Rebecca Nelson was nominated by her school administrator, Ben Barlow.
"I first met Rebecca via Skype in 2012," said Barlow. "I was completing graduate school for education leadership and had been tapped to run Pelahatchie Elementary School, a small rural school with a decade-long history of low performance and teacher retention problems. Mrs. Nelson and her family were relocating to Rankin County from Chattanooga, Tennessee. After Skyping for an hour with her, I knew she had to be with us at Pelahatchie to help transform the school. Rebecca's high standards, nurturing manner, teacher leadership, and ability to positively add to the school culture stand out to me as to why she is a LifeChanger for the many students she has had under her care in the past ten years since that first Skype interview a decade ago."
At Pelahatchie Elementary, Mrs. Nelson led by example in every way. She quickly became the department chair for third grade, working to integrate best practices in literacy and mathematics into the third grade classrooms. She modeled lessons for partner teachers and led trainings for staff on how to integrate resources into literacy and mathematics blocks. Mrs. Nelson led the PBIS team, encouraging other staff to see the value in the token economy and how it can culturalize a school if completed with integrity and fidelity. Mrs. Nelson started a girls' running club with another teacher, working with a group of girls three afternoons a week to run. Eventually, they had the squad compete in two 5K races in one year! She also worked with Mr. Barlow to kick off a feeding program during the summer along with some local communities of faith, feeding Pelahatchie kids once per week from the park in the middle of town. Ultimately, Mrs. Nelson became a teacher of the year nominee at the district level, revealing her standing not only amongst Pelahatchie staff, but also amongst district-level peers.
"I left Pelahatchie Elementary School in 2015 to move to Highland Bluff Elementary (HBES), a much larger suburban school nearby," said Barlow. "As luck would have it, Mrs. Nelson joined our team. She began teaching fourth grade language and math and instantly made an impression on our best teachers. Mrs. Nelson once again became a teacher leader at HBES, showcasing her talents in her quiet way, producing students who experienced both growth and proficiency under her care. In particular, Mrs. Nelson has made an impact on other staff at our school in terms of how she treats her students. Mrs. Nelson's students are always among the most culturally engaged students in our school. Mrs. Nelson incorporates goals, incentives, and growth checks into her students' academic and behavioral pursuits in class, consistently revisiting these to make sure students are aware of their progress and deficit areas. She inspires a curiosity in her students that is pervasive in her classroom, consistently providing them with modeling and questioning to inspire young minds."
"I haven't met many teachers in my twenty plus years in education who combined compassion, pedagogy, wisdom, practice, and effort at such a high level consistently for so long," said Barlow. "Rebecca Nelson has been a LifeChanger for her students for years, and I imagine she will continue to do so for many years to come."