Position: Music Teacher
School: Forestridge Elementary
School District: Richardson ISD
City, State: Dallas, Texas
About the Nominee: Rachel Nelson was nominated by her principal, Misty Williams. A LifeChanger is someone who makes an indelible impact on the life of another. This describes Miss Nelson. She is not only passionate about her craft, but she also extends herself by pouring into her students outside of her music room to make a difference and leave a lasting impression.
As a music teacher, Miss Nelson ensures that all of her lessons are engaging and interactive. She wants her students to have a very deep understanding of the music concepts, but she also wants them to develop a love for music and, most of all, have fun. While teaching, she draws from students' experiences and helps them make a connection to their reality to make their learning meaningful. For example, as she teaches students the recorder, they level up as they build their skills. She uses "Recorder Karate" as an incentive to motivate students to progress in their skill set. Students earn "belts" or colors as they achieve and grow in learning how to play the recorder. She has very high expectations for the students, and because of this and the wonderful relationships she builds with her students, they step up to meet those expectations.
Outside of the classroom, Miss Nelson developed a concept for a movement and rhythm team that she coined, "The Stomp Club." This after-school activity allows students to be connected to the campus in other ways then academics, highlighting their skills and talents in the arts. The club practices and performs for the students, parents and at other community events. It offers students the opportunity to learn how to be a part of a team, how to audition and perform, as well as leadership skills.
In addition to coordinating the Stomp Club, Miss Nelson began organizing special 6th grade girls and boys groups that meet once a month after school to provide students with fun, team-building activities. These events help students build respect and connectedness among one another. In turn, these events increase positive relationships and decrease opportunities for bullying and misbehavior.
Through these activities and more, Miss Nelson has an opportunity to build a strong rapport with students. She is able to support, encourage and mentor some of the most difficult students on campus. They want to work with her, and they are heartbroken to disappoint her. Students even return from middle school to visit and help her. She attends their sporting games and other performances.
Students rely and confide in her. For example, she had a student call her for help when their friend was going through a rough time. That is how deeply she develops relationships with students, and it shows how much she cares for them and they care for her.
Not only is Miss Nelson an awesome teacher, but she is a consummate team player, too. She supports her teammates by co-facilitating the school choir and after-school musical ensemble group. She is always a strong supporter of school events, and she is always willing and available to support and lend a hand where ever it is needed.
One of the most impressive things about Miss Nelson's involvement on campus is how it has also impacted others. Her active involvement, positivity and rapport with students is so enlightening that it has also encouraged others on the campus to be LifeChangers for their students, too.
Since coming to Forestridge Elementary two short years ago, Miss Nelson has changed the lives of not only many students, but many staff members. Through strong relationships, providing options for students to be connected and by sharing her passion for music and the arts, Miss Nelson has been an incredible LifeChanger.