One Indiana high school teacher pursued teaching from a young age, and she ended up earning a title that distinguishes her as one of the best in the state.
Jitka Nelson, an English language arts teacher for English learners at Logansport Community High School, is the 2017 Teacher of the Year for Indiana as well as one of IU’s Armstrong Teacher Educator recipients. Nelson is giving a seminar at 10 a.m. Friday in the IU School of Education Auditorium, sponsored by the INSPIRE Living-Learning Center, to talk about her experiences.
“It’s really a tremendous opportunity for me,” Nelson said.
As an English language arts teacher who teaches English learners, Nelson said she has to make modifications and provide extra support to the students when giving them stories to analyze or essays to complete. She also said an English language proficiency test is administered to these students once a year to track their progress.
Nelson grew up in Czechoslovakia, and due to the design of the government, she said she had to make choices very early in life. She said she found her first inspiration in her second grade teacher, and from that moment on, she began to follow the pathway to becoming a teacher. She said that is a characteristic of teachers — they inspire.
In her role as Teacher of the Year, Nelson will take a one-year sabbatical and travel nationally to talk to Teachers of the Year from other states.
“It’s a job,” Nelson said.
Nelson said they have recently announced the candidate for the 2018 Teacher of the Year for Indiana, who she helped select.
“It is a very inspiring interviewing process,” Nelson said.
Another perk of being teacher of the year was receiving IU’s Armstrong Teacher Educator award, Nelson said. The award brings some of the best educators in the state to Bloomington to take part in panel discussions.
IU’s INSPIRE Living-Learning Center also contacted Nelson to conduct a seminar Oct. 13. The INSPIRE LLC is located in Spruce Hall and is designed to give students learning opportunities through living in the facility. INSPIRE’s primary focus is on issues in education, but students do not have to be an education major to be a part of the program.
During this seminar, she will discuss her experiences in teaching students who were learning English. Nelson said the main theme in education this year is equity, which has been a focus in the U.S. Department of Education in creating equal access to education for all students.
Diana Velazquez, assistant director of the INSPIRE LLC, said she thinks it is appropriate to have her engage with the 53 students in the INSPIRE LLC which focuses on issues of equity and democracy in the educational system, as well as other interested students. She also said Nelson’s discipline, teaching those who are learning English, will give insight into diversity in the classroom.
“Language is something she is very passionate about,” Velazquez said.
Even after her time as Indiana’s Teacher of the Year is over, Nelson said she intends to stay connected with the program.
“I will always want to go back and get re-inspired by the master teachers that follow me in this role,” Nelson said.