For Women’s History Month KGET, Dignity Health, and Clinica Sierra Vista want to recognize Remarkable Women in our community. Every Tuesday in March we will feature a new, remarkable woman making a difference in Kern County. This week’s finalist started her career as a volunteer, never imagining she’d one day oversee the education of more than 3,000 students and 800 staff.

Shirley Nicholas has reminders to herself posted all over her office. One reads: “Every storm runs out of rain.” Another, simply, “urgency.” And that’s how she approaches her job as director of special education at the Bakersfield City School District.

“This is the moment for these kids. They will never be a second-grader again, never be 8 years old again. This is it, so if we don’t have urgency to make it right in this moment regardless of how challenging it is, then we’re not doing it,” says Nicholas.

It has certainly been a challenging few years. The pandemic was incredibly hard on students, but those in special education faced even more challenges.

“Special education is so unique in that it’s not just the reading and writing, it’s life skills, it’s connection with the community, connection with family,” she explains. But with more than 3,100 students to serve, Nicholas and her staff buckled down and started figuring out how to get supplies like desks, sensory items and assistive technology into homes.

“When the buses first started rolling and BCSD mini-buses were finally running, I started to tear up, like, ‘oh my gosh, kids are back!” It was a thrilling moment it really was.”

Nicholas never saw herself in administration. She started out volunteering at school when her son went into kindergarten. But with passion and encouragement she eventually went back to school herself and became the first college graduate in her family.

“I was encouraged by the principal at the time, her name was Kathy Ramey. And she’s just, ‘Oh, you’d be a great aide, you’re great with the kids,” that type of thing. And I just fell in love with it, the rest of it just had to happen.” And now Nicholas strives to bring that same encouragement to the women she works with. “All women, there’s a place for being remarkable regardless of where you are in life.”

Join us every Tuesday this month on 17 News at Sunrise as we introduce you to the four finalists in our Remarkable Women contest.

On the first Monday in April, we will announce our winner, who will get $1,000 to the charity of her choice.