When barbering instructor Thomas Nichols walked into the main classroom at the Buffalo School of Cosmetology and Barbering Monday morning, he was in for a big surprise. The space was filled with his former students who graduated from the program along with current students. They all came together to honor Nichols as an extraordinary teacher who has transformed their lives.
As part of Buffalo Public Schools Adult Education Division, the school offers two post-secondary educational programs in cosmetology and barbering at its North Buffalo facility. In September 2016 it was nationally accredited by the Council on Occupational Education.
Monday’s event was organized by Junior Vidal, a Buffalo School of Barbering graduate who planned it with several other graduates. All were former students of Nichols and have gone on to work as Master Barbers, shop owners, and other business entrepreneurs. They credit Nichols – whom they refer to as “Mr. Nick” – for their work ethic and success. They consider him a father figure who helped them in and beyond the classroom.
“He is an amazing person,” said Vidal who, like many of his classmates, faced struggles growing up. “For a long time, I felt like there was something missing in my life. Mr. Nick literally showed me that there was so much more out there.” Vidal is the owner of Vidal Barber Supply on Delaware Avenue just down the street from the school.
Nichols has been teaching at the Buffalo School of Cosmetology and Barbering as lead instructor since 2013. He took his current position after “unofficially” retiring from the trade, although he still cuts hair occasionally at an East Side shop.
He served in the military for ten years and taught in various capacities for about 25 years while also running his own barber shop. He is a graduate of the University at Buffalo’s School of Management and always incorporates his business acumen into his barbering curriculum.
Nichols feels fortunate to have been raised by two parents who led by example. His mother was a teacher. His late father served in the military and as a police officer. He also owned a barber shop. Nichols knows that his father would be proud to see where his son is today.
As an instructor, Nichols said, “There is no greater gratification than seeing these students become successful.” Throughout his career he has seen young people struggle. He considers it an obligation to share his own life experiences with his students as well as other youth that he has encountered. “As professionals, we have to teach our youth, especially our young men, how to be professional,” and to help them find opportunities to fulfill their potential.
Vidal feels that his instructor deserves even more recognition than he received at Monday’s celebration. “He is a true mentor and an impeccable teacher.” Referring to the harmony he felt in Nichols’ classroom, Vidal pointed to his instructor’s ability to bring the students together and keep them focused on the goal of becoming a Master Barber. “He managed our differences. He has done a lot more than he even knows.”