Dr. Leslie Nichols – A Brief Introduction

July, 2018

I believe in the promise of public education in our country and I have loved every minute of my career working for that promise. To me it is a promise of creating the conditions of an educated electorate for our precious democracy, of supporting families and building communities around the glorious endeavor of learning, and of giving students the gift of as many options for their lives as possible.

I spent the last five years leading Hinsdale County School District in Lake City as Superintendent/Principal, and before that I loved the fifteen years I spent teaching in the secondary math and English classrooms. I continue to teach a bit for NOLS Wilderness Medicine and maintain my EMT certification. I served on the board of the early learning center Wee Care in Lake City for the past ten years, and also continue to serve on the board of the Lake Fork Community Foundation. I was recently appointed to the board of the Colorado Rural Schools Alliance and look forward to participating in the state-level advocacy work that organization does on behalf of rural schools.

I graduated from high school in Fairfax, Virginia, outside of Washington DC where my dad finished his 30-year career in the Marine Corps and where my mom started her career as an Episcopal priest. My parents are now retired in Pensacola, Florida. My older brother Chris and his family live in Norwich, Vermont.

I earned my bachelor’s degree with honors in English at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. I met my husband Jack there and followed him out to Colorado where his family has owned a house in Lake City since the early 1960’s. Jack and I started Cannibal Outdoors, a rafting and outdoor recreation company, in Lake City and ran it for about a decade in the 90’s and early 2000’s. During that time, I earned my master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Colorado, Boulder and did my teaching internship (student teaching) with English teacher Pat Wren right here at Gunnison High School! I also worked as an educational assistant under Chris Sigwort at the then-new alternative high school program in Gunnison. My first three years as a teacher were in the English classrooms of Paonia High School where I also coached basketball and track and produced the school newspaper and yearbook.

I loved moving into the math classroom in Lake City as the middle and high school programs were re-established there after 30 years of busing to Gunnison. I also enjoyed establishing Lake City’s outdoor education Adventure program, collaboratively deciding on the mascot of the Fourteeners, coaching soccer and track, working to create our Positive Behavior Intervention Support program called CLIMB, and coaching Knowledge Bowl. In 2012, my dissertation was approved and I earned my doctorate in K-12 Educational Leadership from Jones International University out of Centennial, Colorado.

Jack and I were married in Lake City in 1995 and our sons Johnny (now 18) and Thomas (now 14) were born at Gunnison Valley Hospital. Johnny graduated from Lake City Community School in 2017 and attends Denver University in the Daniels College of Business. Thomas will start 9th grade this fall. Our whole family has played ice hockey in Gunnison and Crested Butte (and all over the state, of course) since about 2005 which means I feel at home in the communities of the entire valley already.

Our family loves adventuring on rivers, in deserts, and in the mountains all over the southwest and the world. Jack was a Grand Canyon river guide and we lived in Flagstaff for a year in 2007-2008 where I also taught math. Upon our return to Lake City in 2008, Jack was a contractor, a certified home inspector, and the Building Official for Hinsdale County. In January of this year, Jack died in an ice climbing accident in Lake City. We miss him tremendously and are grateful for the love- and fun-filled adventures we enjoyed for so many years together. We are all also grateful for the supportive communities of Lake City and the Gunnison Valley as we adjust to our new world without him.

Dr. Nicols