Skilled at Making a Difference in Life

When Nicole Saatzer was 12 years old, her younger brother was diagnosed with autism. She had no idea how it would impact her life…or the lives of countless other students in New Prague Area Schools.

Nicole Saatzer reading with students.Saatzer, now a special education teacher at Falcon Ridge, draws from her first-hand experience to help students and families navigate the journey of special education and makes a huge difference by teaching life skills to the students who need her help most.

“My experience with my brother was one of the things that led me to choose a career in special ed,” said Saatzer. “It also helps me understand the impact on families and what they are going through.”

After graduating from NPAS in 2000, Saatzer went on to get her degree in special education from St. Cloud State University with a license in Developmental Cognitive Disabilities. She has worked in New Prague ever since, getting her Masters in Autism Spectrum Disorders from University of St. Thomas in 2013.

Nicole Saatzer reading with students.She works with students that have developmental disabilities supporting their social, academic and communication needs to help them function more independently. Saatzer works with them on their individual needs and because of her help they are able to spend some time in mainstream classrooms.

“I feel that the life skills program at Falcon Ridge has such a positive impact for our school. I see so many general education students benefit from their interactions and friendships with students with special needs, and vice versa,” said Saatzer. “I believe that NPAS does an amazing job of accepting and including all, and students see it modeled daily by school staff. Because students see it firsthand, they are so much more apt to demonstrate that same mindset that everyone is unique and we all have some amazing qualities to bring to our school. I see so much kindness and acceptance daily.”

Nicole Saatzer with students.Fellow special education teacher, Kellie Frey, knows how valuable Saatzer’s passion and enthusiasm for teaching is. “Nicole has a unique relationship with her students. She teaches so much more than reading and math. She teaches her students how to be kind and independent, how to advocate for themselves, and equips them with real-world life skills,” said Frey. “She cares for each child as an individual and goes above and beyond her job description to help the students reach their fullest potential. Nicole is always looking for new ideas and ways to motivate her students. She frequently gives up her lunch break or prep time to support a student in need. Nicole is a bright spot in the Falcon Ridge special education team. We appreciate her more than she knows!”

Nicole Saatzer with students.One of Saatzer’s favorite traditions each spring is attending the Lifeskills graduation party at the high school for her former students. She always leaves teary eyed and with a full heart. This event reminds her of why she does this job year after year – to see the students as seniors and to look back at the progress they have made over the years. The kids are so happy when Mrs. Saatzer walks in, a true testament to her years of showing her students she cares and a shining example of The New Prague Way!

We are proud of our teachers and staff who exemplify the New Prague Way every day to make a significant difference in the lives of our students!