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View From Vis: Meet Upper School Social Studies Teacher Mr. Nelson

Chris Nelson joined Visitation's faculty as an Upper School Social Studies teacher. Let's get to know him a little better!

1. What is your educational/career background, and how did it prepare you for your role teaching Upper School Social Studies at Vis?

I taught Social Studies at Johnson High School in St. Paul for the past 27 years. During that time, I taught everything from AP US History to the histories of baseball, soccer, World History and the history of disease. I feel that I have lessons and ideas for the courses we offer at Visitation.

2. What are the highlights of Visitation's Social Studies program?

One of our strengths is that we can be collaborative as a department. Themes and concepts can easily transfer between grades and courses.

3. Which units are you most excited to teach?

I am teaching World History and Advanced Placement US History. Within those courses I am interested in the depression era history in the United States, particularly the literature, music, art, and viewpoints of ordinary Americans in those extraordinary times. In World History, I find the late Victorian periods in Asia, Europe and Africa fascinating.

4. How can Social Studies courses inspire young women to "be who you are and be that well" and make a difference in the world?

Social Studies is centered on people making a difference in the world. Every day we are presented with examples of people who faced (and rose above) enormous challenges – often with the help of the very Salesian values visible among the students and staff here at Visitation. My hope is that the students and I can identify those examples. It’s so important that as a teacher, I provide a Social Studies experience where the students can “see it to be it.”

5. Lightning Round: 

What is your favorite... 

Activity to do in your spare time?

During the pandemic I have taken up gardening. I have a small, raised garden with tomatoes, peas, peppers and various herbs. It was overly ambitious, and the plants eventually crowded each other out of the sun, but lessons have been learned.

Food to cook/bake?

I am the family cook and enjoy trying to cook traditional meals from different countries. Much to my family’s horror, I love British cookery. I can make a decent Shepard’s Pie but hope to move up to a true London Eel Pie one day.

Book of all time?

It’s so difficult to choose a single book as my favorite, but two that I read over and over are Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, and Alexander Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. If I want to laugh, I read PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster series.

Show to binge watch?

I am currently binging Ted Lasso. It has wonderful positive message during a time when we so desperately need them.

Broadway musical?

Les Miserables. It was great on Broadway, but the ViSTA production was my favorite. 

Time of day?

I am a morning person. The only one in the family. The walk from the door to the garage as I pass through the backyard with the morning dew on the grass and a cool breeze passing through the red oak is my favorite time of day. Even better on a crisp October morning.

Place in the world to visit?

I have traveled with high school students to the United Kingdom and France over the past 25 years and I enjoy both London and Paris, but I love New York City like no other place I have ever visited. It makes all other cities feel like Lego towns. The sights, smells and energy of New York feel "real."

Part of your job?

There is a moment when students grasp a topic in class and make it their own, something that I never anticipated, but is so real to them that the lesson plan needs to be set aside so that we can explore the issue in a deeper and more meaningful way. That is the best part of the job. If it comes with smiles and a laugh—even better.

One Final Note...

Every Saturday morning between August and May sees me on the edge of my seat cheering on the English football (soccer) team Manchester United. Grading will not be affected by the outcome of their matches, but it’s better to hope for victories just to be safe. 

Thank you to Mr. Nelson for sharing his thoughts! We are #visproud to welcome him to our Upper School faculty.