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#PREPpeople: Louise Nelson
Posted 06/10/2020 04:25PM

#PREPpeople is one in an occasional series of snapshots spotlighting the people of St. John's Prep

Louise NelsonHometown: Dedham, Mass. and La Jolla, Calif. (Newburyport since 2005)

Education: Diploma, The Bishop's School (Calif.); B.A. in Environmental Studies, Connecticut College; M.A. in Marine Science, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories/California State University

Years at St. John’s: 5

Subject: Math and science

Describe a teacher who inspired you growing up: “I have appreciated and admired so many teachers over the years, which is a big reason why I teach. One of my high school English teachers, Dr. Rappaport, had an office and classroom up a spiral staircase, and we would climb up into this magic world of Shakespeare. He broke open the language and animated it for us so that we could access the beauty of the work. His example continues to inspire me to make my subjects as accessible and awe-inspiring as he did.”

Classroom lessons evolve, but what’s an exercise, unit, or concept you look forward to teaching every year and why? “I always look forward to planting seeds in the spring. We complete a unit on digestion and nutrition and the students plant ‘Nutrient Gardens’ to learn about micronutrients that contribute to their nutrition. It’s so fun to see the wonder and amazement that students experience as they plant the seeds and then observe and record the growth of their seedling over many weeks. And, emails come during the summer saying, ‘We just ate a tomato and basil salad from his nutrient garden!’”

List four traits or tactics you think are crucial to a gratifying teaching career? “Knowing each student personally so that they can feel seen and valued; improving lessons and curriculum continually; having excellent colleagues; making it all fun.”

What’s the most insightful thing a student has ever said to you? “My sixth-graders crack me up and say awesome things every day.”

If you weren’t a teacher, what would you do for a living? “I’d be a marine scientist, or a gardener or a potter or a triathlete … so many things I’d like to do!”

Fun fact: “I started taking ukulele lessons via Skype with my son, Gabe ’26, at the end of March. I’ve always wanted to learn an instrument that I can play while singing. It was so hard in the beginning that I couldn’t even twist my fingers into a chord configuration, let alone be able to play something recognizable. But now, we know two songs and it has been so much fun to learn. It’s amazing to see how daily practice has allowed me to improve, and it’s also brought a few moments of peace and music during a difficult time.”

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