Now, if you don’t know. If you didn’t read my memoir, I attended the Johns Hopkins University for college back in the early 2000s.

Now, no one’s asking you to do math here, but it was a long while ago. And when I was in college, you know, you hear these great stories of people having incredible college experiences and, you know, meeting all their friends and their spouses and knocking it out of the park and having a blast. And y’all, college just was not that for me. I mean, you can look at every movie on TV and see these crazy experiences and funny stories and that’s what I thought it would be. But it was just not that. When I got to college, I want to tell you, I was poorly prepared. I was just not ready. College for me was challenging and there are a lot of reasons why.

You know, the biggest one would be that I was not financially prepared to take on everything that comes with not just college as a concept, but adulthood. Carrying both the load of growing up with poverty and parents that don’t have the experience or knowledge around the classic American educational system as well as being a marginalized person a minority You know at the Johns Hopkins University and and then entering the academic rigor of that sort of school I mean the combination of it was a perfect storm of very very difficult for me and I was blessed to have a full scholarship, but plot twist Spoiler alert, a full scholarship doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to afford 400 in textbooks or the cost of living if there isn’t housing for like your junior senior year and you now have to engage a regular apartment systems or let’s just be honest y’all, I was 21 years old and I’ve got a 21 year old and a 24 year old now and when I tell you, I could use that extra money to cover all the mistakes I was going to make. You know what I’m talking about. That flat tire, forgetting to pay a bill, or having an extra fee tacked on. Mama, sisters, friends, you know what I’m talking about. I just was not prepared to take it all on as a kid from 18 to 21.

And what that translated to at a time where I just really needed to focus on my academic education. I was just burdened and cumbered with having to work a full time job also. And it was just so difficult. And of course, if you tack that on that while I was there, my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and I had a young sister who was, you know, I was standing in the gap of helping support her during her high school education and just providing support all around.

It was just really taxing. And I know my story is not unique and I know it’s not, um, any different than the different things that we all had to carry. But Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I ended up in the academic advising office of Hopkins. And when I went there, I was assigned to my academic advisor, who also happened to be the dean of academic advising, Dean John Bader.

And I use his name because, uh, it all comes full circle, you know, but Dean Bader was probably the most opposite of who I am, at least when it comes to paper, you know, Dean Bader was I should say, Dean Bader was an incredible man. He was super accomplished. I mean, he went to Yale and he has every degree under the sun.

He’s a Fulbright scholar. He was, you know, a coach consultant for Rhodes Scholars. He’s a professional singer. I think he speaks a couple languages. I mean, dean Bader truly is one of those exceptional people that just took to academia and showed up in the world with excellence.

So like, I mean, I’m talking to this guy who’s really, really smart. That’s how I can describe it. I remember sitting in his office and seeing all these degrees on the wall and all I could think was, gosh, this guy’s got it figured out, but here I was struggling to get through macroeconomics and thinking gosh if this is what it looks like to thrive here then Holy smokes.

I couldn’t feel further away and What was interesting though, you know walking into that environment having those thoughts but then I was met with this this man who was so compassionate and just being really transparent y’all cuz You know, I know we’ve gone through a lot of reconciliation in our society as we’ve tried to really understand each other’s existences a lot better, you know.

whether it is being from a different racial background or having different disabilities or, you know, not being neurotypical, you know, I can say that Dean Bader could not have been more opposite than me. But when I sat down, I was met with a man who, because he’d chosen a life of service and a life of compassion and to be an educator in all ways, shapes and forms, was bending over backwards to try to make sure that he could truly understand me and the college experience I was having.

So walking into his office, And sitting down and explaining that I was on academic probation, I was just like, Ugh! It was a mandatory meeting because you know I just bombed so many of my classes that semester. I really needed to coordinate and figure out what my game plan was going to be so I could thrive at Hopkins.

And what people don’t know is when you’re showing up to class every day as a student, don’t necessarily know what you’re carrying, you know, teachers, uh, they’re focused on that essay and those assignments. And, you know, that is the one thing they can know, unless they dig a little deeper, but so they may not know if you had a tough day with a parent or a difficult diagnosis, or you’re facing health challenges.

And that’s the point of academic advising is that you get to go in and provide that color, you know, behind what you’ve been showing in the classroom and what your grades may reflect and you just hope that you’re met with understanding and I couldn’t have been a luckier girl because I walked into a compassionate and empathetic space with Dean Bader’s office.

And I explained to him that I was dealing with imposter syndrome. I mean, I’m at this amazing school and how the heck did I even get here? Did I really deserve it? And I was so different from everyone around me and the fear and the anxiety that I was facing. And could I carry this load and support my family?

