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Noblesville teacher creates ‘class family’ and ‘at home’ classroom

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — At Hinkle Creek Elementary School, students in the third grade understand the meaning of family.

It’s all thanks to their teacher, Nathaniel Truitt, and his “class family.”

Truitt is the January winner of the WISH-TV Golden Apple Award. WISH-TV is Indiana’s education station, and, every month, News 8 honors outstanding teachers with the Golden Apple Award

Truitt’s students say he is worthy of the honor.

“He makes it a class family and he just loves us,” 8-year-old Olivia Guest said. “It means so much to me that he calls us ‘family.’”

“He just loves us with all his heart,” 9-year-old Graham Dyksen said.

Principal Jack Lawrence has been doing this job for a long time and tells News 8 that Truitt’s “class family” philosophy is a first.

“He calls it his ‘class family.’ He doesn’t have a class. He corrected me right away. ‘I have a class family,’” Lawrence said. “The way he has adopted all of his kids and creates that class family environment, I have not seen that and it has been fun to watch. It’s fun for the families of these students, too.”

Elissa Dee, who has a daughter in Truitt’s classroom, tells News 8: “He sees the parents as part of the class family. We are an extended family. So he wants to make sure we are involved and feel included as well.”

Nathaniel Truitt shows a book to his class at HInkle Creek Elementary School. (WISH Photo)

Parents said Truitt often calls them, simply to tell them the good news about their kids. He also goes with the families to students’ extracurricular activities. He is so committed to his class family that he has a calendar where he can schedule going to afterschool activities on a regular basis, with the help of the parents.

Truitt is even an amateur photographer and takes pictures for the families so they can hold onto these memories.

“He is the type of teacher that in 30 years, every one of his kids is going to remember him,” John Dee, who has a daughter in Mr. Truitt’s classroom, said. “When he says he cares about your child, he really does care.”

It all starts with his classroom atmosphere.

“I walked in and was like, ‘It is Starbucks in here. I mean, it does look like it,’” Sember Darland, another parent, said.

Truitt’s classroom does not have typical desks. Instead, it is furnished like a family room with dining room tables, couches, and family pictures on the walls. New photos are added throughout the year, similar to a home.

“I thought it was like, really cool because it was really different and it felt like I was almost at my house,” 9-year-old Prestin Hahn said.

Students sit around the table as “Class family #8” and every week, they wear family T-shirts on “Truitt Tuesdays.”

Two students wearing their “Truitt Tuesday” T-shirts. (WISH Photo)

Truitt also empowers students to run for class representative positions. They are leaders in the classroom. All students have jobs in the room, too, and even decorate the classroom for different seasons and holidays.

The class family also does community events together. The students recently spoke at a school board meeting and every summer there are Truitt Family Reunions.

Truitt’s fellow third-grade teachers say he is dedicated to his students for life.

“Something that really sets his class apart is his dedication to building the whole child,” Erin Brown, a fellow teacher, said. “Mr. Truitt is amazing as a teacher. He is all in 100%. He embodies what it means to go above and beyond for his class family.”

He also shows love to his co-workers. He often brings thoughtful surprises to staff members and inspires fellow teachers along the way.

“He is kind, he is helpful, he is empathetic, he is open-hearted. He is just an amazing person on top of being an amazing teacher,” Michelle Justice-Hobbs, a fellow third-grade teacher, said.
His students’ parents wanted to say thank you.

“No Christmas gift really seemed quite worthy, so I had seen this award and, you know, I thought, ‘This is him. He deserves this.’ So this is what we decided to do as a holiday present,” Elissa Dee said.

Parents of students in Truitt’s classroom sent in nine nominations for the WISH-TV Golden Apple Award and he won. Some of those parents, along with Truitt’s parents and News 8’s Hanna Mordoh, went to surprise him with the award.

The Golden Apple Award comes with a trophy, a $500 school supply shopping spree at Teachers’ Treasures, and a surprise from Mordoh.

“Thank you! I was not expecting this. I feel very grateful. I have wanted to be a teacher since the second grade. I am literally living my dream. I am very grateful for this recognition, but I already have everything I want. I am a teacher, I have a class family, and I feel so beyond blessed already just to be here,” Truitt said.

He appeared to be in shock but quickly turned the scenario into his gratefulness for his students.

“These are the best people in the room and I mean that because I feel so grateful that my job is to love these kids, and to provide opportunities to be there, and to be a partner with their families. I am grateful for this, but I am already living my dream, so thank you. Thank you so much,” Truitt said.

WISH-TV surprised Truitt with a video message from his students, the children’s parents, and his coworkers. His parents also came to the school and were a part of the Golden Apple surprise.

“I am here because people have poured into me and that is what has allowed me to pour into this class family. The families, they are the ones who give me the energy to do all of these things and it is my joy to do it,” Truitt said. “I think it has to be acknowledged — I am here because of the people who have put me here. My parents are everything. I am adopted; I am here because they chose me. I am living my dream. I am fulfilling my purpose because of their love. I could have gone my whole life and never had a family.”

Mr. Truitt and News 8’s Hanna Mordoh pose with students in the classroom. (WISH Photo)

“Family is founded in love, so I have the opportunity every year to start a new family. Why? Because I love these kids. Family is forever because love is forever,” Truitt said.

That’s a lesson these kids will forever remember because Truitt is true to his word. No matter who you are or where you are from, love is at the core of this classroom and the key to this family.