Clay Nelson considers the students and faculty in the Career and Technical Education program a family because of its small size.
“The faculty and my classmates have given me the confidence I need to be successful while student teaching. The size of the program allows me to make interpersonal connections that you just can’t get at other schools,” he said.
Nelson chose to become a teacher because of a profound impact one of his high school teachers had on him. After his mentor ensured his success, Nelson wanted to do the same for others.
“He instilled in me things that I just didn’t get from other people, like tolerance, patience and the ability to focus my energy into my talents, which were working with my hands and teaching kids. I want to do this for other students,” he said. Nelson met influential professors at Appalachian as well, including Jerianne Taylor, CTE academic program coordinator.
“Dr. Taylor, our advisor, has become a figure that looks over us and makes sure we’re doing what we need to do so we can graduate and better ourselves in the profession. She not only mentors and inspires us, but gives us confidence to learn and succeed,” he said.
At Appalachian, Nelson was a member of Technology Education Collegiate Association (TECA) and served as president after his first year in the club.
“Being president and being held accountable have helped me prepare for my teaching career,” he said.
For Nelson, college didn’t feel like home until he transferred to Appalachian.
“The community here is irreplaceable and it will be remembered forever by anyone who attends. There are plenty of places to get a CTE degree, but I seriously doubt there is any place like Appalachian…
“There is a certain type of person that chooses to do what we do, and once you’ve committed to that, Appalachian is the greatest place you could possibly be to pursue it,” he said.
After graduation, Nelson wants to inspire high school students to pursue education and lead successful lives.