Renowned amongst her students for her nurturing nature, Bette S. Nelson worked hard to balance her roles as a coach, friend, and disciplinarian. She wanted to be whatever the students needed her to be and was determined to help them succeed. Ms. Nelson’s journey into academia began in childhood. She was born into a military family, which meant she was on the move constantly. She attended 16 different schools, and saw the effect both good and bad teachers could have firsthand. This inspired her to want to join the field herself and make a positive difference in the world.
With her mind made up, Ms. Nelson set out to make her dreams a reality. She started by earning a Bachelor of Arts in history and English from the University of California, Santa Barbara, followed by a Mater of Arts in counseling from Ohio State University. During this time, she also became a certified teacher in the state of California.
Ms. Nelson’s first job in the field was teacher and counselor at Worthington Heights. She spent a year in the role, and then decided to transfer to Kalamazoo Juvenile Home. Her passion and dedication quickly caught the attention of her peers, propelling her to positions like teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School, reading teacher at Bloomfield Schools, and teacher and gate chairman at Mount Diablo Unified Schools. Although she loved her work, she eventually decided to retire in 2010.
Now, looking back, Ms. Nelson considers the highlights of her career to be developing a successful program for struggling readers in the Mount Diablo school district and the Advancement through Individual Determination (AVID) program for Sequoia Middle School. She is also proud to have written several poetry books and to have taken 50 8th graders from California to Washington, D.C., every spring break to visit American history monuments. Notably, Ms. Nelson’s efforts led to her being named the 2007-2008 Teacher of the Year by the California League of Middle Schools. Other accolades include the 2006 National Honor Roll Outstanding Educator Award from the National Council of Teachers of English and the 1984 Teacher of the Year Award.
In her free time, Ms. Nelson enjoys traveling, swimming, acting, theater, and community service. She has been a member of PEO International, an organization that helps women advance, since 1998, and is a lifetime member of NCTE. Previously, Ms. Nelson was a member of the vestry teams of the Episcopalian Church in Martinez, California, and Clayton, California, an educator for church youth, and the stewardship committee head.