GREENVILLE — In mid-December, an English teacher at Greenville High School received a letter that gave her a humble and excited feeling.
The letter was from State Superintendent Mike Flanagan, notifying Elizabeth Nelson that she was nominated for Michigan Teacher of the Year.
Nelson said it took her a few times of reading the letter to realize that it was not just junk mail. “I was really excited,” she said.
One thing the letter did not include was who nominated her for the award. Nelson has asked a few of her colleagues, but no one has come forward.
“It’s a fun mystery,” she said.
This is Nelson’s first time being nominated for the award.
According to the Michigan Teacher of the Year Program Guidelines for 2012-2013 via the Michigan Department of Education, the program honors teacher excellence. The program is not designed to select the best teacher, but to select the teacher from many of the outstanding teachers to serve as a visible and vocal representative of what is best for the profession.
The purpose of the award is to recognize excellence in the teaching profession, provide opportunities for the award winner to interact with policymakers, provide a public voice/spokesperson for the teaching profession and focus public attention on the importance of teachers.
“Beth joins a number of elite Greenville teachers who have been nominated for the (Michigan) Teacher of the Year,” said Greenville Public Schools Superintendent Pete Haines.
Haines said Nelson has been instrumental in literacy intervention and instruction at the high school. She has also served in a variety of leadership capacities in the Professional Learning Community.
“She has been at the forefront of many initiatives and instructional interventions designed to improve learning across the curriculum and in our entire district,” Haines said.
Nelson began working at Greenville Public Schools 18 years ago after being a substitute teacher for the district. She followed in her father’s footsteps and said she was always excited about reading in English in school.
Being a teacher was a dream of Nelson’s since as long as she can remember. She would watch her father and older brother leave for school and she wanted to go with them.
“It was out of jealousy,” she said of what made her want to become a teacher. “I was jealous they were going to school and I wasn’t.”
One thing she loves about being a teacher is when a student tells her they have completely read a book or wrote a paper for the first time.
Most recently, Nelson said one of her favorite moments of being a teacher was being able to see her former student, Christina Beckman, introduce President Barack Obama when he spoke at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
“I choked up,” Nelson said. “She is out there thriving to be so much more.”
Of her nomination, Nelson said she is very honored and humbled.
“I’m inspired by students,” she said.
She enjoys standing by the door and talking with the students as they come into the classroom.
“I am honored to be a part of their lives,” she said.
Nelson said she does the best she can for her students.
“There is a lot of ugly in the world and school should not be that place,” she said.
She said there are so many teachers out there who are incredible people inspiring students every day and she wishes everyone could get an award.
“I love kids,” she said. “I can’t imagine not working with teenagers. There is nothing else I would rather do.”