During school closures and remote learning, maintaining connection with students has been an enormous puzzle to solve.
When 8th grade teacher Jena Nelson, from Deer Creek Middle School in Edmond, Oklahoma, switched to online delivery, she looked at this new difficulty as a new opportunity.
Digging into her arsenal of costumes from her previous years as a drama and theater teacher, she decided that her students would have a surprise guest every day when they logged in for her composition lessons. These characters included a duchess, judge, detective, viking, and more.
Meet Jena Nelson
Jena Nelson is the 2020 Oklahoma State Teacher of the Year. She teaches 8th-grade composition and academic enhancement at Deer Creek Middle School in Edmond, Oklahoma. Jena is a 15-year educator and formerly taught theatre, musical theatre, and stagecraft.
A long time advocate for career-based curriculum, Jena has helped her students earn over 4 million dollars in scholarships and incorporates career readiness in all of her classes. She has been selected twice to direct at the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland and Jena was also chosen as a presenter at International Music Festival in Campina Grande Brazil. This year she was selected by Congresswoman Kendra Horn to attend the State of the Union Address in Washington, D.C.
Exploring Ways to Stay Connected
In this week’s podcast episode, Jena discusses several topics that will inspire your own service as an educator, including:
- Lessons in distance instruction from a teacher’s perspective, and words of encouragement for all educators facing similar challenges.
- Examples of engagement in the normal classroom settings and how those ideas transfer to distance learning.
- Why education is an inspiring career, and why Jena left performing arts to become a teacher.
- The power of a trusting relationship to save a child from traumatic childhood and place her on the path to graduation.
- How the partnership of relationship-oriented principals and teachers can create schools families.
Let’s Wrap This Up
As the fall semester begins, Jena Nelson will have the opportunity to travel her state as an advocate for Oklahoma teachers. She is thrilled to start her “revolution of morale” as she represents the profession she loves.
But until then, she recognizes what sacrifices teachers, students and families have all made to finish out the school year. Staying connected has not been easy, but every effort to cultivate relationships has been worth it as everyone realizes the value of doing school.
Now It’s Your Turn
What ways can you encourage your teachers to give themselves a pat-on-the-back for rallying together in such difficult times? What ideas from distance learning do you plan to embed into your school practices even after anticipated returns to school next semester? If you’d like to follow Jena Nelson on Twitter, you can find her at her handle @oktoy2020.