Leading the future of education

“Invest in continual professional development,” counsels McKay School alumnus Kelly Nelson. “Seek mentors. When you see an opportunity to grow, take it. Make it meaningful, relevant, and most of all, stay mindful of the children, families, and teachers you serve.”

Of all the people qualified to give this advice, Nelson definitely stands out.

She graduated with her bachelor’s degree from BYU in December 2007, and after five years of teaching early childhood education she had the opportunity to advance. She was offered an administrative role at her school, Woodland Elementary in Portola Valley, CA, and, after considerable debate, accepted the position.

“I loved being a teacher,” she explains, “but as I considered my own personal growth and the opportunity to make a different impact on the lives of our students, teachers, families, and school community, I decided to accept it.”

Her experience in administration led to a desire and opportunity to re-enter the world of education as a student, and she was accepted into the Klingenstein Center’s master’s in educational leadership program at Columbia University’s Teacher College in New York.

“This experience was undeniably life-changing for me,” she shared, “as most of my teaching and administrative experience had been at one public and one private school.” Nelson acknowledges the profound impact this decision had on her. “[I had] the opportunity to visit, meet, and collaborate with educators from all over the world.”

She graduated from Columbia in 2012 and took a job with the Redwood Day School in Oakland, CA, working with K–5 students and their families.

“Looking back, I can see how the opportunities to work with a variety of young ages [and] stepping into various teaching and leadership roles . . . have shaped my ability to better serve the teachers and families of my community,” said Nelson.

Nelson will be the first to admit that there are hard days, challenges, and frustrations. But the growth and the gratitude that have come from those moments have been worth it. Nelson has embraced new chances and opportunities; not only have they helped her find success, but they have helped her feel success. She recognizes that every day is a journey filled with new lessons, so for Kelly Nelson, education never really ends.

Writer: Madison Houghton

Contact: Shauna Valentine (801) 422-8562