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SD Department of Education
Feb. 2020  

  Preparing students to be “good at life”

Nelson Frankie Nelson was recently named New Professional of the Year by the National Association of Teachers of Family and Consumer Sciences. She teaches in the Bridgewater-Emery School District.

Growing up, Nelson admired her own family and consumer sciences teacher and FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) advisor, Joan Anderson, as a woman who was “just good at life” who subsequently taught her students to be “good at life.” Now Nelson strives to do the same.

Over the course of a year, Nelson typically teaches classes addressing human development, nutrition and wellness, employability, relationships across the lifespan (she titles this class 21st Century Communication Skills, which she finds better resonates with her students), leadership and service, personal finance, teaching and training as a profession, and middle school exploratory courses. She is also the district’s FCCLA advisor.

Budgeting is engaging
Among the most popular projects Nelson assigns her students is budgeting. It’s part of her personal finance course, which is usually made up mostly of seniors. “I think they embrace the relevance because they’re so close to graduation that they understand this topic will directly impact their lives very soon,” Nelson says. “This year’s group happens to have rather expensive tastes, so they’re discovering the challenges of aligning their financial reality with some of their pricier aspirations.”

Based on student questionnaire responses, Nelson creates an imaginary profile for each student, outlining things like salary, student loan debt, savings account balance, credit card limit, etc. Students then use their profile to learn about payroll taxes, establish a budget, and search for an apartment.

Learning to cook
At a time when convenience food seems to reign, Nelson often finds students are surprised at how simple home cooking can be. She says some of this year’s students were excited to discover, “Homemade tacos are easy!”

Nelson seeks to introduce some unfamiliar foods and recipes or take novel approaches to familiar recipes, like a chicken/rice/broccoli bake that replaces rice with quinoa. Among students’ favorite recipes are tofu fruit smoothies, homemade chicken nuggets, caramel rolls, and tossed fruit salads.

Caring for others
Learning about becoming independent is important, but of course, so are students’ relationships with others. Nelson’s classes cover those too: from navigating safe and healthy dating relationships to parenting to teaching.

A popular project in this area is the 50 Ways to Show Love project, which Nelson learned from her student teaching supervisor, Naome Poppe in the Brandon Valley School District. Students come up with 50 ways a dating partner could show love (not to include intercourse). Students have gotten creative with how they present their 50 ways, from a “Deal or No Deal”-inspired posterboard filled with lift-up suitcase lids to a collection of 50 QR codes.

And students in Nelson’s Human Development course look forward to their week of parenthood. For five days, Nelson assigns each student a Real Care infant simulator, an electronic doll that mimics the needs of a real infant. The dolls cry and need to be fed, burped, changed, and rocked. Students are required to arrive at school 15 minutes early each day of that week, in order to drop off their baby at “daycare,” which is Nelson’s classroom. They pick up the child again at the end of each school day.

Nelson assigns students parenting-related projects, including a cost analysis of one month of infant care. She also has students create a baby book of their time with their infant. While students enjoy the project, Nelson says that around Wednesday of their parenting week, the “honeymoon” is over. Students are generally tired after a couple nights of poor sleep and come to the realization that parenthood and high school is a difficult combination.

Additionally, Nelson offers the Teaching and Training as a Profession course as needed. She is a strong proponent for the teaching profession and is especially joyful when a student considers going into FACS teaching.

Teens as Teachers
Bridgewater-Emery student (standing), who has participated in the Teens as Teachers program for three years. As the “veteran” Teen Teacher, she shared tips and tricks at the 2019-20 Teens as Teachers training. This program is made possible by the SD Youth Foundation.

FCCLA leads to a calling
Since she was in seventh grade, Nelson has loved participating in FCCLA activities. She traveled to the organization’s national competition for the first time when she was in eighth grade and spent a summer in Japan through the organization’s exchange program. When she graduated, she wondered to herself, how could I become an FCCLA advisor for a living?

“Why don’t you study to become a family and consumer sciences teacher?” That simple question from Julie Bell, a former state advisor for FCCLA, set Nelson on the path to her dream job.

Now she enjoys helping students in Bridgewater-Emery’s FCCLA chapter facilitate such projects as trick-or-treating to benefit the Bridgewater Food Pantry and a Teen Teachers program through which her students teach Healthy YOUth or Character Counts curriculum to elementary students. Her students also complete a variety of individual service projects every year.

“As an educator, it’s valuable to have ready-made rubrics from FCCLA to use in my classroom that are already aligned to standards,” Nelson says. “I try to incorporate specific FCCLA projects into my classes, and I try to incorporate projects into classes that FCCLA members can use for their competitive events.”

Bridgewater-Emery FCCLA members assemble and label cookie-in-a-jar mixes to donate to the Bridgewater Food Pantry.

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