Fran Nelson, an English teacher at North Henderson High School, was named Henderson County Public Schools’ 2020 Teacher of the Year on Friday, during a surprise ceremony outside her home that was broadcast live on the district’s Facebook page.
This year’s annual recognition of the district’s Teacher of the Year was celebrated in a socially distanced style different from the traditional luncheon sponsored by AdventHealth, due to COVID-19. Orchestrated by district and school administrators, a caravan of Nelson’s peers from North Henderson High drove by her home in a congratulatory parade after district leadership presented Nelson with her award and a $1,000 check from AdventHealth.
“Mrs. Nelson exemplifies so many of the qualities that can be found in the great educators across Henderson County,” says Principal Dr. John Shepard. “She is humble, kind, enthusiastic about student success, and incredibly devoted to the safety and well-being of her kids.”
Nelson has spent all 17 years of her teaching career as a Knight, where she is “All N” for North – serving as an AIG specialist, coordinating school-wide events, implementing and leading the Leader in Me school transformation model, and mentoring new teachers in classroom management, content standards, and effective teaching strategies. “Mentoring is a win-win situation because while I help young teachers gain confidence, they bring new ideas and energy, which I incorporate into my teaching,” Nelson says.
Teaching English to students in standard, Exceptional Children, and Honors classes, “Mrs. Nelson has the gifted ability to meet students where they are and devise ways to lift them up to a higher level of learning,” says Shepard. “This doesn’t mean I lower expectations or allow for excuses,” explains Nelson. “I have high expectations and expect all my students to learn. To differentiate for students I utilize technology, I provide choice, and I help make their learning relative to them.”
She and her students share a mutual respect and a lot of laughs, and Nelson approaches teaching with the outlook that she can learn just as much from her students as they learn from her – which is how Nelson learned to change the oil in her car. Nelson’s heart for her students extends beyond the walls of her classroom. She takes food and supplies to students in need, works on student schedules over her summer break, and shows her support to them by attending their extracurricular events.
“Being a teacher is being a mom, a counselor, a provider, a detective, a nurse, a role model, and a content expert,” says Nelson. “I take all of this to heart and it is where my commitment lies.”
Nelson’s impact can be measured by all the visits graduated students annually make to her classroom, returning to tell their former teacher their stories of overcoming obstacles and becoming successful, and to thank Nelson for believing in them – and helping them to do the same.
“Mrs. Nelson is one of the finest educators we have in Henderson County,” said HCPS Chief Human Resources Officer W. Scott Rhodes. “She comes to work every day wanting to make a difference in the lives of her students. I admire her passion, dedication, and commitment to serving the North Henderson community.”
Like all 23 nominees from each elementary, middle and high school, Nelson was nominated by her peers for the designation of her school’s Teacher of the Year. Following extensive interviews with a selection committee comprised of an administrator, parent, board member and the previous teacher of the year, Nelson was selected to represent Henderson County Public Schools as its 2020 Teacher of the Year. In addition to a Teacher of the Year plaque and $1,000 from AdventHealth, Nelson will receive an all-expense paid trip to a state education conference and a Teacher of the Year class ring by Jostens.