SOLES Alumna Spotlight: Leah Nierman '14 (BA), '16 (MEd), Curriculum and Teaching

Leah Nierman
begin quoteNever lose sight of the importance of education and the impact we have as a community on future generations. 

Tell us about your degree program and why you chose it.

I hold a Mild/Moderate Special Education Teaching Credential with an authorization in Autism, a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, and a Master's in Education with a focus in Curriculum and Design from USD. More than a defining moment, my passion for working with children has grown over the course of the last decade and a half. In high school, I volunteered for the Study Buddy Program, working alongside an ABA therapist at Children's Hospital. I gathered specialized skills and approaches to working with children with autism, an experience which led me to earn my special education credential from SOLES. Soon after, I decided to go on to secure my multiple subject teaching credential and masters degree. I can't emphasize enough the appreciation I feel for the continous support of my professors, in addition to the student teaching opportunities that served to launch my career.

What is your fondest memory of being at USD and SOLES?

Dr. Bobbi Hansen, who teaches Curriculum and Methods in Mathematics, Science, and History/Social Science, would bring muffins, doughnuts and fruit to class every Friday. Sometimes it's the little ripples of kindness that make all the difference. I saw this as exemplary and I actively incorporate daily doses of positivity and care in my practice.

What is your favorite place on campus and why?

I am biased, but SOLES is my favorite place on campus. By simply walking the halls, one can sense the energy of hard-working, passionate and dedicated educators.

Who was your favorite SOLES professor or class?

Viviana Alexandrowicz is one of my favorite professors. She gave great insight regarding English Language Learners and the struggles they face on a daily basis in school. Many students in San Diego speak English as a second language. In fact, the first year I taught 2nd grade, 100% of my students were English Language Learners. The skills I learned in Dr. Alexandrowicz's class were essential to communicating and working with these students.

How have you remained involved with USD and SOLES since graduation?

My business partner, Cassidy Laikin '15, and I founded Novels & Numbers, an at-home tutoring company that works with students from TK through 8th grade. As USD alums, we have found the USD network of professors and alumni to be an integral referral source. Additionally, last year we sponsored the International Dyslexia Association conference that was held at USD. We feel incredibly grateful to be supported by the USD community, even post-graduation.

If you could offer a current USD/SOLES student advice, what would it be?

Becoming an educator is fundamentally a journey. Enjoy the process and take the time to get to know your peers and professors. Take advantage of your student teaching placements, because many of those placements transition into full-time jobs. Dr. Helene Mandell taught us to treat every student teaching opportunity like a job interview. This is truly great advice. Lastly, never lose sight of the importance of education and the impact we have as a community on future generations.  

Tell us a little bit about your journey since your graduation.

I graduated from SOLES in 2016 and took a job teaching 2nd grade at a STEAM focused charter school in San Diego. I loved teaching in the classroom, but felt chronically overwhelmed meeting the unique needs of every child in my class. I realized what I loved most about teaching was supporting students who were struggling emotionally and academically. My business partner shared a similar experience. Together, we fused our experiences to launch Novels & Numbers. We strive to have an integrative approach and meet every child's individual needs on a social/emotional and academic level.

How has your SOLES education impacted your career and your career goals?

My career goals have shifted over time, from wanting to be a classroom teacher to becoming an education entrepreneur. USD has provided me a versatile skill set and laid the foundation for success, regardless of my career choice withing the umbrella of education. 


Amanda Gonzales
(619) 260-4539


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