And I’m also sharing with him how important it is for me to be successful because I had a family that, you know, We’re immigrants and they’d never carried a college degree and I was first generation and the expectations were very, very high. And I also shared with him that very early on I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer and if you’re from one of those old school southern backgrounds or you know what it’s like to grow up first generation with parents who had high expectations because they didn’t get some of our opportunities, you know that my parents were big on the whole you need to become a doctor and you need to become a lawyer and I get it because my dad was a cab driver, you know, and my mom was a secretary at a boating insurance company.

And they just wanted to make sure that I would be okay. And okay looked like an office. And it looked like a paycheck every two weeks. And it looked like benefits. And that was why they came to America. And so, you know, as I shared all of this with Dean Bader, I just remember how warm and how compassionate he was and again, being transparent, I shared a lot of this through major tears and a lot of fear and anxiety about could I carry all this and would he even get it and Long story short, I couldn’t, you know, I struggled at Hopkins and I ended up having many, many more meetings with Dean Bader and each time he came to the table with a different solution, you know, let’s get you into therapy.

There’s some resources here at Hopkins and you know, maybe you can help with some of that mental load and he supported me with resources and with tutoring. I mean he truly reached into his bag of everything, but the biggest support that Dean Bader gave me was hearing and seeing me where I was and As who I was and he actually said something to me that I’ll never forget that I really want to highlight because it was so So special and it was transformative I’ll never forget the moment that I came into dean bader’s office after months and years of struggling And when I came into his office the thing that I shared with him is that i’d finally gotten to the point Where I wasn’t entirely sure if it even made sense for me to be here I was tired of running the rat race to try to fit in try to make it work make my parents proud and I think somewhere deep inside, I knew I was smart and I knew I was capable, but it was just the pressure.

I felt like I was tired of running in circles and I was tired of pleading my case. And Dean Bader looked at me and the things he said to me were transformative. He changed the course of my life. Dean Bader said, Nicole, I want you to know that you don’t need a degree to be successful. I want you to know that while getting a degree from Hopkins will change your life and you are capable of getting one.

There’s so much you can do with a valuable, wonderful education, but I also want you to know that this doesn’t define everything and all that you are. I want you to know you have so many gifts, particularly around language or sales, because you keep coming in here and selling me on how you think this thing can work, and I want you to know that you can lean into those gifts and no matter what, you’ll be just awesome. And I want you to know friend that 21 year old me did not believe him I did not believe him at all. I didn’t believe him then at all I don’t even know if I understood completely or I have the ability to understand completely But I do understand the impact of what Dean Bader said to me Now, and I want to let you know that recently I sent an email to Dean Bader, 21 years after that important, important conversation and it was actually because I was inspired by Teacher Appreciation Week.

It was because I really wanted him to know full circle where I am and I want to share that with you. So, this is what I said to him. Dean Bader, it’s been about 15 or 20 years since I’ve attended Hopkins and I’m not sure if you’ll remember me, but I wanted to reach out to you for the past few years just to say thank you.

Hopkins was a difficult experience for me. Despite being smart and capable and willing, I struggled. My desire for success resulted in semester after semester of academic difficulties. And I probably felt like I spent more time in your office and pleading my case that I did in an actual classroom. And that said, during this time, Dean Bader, You were so kind.

You extended so much grace. And at one point you even told me, I don’t need a degree to be successful because I have so many gifts and I didn’t believe or understand you then, but I do now. And I wanted to let you know that I entered the corporate world and I soared. I did so well working in insurance and I found myself thriving using my gifts.

And after 10 plus years as a successful corporate employee, I quit my job. And I became a consultant for entrepreneurs and I raised three girls ages three, 11 and 14 that I met in Baltimore, not too far away from Hopkins, but I was just 28 and I want you to know Dean Bader, That you were right the whole time and your words continue to echo in my ears and in my heart.

In the past 10 years since that time, I’ve had a hit TV show, become a world class speaker and podcaster. I’ve written a New York Times bestseller and I’ve been nominated for an NAACP image award and now a daytime Emmy. And on a professional level, I run a multi million dollar consultancy that also changes lives.

And that most importantly, my three now daughters are thriving also. Dean Bader, I wanted to thank you for all the effort you put into me and to let you know it wasn’t wasted. For giving me so many chances to make Hopkins work and for telling me the truth about what is possible. If I just stopped resisting and leaned into my gifts, Dean Bader, you changed my life.

I’d love to send you a copy of my book. And if there’s an address, let me know. But if you don’t want to share your address, that’s okay. Because all that matters to me is I just hope that you know how good of a person you are and how much you’ve impacted the world. Your legacy lives on. Thank you, Nicole Walters, class of 2007.

