May 2019

Many students have called Nina Montez, formerly Nina Dimke, “teacher” or “assistant principal” over her 26-year career in education, but the lead singer of a rock band calls her the person who changed the course of his life.


“I was an outcast, but Nina Dimke encouraged my creativity and my self-expression,” Jim James, the lead singer of ‘My Morning Jacket,’ told the Louisville Courier Journal. “She was the only teacher I had between preschool and college who said it was OK to just be myself.”

Montez, now an assistant principal at Acreage Pines Elementary School, had James as a ceramics student during her second year of teaching at St. Xavier High School in Louisville, Kentucky.

So many years ago, and me just out of college,” Montez said. “It truly is profound, the impact you can have on so people, by just reaching one.”

James, whose band has more than 424,000 followers on Facebook, frequently visits Louisville to support youth arts and creative writing programs and was awarded the Unbridled Charitable Foundation National Award in the Arts.

Before the ceremony, James was interviewed by the Louisville Courier Journal, in which he mentioned the impact Montez had on his life. The reporter then tracked down Montez to let her know what her former student said about her.

She then decided to fly up to Louisville to surprise James in person during the awards ceremony on April 26.

In our short time together at St. X., somehow, something I did or said, propelled him to follow what he calls a life-changing first ‘yes!’ to be himself and do what he loved to do, and to do it by his own script and by his own design,” Montez said. “He has reached incredible acclaim and continues to not only soar professionally but also in multiple meaningful ways. He extends his talent and generous funding to cultivate arts and creativity for youth in schools and community centers. Why? Because he feels strongly that teachers make a difference.”

James thanked and hugged Montez, and the two then spent a couple of hours reminiscing.

“James is one of the sweetest, caring, soft-spoken superstars I’ve ever met!!” she said. “My heart is so full, and I’m so very proud of James’ success.”

Montez also said she believes this is a great reminder for young teachers, early in their careers, that they too can make a profound difference in a student’s life.

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