Farewell to a DHS legend


Sitting at her desk Ms. Nancy Nelson poses for a picture, on Fri., June 8, in room Z-6. For her retirement, the faculty held a Nelson Roast to show their appreciation of her 37 years at DHS.

Kimberly Dominguez, News Editor

As the month of June progresses and seniors begin to conclude their final days of the 2011-2012 school year, there is sense of mixed emotions throughout the campus. These emotions are augmented due to the retirement of a Ryan Reynolds admiring, dog loving, shopping fashionista, blonde, intimidating, Vikette who has left impressions on students for over three decades.


After establishing, in the second grade, that she was going to pursue a career in teaching, Ms. Nelson accomplished this goal in 1974. She applied for a job at Downey High School, with a major in Physical Education and a minor in Biology, in hopes of becoming a dance teacher. Mo Chaves, the principal in those days, told her they had an opening; however, it offered three Life and Death (Health) classes and two Physical Education classes.


“I told him,” Ms. Nelson said, “‘You know what, I don’t think so!’ I didn’t want to teach health.”


Nevertheless, she had a change of heart; she looked in the phonebook, found Mo Chavez’s home phone number, called the principal at his home around 9:30 p.m., told him she reconsidered, and the rest is history.


Looking back, she recalls what she calls her “glory years” being great times of her teaching career. These were the times when she was in charge of the Vikette’s Drill Team. She led these girls through eight years of award winning seasons. She even steered the girls to Japan for finals.

“I look back and think wow, [37 years] went by fast,” Nelson said. “In reality, it’s all been good. I can’t recall a day in which I’ve left home from work upset; I always got along with my students, and I don’t know why because I’m known for being mean.”


Present and even past students, which are now on staff, know why they got along with her so well.


As an incoming freshman back in 1977, math teacher Larry Shelton, vividly remembers having Ms. Nelson for a health teacher.


“As a freshman I was able to figure out pretty quickly that the two best teachers on campus were the basketball coach Dean Ackland and Nancy Nelson,” Shelton said, “but I also never felt, in all of my high school days, more scared of a teacher than I was of Ms. Nelson.”


Because his son is going to be an incoming freshman next year, Mr. Shelton is saddened that she is retiring this year; nevertheless, after stating that DHS was going to miss her, he wishes her all the best.


Another former student of hers, that is now a part of the staff, is football coach Jack Williams. He enjoyed his health class in 1991 with Ms. Nelson because she “always thought about students and their future.” He recalls her assigning them to write themselves a letter which they were to receive in five years, and five years later when he received his own he was surprised.


“The way she interacted with her students always made class fun,” Williams said. “At the same time though, she was firm and intimidating.”


Having her as a colleague was a pleasant experience for Mr. Williams because she was there to help him and “she always had a big smile.” Like Shelton, he too feels that the school will miss her and what she brought to the table, which Williams noted was always in the best interest of her students.


Art teacher Darrelle Nikaj also had a detailed account of many memorable times in her health class with Nelson.


“I know she has inspired a lot of students and she will be greatly missed,” Nikaj said.


Not only did Nelson leave an impression on DHS alumnis like Mr. Shelton, Mr. Williams, Ms. Nikaj, but she also left a positive note in the lives of today’s students.


Students across campus were asked what they thought about Ms. Nelson; these were their responses:


“She doesn’t care about what others think of her, and that has taught me that it’s okay to truly be myself,” senior Gabriela Lopez said.


“She’s a great teacher because she is very dedicated to her job,” sophomore Frankie Murillo said. “She’s the best and I’ll miss her.”


“Ms. Nelson helped my life,” sophomore Abby Chaves said. “ I told her personal information and she helped me get the help I needed. Now, I’m a better person than I was before and it’s thanks to her.”


“I understand every lesson she teaches because everything is easy to remember and I know I can use what she teaches throughout my life,” freshman Alejandra Valerio said.


Due to the amount of positive impressions left in the lives of many during the course of her 37 years of teaching, it was no surprise that she won this year’s 2011-2012 Kiwanis Teacher of the Year.

After being surprised that her classroom was decorated by members of the Kiwanis Club, she walked outside to be faced with yet another shock.


“I walked out and it was the most awesome thing ever,” Nelson said. “All of the teachers in the Z- buildings had walked their students outside and when they saw me, they all started applauding. I had my very own Mister Holland Opus moment.”


The surprises did not end there. Afterschool on Thursday, June 7 at the staff faculty meeting held by Principal Tom Houts, there was a surprise “Nelson Roast” hosted by Government teacher Reggie Jones.


It began as a normal faculty meeting with Houts going over certain instruction on teacher summer checkouts. He then gave a shout-out to two Regional Occupational Program teachers for their hard work and dedication. Then, he handed over the microphone to Denise Santa Cruz. She shared several things concerning Ms. Nelson like the first time they met, and the impression she gives many. Then she concluded with, “We are going to treat her like a queen!”


After this, Jones came on stage and was about to begin roasting when counselor Monica Miller went on stage, cut him off and walked over to Ms. Nelson. There she acted out a joke and stated that now she was to be number one since Nelson was retiring. She even had a bright yellow shirt illustrating this. It was all part of the show.


Then, Jones really began. Many jokes were said about her teaching and shopping habits. Apparently, Ms. Nelson loves Nordstrom and has a huge walk in closet; everyone knows she loves shopping.


“I remember a student walking up to me and saying Ms. Nelson has three faces,” Mr. Jones began. “One look is a frustrated look, the second is the ‘I-can’t-believe-you’re-that-dumb’ face’.

“And when I asked the student about the third face he said, ‘I don’t know because anyone that has gotten that face has never came back’.”


After several other jokes, the event concluded with a slideshow consisting of an array of photos of Ms. Nelson during her teaching career. There were also clips of her ex-students wishing her a happy retirement and thanking her for everything she had done for them.”


Once the slide show ended, Ms. Nelson got up from her seat and gave a speech.


“It has been wonderful,” Nelson said. “This job has been a part of me for so long. I loved every moment of it, and it has been my life. Thank you to everyone for supporting me. This was the greatest thing ever. I definitely feel the love and support of my staff.”


For the final time, Houts got a hold of the microphone once more and concluded with:


“Nancy, enjoy retirement and the rest of your life. We will miss you.”


Thirty-seven years of dedication and time in anything can seem like a very long time; nevertheless, for Ms. Nelson it came and left quickly. She advises that students follow her motto, “love what you do”, and that they will be successful in anything they do. It was because of this motto that Ms. Nelson was able to influence the lives of many. As the 2011-2012 school year comes to an end, it will mark the beginning of a new chapter in her life—retirement.