The North Bend Eagle


Nicola sign
Bernie Nicola signs a student's T-shirt after school Friday [Feb. 27, 2015].

NBC students, staff salute teacher

Nicola to temporarily leave NBC to deploy with National Guard

by Nathan Arneal
Published 3/4/05

Just when he was getting into the rhythm of his first year teaching science at North Bend Central, Bernie Nicola has to put his teaching career on hold for a little bit.

Friday was his last day in an NBC classroom this year. Monday he reports to Grand Island to begin extensive training with the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment of the Nebraska Army National Guard.

After three months of training, Nicola will be deployed overseas. He doesn’t know for sure where his deployment will take place, but he said it will likely be somewhere in the Middle East.

“They say we’ll be over there six to seven months,” Nicola said, “but we’re really at the Army’s mercy, so I don’t really know.”

shirtThe entire NBC staff and student body wore these T-shirts to honor Nicola on his last day teaching before he is deployed.

Nicola is a flight engineer on a Chinook helicopter, a large cargo helicopter with two sets of rotors.

“I sit in the back of the helicopter and manage the instruments in the back, manage cargo, troops, whatever they can fit in our helicopter,” Nicola said. “Our helicopter is pretty big.”

This will be the second deployment for Nicola, 26, who spent most of 2012 in Afghanistan. When he returned, he finished his final two years of college and got the job at NBC.

“I’ve been through this before, so I kind of know how it is,” Nicola said. “I kind of know what I’m going into. If this would have been the first time, I would have been a little more upset.”

He will still be able to come home most weekends during his training. During that time, he and his wife Molly and infant son James will pack up their home in Prague. She will move in with her grandparents, Jim and Alice Colgan of North Bend, while Bernie is deployed.

While he is away, Bob Feurer will fill in as a long-term substitute. Feurer, who had to resign his position on the NBC school board in order to teach again, retired from teaching science just last year. Nicola was hired to replace him, though his class load isn’t the same as what Feurer taught. Nicola teaches Biology I, anatomy and physiology and global science.

“Mr. Feurer has been a blessing to have around,” Nicola said. “I’m so happy they could find the perfect science teacher to help fill my spot. I’m happy to have him around because I know the students will still be getting a great education. That’s probably the part I was most worried about.”

Feruer has been shadowing Nicola since early February. Band teacher Ray Kirkpatrick will teach Nicola’s global science class, while Feruer will take over the rest of the schedule.

The school surprised Nicola will a grand send off Friday. Students and staff wore white T-shirts reading “You’ve got our backs, Mr. Nicola. We’ve got yours” featuring a soldier with tiger paw on his back and a tiger with an American flag in its back. It was a surprise for Nicola when he showed up to school early Friday morning.

“The first people I saw were a couple of the teachers,” Nicola said. “I had to double take because I thought I saw ‘Nicola’ on a shirt, and I was like, ‘What?’ Then the kids started showing up with them, and I was like, ‘That is amazing.’”

At the end of the school day, an all-school assembly was held, complete with a color guard of North Bend area veterans. Veteran Rollie Otte spoke to the assembly, thanking Nicola for his service.

Following the assembly, Nicola was surrounded by students wanting pictures, autographs on their T-shirts and even a few tearful hugs.

“It was amazing,” Nicola said. “I can’t say enough about the support here. It’s overwhelming sometimes. I knew that I was liked here, I didn’t know how liked, but when I saw today I knew I had found a new family, a new home here, definitely. It’s awesome to be part of this community.”

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