Iowa Alumni Magazine | June 2005 | People

Born to Teach: Nathalie Mingo

By Jennifer Hemmingsen

When Nathalie Mingo started teaching, no one in her family was really surprised. After all, both of her parents were teachers. Both her grandmothers had been teachers. Even two of her father’s uncles had been school principals.

Nathalie Mingo surrounded by her class.

"I was surrounded by teachers all my life,” she says.

The surprise came this spring, when Mingo, 95BA, 95IED, was named one of Illinois’ Milken National Educators for 2004. Recipients are chosen for their inspiring presence in the classroom, their exceptional educational talent, and their potential for professional and policy leadership. She received her award, and a check for $25,000, in a surprise ceremony during a school-wide assembly attended by state and local officials, students, peers, and community leaders.

The event was also attended by her father, Charles E. Mingo, who was named a National Educator in 1993 when he was principal of Chicago’s DuSable High. It’s the only time in the award’s history that two family members have been so honored. Mingo will use the funds to pursue her doctorate.

For ten years, Mingo has taught first grade at Willow Elementary in her hometown of Homewood, Illinois. She has class meetings where students share their ideas. She livens up reading lessons with art and dance. Mingo’s coworkers say they can always go to her to learn the latest teaching techniques.

But Mingo uses her heart in teaching as often as she uses her head. She stays after school to help students who are struggling. She goes to their little league games and their birthday parties. To Mingo, being a teacher isn’t just about the three R’s, it’s about respecting her students and helping them grow.

"A good teacher is an effective one who cares about the total child and not just their academic performance,” Mingo says. “Good teachers form solid working relationships between themselves and their students.” Even before she could put such ideas into words, Mingo instinctively knew where her talents and passion would lead. “I’m not only going to be a teacher,” she told her parents when she was a child, “I’m going to be a very good teacher.” Indeed, she is.