Posted: May 08, 2018

The summer before my 5th grade year at Sherwood Elementary, my parents divorced. It was a hard time, but my 5th grade year changed the course of my life. You see, I was lucky enough to be placed in Melinda Murphy’s 5th grade class. She was young, and cool, and she made a huge impact on my life because she believed in me. When I graduated 5th grade, I knew I wanted to impact a child’s life and become a teacher.

When I went to college, I got a degree in Speech Pathology/Audiology and elementary education. I thought I would make an impact working with students struggling with speech delays. I worked at the Parish School every summer throughout college. I loved it! However, when I stepped in front of my first class, I knew I had found where I was meant to be.

I graduated college and got married in the summer of 1987. One afternoon I had agreed to help a friend out by watching their one-year-old. I went for a walk and saw Yorkshire Academy during carpool. I liked the way the children were treated, so I walked up to one of the people and introduced myself. That person turned out to be Shirley Swinbank, the owner of Yorkshire Academy. I had no idea how that decision would impact my life.

I began working at Yorkshire Academy within a month. I loved it. I knew I was where I needed to be, and I knew I was very fortunate to be there. I was in awe of Shirley. She had an amazing dream, and she was making it come true. I had never seen anyone work harder. She was passionate and focused on her dream. I knew she was someone special. As the months went by, Shirley and I became closer. When I went into labor with my first child, Shirley is the one who drove me to the hospital, and she waited in the waiting room for hours. She celebrated all three of my children’s births, and when they were old enough, Shirley made it possible for my kids to attend Yorkshire Academy. It is still one of the best gifts I ever received. I know my kids agree.

This year I am celebrating my 30th year teaching at Yorkshire Academy. I have taught everything from pre-school to fifth grade. I loved teaching all the ages. I loved teaching phonics to four-year-olds. When a child learns to sound out their first word, the joy in their young eyes is intoxicating. Each grade has its own magic, however, when I taught my first 5th grade class, I fell in love with the mind of a nine to eleven-year-old.

I have spent my days with some of the best students. Fifth graders are energetic, patient, artistic, athletic, stubborn, thoughtful, impulsive, serious and hilarious…all in the same day! I love them! I love how insightful a ten/eleven-year-old can be. I love how honest they are about their feelings and their dreams. I love how they can learn to work hard, and how they celebrate their accomplishments. Most of all, I believe if you really listen to a fifth grader, you can get a glimpse of the type of person they will become.

Lucky for me, due to social media, I can keep in contact with many of my past students. They are all over the world, or right around the corner. It doesn’t matter. I love to hear from them and celebrate their accomplishments. When I hear how much Yorkshire Academy has made a difference in their life, I smile. Yorkshire is full of incredible people that work hard to make a positive impact on each child’s life. So, when we succeed, it is an incredible feeling.

I can’t believe it has been 30 years. Wow! Recently, when I was having a discussion with my class, one of the students told me they wanted to be a doctor because doctors make a lot of money. Then they said, “No disrespect to you, Mrs. Nelson, but you don’t make very much money. So, that’s why I don’t want to be a teacher.” I agreed with them. I said, “You know what? You are right. I don’t make as much money as a doctor, but I get paid in a different way. I get to wake up every morning and go to a job that I love. I get to spend my days with my best friends, teaching incredible students, in the best school. I get paid in a different way.”

Thank you, Yorkshire Academy for 30 amazing years! I couldn’t have done it in any other school, with any other people that I am lucky enough to call colleagues and friends. Thank you Shirley, for making such a difference in so many lives...including mine. It has been an amazing 30 years