"Find something you like to do and you will never work a day in your life," says Randy, paraphrasing Confucius. "Teaching wasn't work for me–it was fun."
Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Faculty Hall of Fame inductee Randy Nelson saw a need for an alternative high school program for students whose needs were not being met in the traditional classroom. He joined forces with Doug Berg and other teachers to develop and launch the Mini-School, which provided creative freedom to engage students. Randy and Doug were inspired by their experience with Outward Bound, and led many student trips to the Boundary Waters and beyond, instilling a sense of teamwork in their students, along with character development and experiential learning.
"I'm still running into former students out in the community. Many have started their own businesses, they are successful and liking what they are doing," explains Randy when he talks about the highlights of his time in Minnetonka. "This is the biggest reward."
Randy knew from a young age that he wanted to teach–even in high school. He loved social studies and decided to attend St. Olaf College primarily because of their education program. Randy initially taught history and world history before the Mini-School opened. Later he returned to school and obtained his vocational education license so that he could work as a Work Experience Coordinator.
Outside of the classroom, Randy coached intramural football and hockey in 1969 and then boys soccer for 31 seasons–from 1973-2003! During this time he also worked with girls who wanted to play soccer (before Title IX) by starting a weekend soccer program for them. In the end, he had more than 100 girls participating each weekend.
For anyone considering a career in education, Randy says, "make sure you have a passion for it. Otherwise you'll get bogged down in rules, regulations and paperwork. Also, look at the different school districts carefully and only apply to those which are compatible with your own educational philosophy."
For all students, Randy advises, "Keep your options open. There are lots of paths in life. Don't lock yourself in."
When notified that he received the Faculty Hall of Fame award, Randy was very humbled. "It recognizes something I'm passionate about and it is the icing on the cake of a long and rewarding career."
Randy continues to stay engaged with students through substitute teaching at Minnetonka High School and Transition Plus. He has also coached the Laker's adapted soccer team for cognitively impaired students in Minnetonka and Wayzata since "retirement."