So friends, I don’t know if you have that teacher, that educator that stands out in your mind, but sometimes you send out this message and you never know what’s going to happen. You send it out hoping it’ll reach the right place. And you know, it’s been so, so long that I sent it out with the best of intentions.

And you can imagine my surprise when I got a response. Dean Bader responded after 21 years. I’m excited to share that response with you. And I’m sorry, I’m getting a little teary about it because he’s just such a good man and

Dear Nicole, what a delight, a wonder, and surprise to hear from you after so many years. Yes, of course, I remember our many conversations and the challenges you faced. I am moved by your gratitude for the small role I played in keeping you moving forward. But so much of that is a testament to your perseverance and gifts.

Still, your words mean a lot to me, especially as I look back on that time helping students as a joyous and fulfilling time in my career. It is very exciting to learn about your many successes appropriately powered by your work and your struggles. It reminds me of Newton’s third law. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

You’ve leveraged your story into a force for good affecting many people and that is a blessing and a marvel and frankly a relief to me. Congratulations on many happinesses including your family. You’re more than welcome to mail me a copy of your book, but if you’re in the area, perhaps we could have lunch and catch up.

You can hand me a copy then. I look forward to staying in touch and I hope to see you soon. Warmly, John.


friends. I just want you to know that educators play such a major role in our life to all the educators out there listening, I want you to know that you’re seen, you’re appreciated, and you’re changing lives in ways you may never fully realize. But it is absolutely happening.

Please keep showing up. Keep pouring words into these young minds because you’re shaping the future of our world and to the parents and the grandparents and the guardians that are tuning in, I want to challenge you to show your appreciation for our educators, whether it’s a simple thank you or a well placed note, or volunteering your time to support their efforts. Every gesture counts. I take in wipes to my kiddos teachers classrooms and I help bring them extra books and I bring in Kleenex during cold and flu seas. I’m telling you it is all so appreciated because at the end of the day We’re all in this together.

It takes a village to raise a child and educators are a crucial part of that village. So let’s rally together. Let’s lift each other up and let’s continue to champion the importance of education by shaping a brighter future for all. And because coming up and every year we have Teacher Appreciation Week.

Let’s just make sure our public school educators know how much we support, respect, and admire them. Despite the funding challenges, and the politically motivated attacks, and the bad days, and the tough, tough times. Educators still show up for their students, no matter what they look like. Or the barriers that they face, so they can reach their full potential.

So now it’s our time to show up for them. To help celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, and show our public school educators just how much we admire them. I want you to know that you can help by adding your story of Extraordinary Educators.

We know our voices are stronger together. So share and amplify stories of Extraordinary Educators in our lives to give their best to their students, even when faced with challenges and hardships. Your story will show our leaders how much we value our public schools and how critical it is that educators receive the resources and support that they deserve from our community leaders and our policy makers.

So friends, I would love for each of us to share a story about an incredible educator this Teacher Appreciation Week. You can actually learn more about this at N E A dot org slash T A W story. That’s N E A dot org slash T A W story to share an incredible story about an amazing educator during Teacher Appreciation Week.

Friends, we have to look out for each other and most of all, be safe. We have to protect the sweet souls that love, raise, and teach our littles. Let’s do it together. Head over to nea. org slash T A W story to elevate your educator today. Thank you, all of you.


In this episode, we chat about:
  • Why educators do what they do,
  • The educator that changed my life 21 years ago,
  • How teachers can make such an impact, and
  • Why it’s the perfect time to honor an educator in your life
Resources and links mentioned in this episode:
  • Shoutout an extraordinary educator in your life HERE!
  • Let’s connect over on Instagram and Facebook!
  • Grab my New York Times Bestselling memoir, Nothing is Missing, HERE!
  • Book a 20 min call to see if working together is the right next step for you!
  • We’re bringing a new topic into our chats BUT we need to be on the same page first. Listen here or watch here
  • I love reading your reviews of the show! You can share your thoughts on Apple here!
More about The Nicole Walters Podcast:

If you’re looking for the strategies and encouragement to pursue a life of purpose, this is the podcast for you! Week after week Nicole Walters will have you laughing hysterically while frantically taking notes as she shares her own personal stories and answers your DMs about life, business, and everything in between.

As a self-made multimillionaire and founder of the digital education firm, Inherit Learning Company, Nicole Walters is the “tell-it-like-it-is” best friend that you can’t wait to hang out with next.

When Nicole shows up, she shows OUT, so tune in each week for a laugh, a best friend chat, plus the strategies and encouragement you need to confidently live a life of purpose.

Follow Nicole on IG @NicoleWalters and visit inheritlearningcompany.com today and click the button to join our betterment community. Your membership gives you access to a world of people and tools focused on helping you build the life you want.