knew she wanted to teach from the time she was a little girl. In fact, she practiced on her younger brother and sister.
“When we were little kids and we played, I was always the teacher,” she said. “It’s something I always knew I wanted to do.”
As she grew up, she also knew it was a time of the Equal Rights Amendment and when little girls were being encouraged to go into law school, or go to medical school. Or, daresay, some day run for president?
“I almost felt a little guilty studying to become a teacher, but when I got a job, I went to an inner city school and I felt like that was one of my ways of giving back,” Gorman said.
She got a job at Hoover Street Elementary School, and ended up being there 33 years. For the past two years, she taught fourth grade at in the Cahuenga Pass with mostly students from Studio City and the Hollywood Hills.
After 35 years with the Los Angeles Unified School District, Gorman is retiring Tuesday. She reflected on how some things have changed, and some things, frankly, have not.
When she started at Hoover in 1977, she had immigrant students who came as Boat People from Vietnam who would tell her stories about pirates taking everything they had and their struggles to make it to the United States. The mostly-Latino school near MacArthur Park was also located in a gang territory.
“None of my students were in gangs, but their older brothers and sisters were,” Gorman recalled. “I had kids tell me about drive-bys and shootings they would hear at night, and how they knew how to drop under the bed. That’s not anything that an elementary school child should have to deal with every day.”
When she started, Hoover with its 2,500 students Kindergarten through sixth grades was one of the largest schools West of the Mississippi River. There were 11 fourth grade teachers at the school.
She ends her career at Valley View, one of the smallest schools at LAUSD, with 250 students K-6 and 11 teachers total in the entire school.
She developed a reputation for being “strict, but fair” and when fourth graders shuffle into her classroom on the first day each year, she would ask them frankly, “How many of you heard that I was mean?” Some brave souls raise their hands, and she asks, “How many of you heard that I was strict?” Many more raise their hands.
“Now let’s discuss the difference between mean and strict,” she says, launching into a discussion with the students and diffusing the initial tension among the 8-9-and 10-year-olds.
She said she is thankful for having such a diversity of experience at LAUSD.
“A lot of great educators went through Hoover, I loved it there, it was a great experience,” she said. “And, I love this little school, too. I’ve had a nice group of kids to end my career on.”
At Hoover, after decades of teaching third and fourth grades, she decided to become a math coach. With budget cuts beginning a few years ago, the coaching positions were cut and she was moved to a part-time position between two schools, Hoover and Mayberry Street Elementary.
Then, coaxed her over to this little school in the Valley. He said, “Nancy Gorman was someone who would fit right into the school, we had to have her. I snatched her right up.”
It was a perfect fit, and Klein hired her just a year before he was because of the LAUSD budget cuts. She was thrilled to be teaching the grade level she loves.
“Fourth graders are not obnoxious yet,” Gorman said. “They’re not so much into the boy-girl stuff. They are nice little kids and still look up to you. They know how to sit still for at least 20 minutes—most of them.”
Students are more tech-savvy of course, and they are more sophisticated, she pointed out.
“They are exposed to more media,” Gorman said. “The other day the kids were talking about the face-eating cannibal zombie attacks. It takes Mrs. Gorman to put it into some perspective and tell the truth.”
She doesn’t believe the youngsters need to be burdened with all the news like that, but when the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened, she explained what happened to the classroom and they took a proactive stand and drew pictures and wrote letters to President Bush.
One of the dreaded, and traditional, fourth grade projects is the . She took her class to the to give them a first-hand look at history. And, rather than going to a crafts store to buy a “mission kit” the students built their mission in class, with Matzo bread rooftops.
With the No Child Left Behind policies, less time to teach because of furlough days and rigid testing requirements, some teachers have resorted to only “teaching to the test.” Not Mrs. Gorman.
“It would be horrible to do that,” she said. “You have to make the lesson engaging. After all, I have to compete with YouTube videos.”
After attending UCLA and the Pepperdine University, Gorman married her husband, a dentist, and they raised two girls and a boy while living in Encino. Her son just graduated from college, and she saw it as a good time to retire.
She and her husband plan to travel to Italy in October, and she said she is always a student and may take UCLA Extension classes (but not the ones her mom still takes there).
And, she is willing to tutor students. She can help anyone up to the sixth grade, and said she felt she could particularly help with math.
“Students in third and fourth grade have some struggles with math and you need to teach how it’s not one way, and they have to see it, feel it and touch it,” Gorman said.
If there’s a need to hire Mrs. Gorman for help in school, or private tutoring, you can contact her at NBGorman@aol.com.
CLICK through a year of Mrs. Gorman's last Fourth Grade class in the photo gallery above, and if you have others to add, please just add them!