Meet Dr.Nelson, and Why He Loves Teaching At A Community College.


Photo provided by Matthew Nelson

Professor Nelson and his puppy smiling for the camera.

Matthew Nelson started off his college teaching career while studying for his Ph.D. in English at Tufts University. Tufts University is a private university in Boston, Massachusetts, and is ranked 24th for most expensive tuition in the US according to CBS News with an average of $76,200 per year. While Tuft’s wasn’t his first teaching job as he had stints teaching at Bunker Hill community college and Bentley University, he spent the most at Tufts.

After earning his Pd.D, Dr.Nelson moved to Visalia, California, to teach here at the College of the Sequoias. Where he noticed many stark differences, especially with the students. Dr. Nelson explained that the students at Tufts, for the most part, had a lot more opportunities in life to succeed than COS students. Meaning their road to success is much easier than students here. Nelson said, “I don’t think I ever taught a kid at Tufts who also had a full-time job, for school was their only priority. And here at COS, you have students with full-time jobs, with kids, sometimes both, it’s awe-inspiring.”

This became one of the driving passions for Dr.Nelson at year two of teaching here at COS, unlocking these student’s potentials. Nelson’s main point when talking about the difference between students at Tufts and COS was “The students at Tufts aren’t more likely to succeed due to them being smarter or more talented, but they have been told more that they are going to succeed.” The more you are told something the more you intend to believe it, this is called positive reinforcement. Dr. Nelson believes this needs to happen more here at COS, that we need to motivate students to “shoot for the moon”

Since his move to COS, he has had to adapt to the new environment and students. Due to the nature of how busy student’s lives are here, he gives his students flexibility when it comes to turning in assignments. As long as you talk to him beforehand to explain the situation, he is very open to moving around deadlines. He insists on having your absolute best work, not your best work while rushed.

As soon as he felt adapted to his new school, the world seemed to flip upside down due to COVID. This is how he said it affected his teaching, “The biggest struggle was making sure students could still succeed with the transition.” He noted that this could’ve been the first time some of his students took an online class and that even though moving his whole curriculum online was tedious, he was mainly focused on the students. Regaining the student’s confidence while online was the priority. He recalled how quick everything seemed to happen, and how scary the situation was for everybody. He was proud of how many of his students still managed to do their work, in this insanely stressful time.

The pandemic has been really hard on everybody, but it has given us time to find a lot about ourselves and try new things. Dr. Nelson’s hobbies haven’t changed too much due to COVID, as he is still an avid gamer with Hearthstone being his game of choice. He did however pick up cooking and his new favorite book “Mastering the Art of French cooking” by Julia Child, has helped him through his new culinary journey. He is looking eager to return to the classroom with his students, for face-to-face teaching, and so that he can practice his famous magic tricks.