LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Rebecca Nelson

Position: Fourth Grade Teacher
School: Highland Bluff Elementary School
School District: Rankin County School District
City, State: Brandon, MS

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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."

Comments (9)

Heather Holmes Posted over a year ago

Mrs.Nelson taught my child in third grade at Pelahatchie Elementary School. She was patient and kind and empathetic towards everyone in her class. She even offered to tutor the parents so we could help our children with their common core math homework. I mean because come on, we weren’t taught that way! Her military background helped her become my daughters favorite teacher since her dad was about to be deployed the next year. My daughter is in the tenth grade now and she has left a lasting impression on her and my family.

Katy Craig Posted over a year ago

I have worked with Mrs. Nelson at Pelahatchie Elementary and Highland Bluff Elementary since 2016. I have seen firsthand the long hours she puts into creating positive learning experiences for her students. I have always taught 1-2 grade levels above her, giving me the opportunity to teach many of her former students. It is no secret that Mrs. Nelson carries the title "best teacher ever" by many of these students. I often hear directly from these students (as well as their families) how Mrs. Nelson truly changed their lives. Many of these students were uninterested in school or felt incapable of reading/doing math until entering her classroom. Because of the relationships she builds with these students, they quickly make it their mission to make her proud in all that they do, in the process, discovering they can do more than they ever believed. Mrs. Nelson has dedicated her life to help every student be successful and spends long hours finding individualized ways to do just that. In addition to supporting students in the classroom, she makes it a priority to support them in their extracurricular activities as well. In addition to the students' lives she has changed, she has also changed my life. As a first year teacher, I spent innumerable hours confiding in Mrs. Nelson. I always turned to her when I was overwhelmed or confused because I knew she would truly be happy to help. She would often put her own work aside to help me however she could. I had a huge support system in her that year that I still have to this day. Mrs. Nelson is always the first to volunteer to help anybody she can, any way that she can, any time that she can. She is never too tired, too busy, or too burdened to help. This is a quality I admire in her that I hope to embody in my own life. Mrs. Nelson changes lives every day. I am proud to know her and feel lucky to call her a mentor and friend.

Jessica Crosby-Pitchamootoo Posted over a year ago

I was lucky enough to work with Ms Nelson for a year. She is an inspiration. She poured her all into the students. She had high expectations and truly believed in her students. She was caring and took the time to really see her students as individuals with many gifts.

Karl Edgeman Posted over a year ago

I'm Becky's brother in law. I have known her for over 20 + years. If this world had more people like Becky Nelson, it would be a hole lot better place. If every child had a parent like Beck or future the human race would be unbelievable.

Julieta Mendez Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Nelson was my daughter's 4th grade teacher. Camila adores her. Mrs. Nelson is kind, caring, extremely knowledgable, and fun. She teaches her students to trust themselves and pushes them to do better. She treats them with love and they want to make her proud. Camila could not have had a better role model. I will be forever grateful.

Ivonne valdepena Posted over a year ago

Now using the virtual classroom We are aware of the effort that Mrs Nelson put in the classroom and we are happy to have her sharing all the knowledge with our daughter She is the Best!

Jenny Coward Posted over a year ago

Mrs Nelson was my child. Annie's teacher and also her tutor. She was such an impact in our lives, she gave Annie the knowledge, courage and support to grow with her studies. Annie has a listening/reading comprehensive disability on top of her being extremely shy. Mrs Nelson brought Annie out of alot of that shyness and gave her learning tools to brave through her disability. Mrs Nelson gave Annie love and encouragement like no other teacher. Mrs Nelson is the best teacher and friend. I can never beginning to thank her enough for all she did for her Annie Bananie. We love you Mrs Nelson!

Kelli Bryant. (Step Mother) Posted over a year ago

Rebecca has always been a strong thread in our family. She has helped raise for brothers and one sister. Comforting the whole family through our growing phase. As an adult she has carried that trait with her.

Nikki Roberts Posted over a year ago

I've known Rebecca (aka "Becky") for over 15 years and have seen her caring, courageous, helpful heart in the way she handles life with her family, her friends, and her community. She has a joy about her that is contagious, and a spirit that is strong and gentle. She is an encourager and seeks to bring out the best in those around her. She is definitely a LifeChanger!