Social, emotion and physical health are just the pathway that Ms. Lonny Nelson uses to support her students

Editor Note: Casey Tomlin, the reporter who interviewed Ms. Nelson, chose to interview her because of her deep respect for her teacher. Casey is a St. Thomas Health Scholar and sat for the Clinical Certified Medical Assistant exam. Casey wants Ms. Nelson to know how proud she is to have her as her teacher.

Social, emotion and physical health are just the pathway that Ms. Lonny Nelson uses to support her students

Kind and caring, supportive, and Nashville Predators fan are how many of Ms. Lonny Nelson’s students describe her. Few know,  however, she is a Blue Ribbon teacher who once considered being a veterinarian but changed her major because the thought of putting down an animal was beyond her scope of understanding.

Ms. Nelson is one of Hillsboro High School’s CTE (Career and Technical Education) teachers who teaches in the Academy of Health Sciences. Like the core classes students are familiar with like English and History, Ms. Nelson’s classes are very academic where students learn high level vocabulary and prepare for health care industry certifications that will give her students an opportunity to pursue a health care career after high school. Unlike English and History, Ms. Nelson brings in industry professionals that bring the careers in health care into the classroom. Students in AGHS not only learn in the classroom, but along with Ms. Thomas, Ms. Fisher-Jaskson and Ms. Nelson, students will be have opportunities to learn outside of the classroom as well.

CTE is a division of Tennessee’s Education Diploma Program’s options for high school students and there is perhaps no better example of a CTE teacher than Lonny Nelson, a health science teacher at Hillsboro High School. She provides amazing experiences that only teachers of CTE programs can offer.

Ms. Nelson has been teaching 11 years, has been in the health care industry 20 years, she is a 2016 Blue Ribbon Award winning teacher and is the chair of the CTE department at Hillsboro.


Ms. Nelson is also the adviser of the St. Thomas Health Scholars of the Academy of Health Science at Hillsboro High School. Along with Ms.Rebecca from Saint Thomas who comes once every week. This program is a nationally recognized for its industry certifications which students of Ms. Nelson and the AGHS will take in early May.

Healthcare and education are two of the largest industries in Nashville. It is only natural for these two industries to partner and provide ground-breaking opportunities for high school students who are interested in pursuing a future in the healthcare field. The Saint Thomas Health Scholars program is a result of this partnership.

One of my favorite things I get to do as an educator is work with new teachers. Loved facilitating with TNDOE this week! – Lonny Nelson (1/12/18)

Ms. Nelson is ‘that teacher’ that her students can count on. She is there when her students need help whether it is academic help or personal. She is the consummate teacher knowing when to push and when to give her students space

National certification tests can be very intimidating, but Ms. Nelson was there every step of the way in our preparation for the CCMA  (Clinical Certified Medical Assistant) Not only did we feel prepared for the exam, we felt supported because she helped take away the fear of taking such an important exam. She always tells us how proud she is of us and I can always go to her for help with anything.

The Hillsboro Globe had an opportunity to sit with Ms. Nelson and discover more about what is important to her as a teacher and a community member. Excerpts of the interview follow.

HG: What made you want to become a teacher and how has your teaching experience been up to now? I have seen shift in education, not just in high school, in elementary school too.

Poor communications have increased the longer I taught and good communication skills are essential to success.   want to create  positive change. I have had a positive and challenging teaching experience to date! I wanted to become a teacher because I felt like I could make a positive impact in how students are educated.”

How long have you been a teacher? I have been a teacher at Hillsboro for 5 years. I have also taught other grades, even second grade! I personally like teaching high school better although I didn’t intentionally apply for high school. It was an accident but  in my opinion it fits me perfectly. 

My background as a physical therapist assistant along with a degree in education make a perfect fit for CTE, but I was originally certified pre-k- 6th.

What other professions did you consider? I actually considered  broadcasting at MTSU for a year and a half and hated it. I also considered veterinarian school as well but could not bare the thought of putting an animal down. I changed majors a lot the first time I went to college; settled on physical therapy then years later decided to get a masters so I could teach.”

How do you feel about the students that you teach and why? It might seem superficial, but I care deeply for my students and I am always very proud of them. I enjoy how diverse they are in their culture and potential. 

I feel like my kids have a lot of the same challenges that I did growing up and I have tried to remember some of the difficult times and what I wish someone had said or done for me. That makes me feel like I had a bond with them.

What’s your worst experience as a teacher? One of the worst experiences as a teacher for I had happened all in the course of 4 days. My first year at teaching I a student jumped  out of a window because he did not want to be in class, a student who accidentally left her food in her backpack causing an infestation of ants in the class, and dealt with a student who had bloody diarrhea on top of vomiting. I called that “the week of gross. It was something everyday, there was also a ginormous spider! (Im talking tennis ball sized) that someone had to kill!

Do you have any children and if so do you want them to pursue a career in health care? I have one daughter who is now 18 and she has no interest in the health care field. At first I tried to get her interested in jobs such as therapy but I gave up. I figured if Maddison was not passionate about the health care industry, she would  unhappy and probably not very successful. You should love what you do. Maddison is a professional ballroom dancer and instructor, and she loves it! I am so proud of her!

Why do you care about people as much as you do? When I was younger, my family wasn’t stable but I had someone who always looked out for me to make sure I was okay. I want my students to have someone like that as well. My faith and relationship with Jesus drives what I do in my daily life. I want people to know that they are loved and there is a better future for them.

The most important thing I can do everyday as a teacher is to really listen to what my students say. Somedays I do a good job and other days I regret not being better; but regardless, I keep trying to make sure every student I have knows how important his or her voice is.”

— Ms. Nelson

What do you think motivates you everyday to be the person you are? My family motivates me the most. I want my daughter to know how proud I am of her. I also want others to see God in me and know that I love them. For all the turmoil  I experienced growing up, I am proud to be who I am. I learned a lot from that and I am proud of what I do as a teacher.

And lastly, what are some personal experiences that you went through as a teacher (or just in general) that made a serious impact on you than you can still learn from today? One student that impacted medeeply talked about how bad his neighborhood was. He was open about it and it shocked her to hear how bad it really is for some kids in their homes and in their neighborhoods. I knew some of my students really had a tough life, but this student really opened my eyes to how tough it really is for many  kids. I had  never really imagined it was like the way he explained. I personally think hearing about my student’s life outside of school inspired me to be more kind and understanding. Personally , I will always be impacted by the way I grew up. There was alcoholism, abuse, mental illness, and extreme poverty throughout my childhood. It drives me to be better, not to be the victim and be stronger.”