Skip to content

EdNC. Essential education news. Important stories. Your voice.

Perspective | What one principal said when the governor visited about the connections between home, school, and community

Welcome to Forest Hill Elementary. I am Nikki Costello. I’m the principal here, and we are delighted to have you here with us today in what we call our little piece of heaven.

Burke County

Morganton is a relatively small town here in the foothills of western North Carolina in Burke County. I am proud to say I’m a product of Burke County Public Schools. Upon graduation from Freedom High School, I was fortunate enough to be awarded the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Scholarship, and that opportunity paved the way for me to serve as a public school educator for the last 27 years.

Forest Hill Elementary is one of Burke County Schools 27 public schools and one of the three elementary schools that are in the city, nestled in a neighborhood.

A bulletin board at Forest Hill Elementary affirms students. Mebane Rash/EducationNC

If you’re new to the school, then we are a community of learners.

We are diverse. You may be surprised to learn that our students and their families come from across the world: China, Guatemala, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Ukraine, Vietnam, and of course the United States of America. Over 10 languages are spoken in our homes. The diversity does not end there. We have students who are deaf and hard of hearing. We have students with autism, students with learning disabilities, and students who are academically gifted. From a socio-economic standpoint, about 80% of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

But all that matters here is that we are Huskies. Students working, playing, and learning together.

Do you know how hard the English language is? We do.

I am blessed to have teachers and staff who recognize the challenge that most of our kids face everyday. They work tirelessly to provide instruction to our students so that they can meet each of them on their own level.

We want our students to have meaningful experiences that they can learn and grow from. Burke County Public Schools is dedicated to providing academic opportunities for all students. All students have a Chromebook that they use in class, and they can take home. This allows our teachers to provide individualized instruction, and it allows students the opportunity to experience digital technology that they’ll use as they continue their education.

As a public school, we strive to meet the academic needs of our students everyday. Here at Forest Hill, we recognize the importance of all-around well being, and we support our families beyond the academic core.

At Forest Hill Elementary School, school was part of student heart maps. Mebane Rash/Education NC

“We are a community. We are a family.”

Principal Nikki Costello

We celebrate our successes. I’ll never forget when Miss Sylvia got her citizenship. It was a big day.

We adore our growing families.

We hold each other during times of loss, and we support each other during sickness and stress.

Our families know we are here for them, and we love it when they reach out to us.

We do our best to meet our students physical needs as well as their academic needs. Thanks to a grant applied for by the Burke County Child Nutrition Program, all of our students receive free breakfast and lunch, which helps support their learning. Two of our local churches provide our families with food bags each week.

It’s these connections between home, community, and school that makes academic success for our students possible.

Nikki Costello

Nikki Costello is the principal at Forest Hill Elementary in the Burke County Public Schools.