John Nielsen
mentor photo

BIOGRAPHY

John grew up in the Seattle area and at a young age learned to love the outdoors, especially mountains. He graduated from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois with a degree in geology with the view of becoming a geology professor. But, he decided to take a break from this pursuit and joined the Peace Corps serving in the jungle of Paraguay. Living with the poor campesinos in Paraguay changed the direction of his life work. He was struck by the challenges they faced. He also realized he could make a difference in their lives and that learning was two ways, give and take. After returning to the US he entered seminary and earned an M.Div with an emphasis in cross cultural ministry. Then he and his bride, Shelly, set out for Alaska, he as a pastor planning on Alaska being an interim ministry before going overseas. There have been brief times overseas, but they are still here. Alaska too, has its challenges and opportunities.

With time, some things did change. They had three boys. They proved up on a homestead and lived there six years. They moved to town and worked at getting more degrees and getting jobs in education. But they still wanted to continue serving, teaching and learning. John got a job with the Mat-Su School District late one fall in October. He was hired to teach and run a secondary school within a school for English language learners. This was a challenge. He thought, 'I can do this with time', but there was no time for transition. He was told 'you have to start now; these kids are already way, way behind and desperately need your help now'. He was blessed however, with a wonderful boss and coworkers. They encouraged and helped him. John developed quickly and thrived, the kids thrived. His position changed and he worked with teachers and administrators, coaching them how to help bilingual kids succeed. Later the district made plans for a new Alternative High School and he became the science teacher. He taught other academic classes too, but the main subject throughout was helping students learn how to live and live successfully in the midst of great challenges. John loved this job, his dedicated and professional coworkers, and his students. But, there comes a time to retire and do something new. Hence the mentor program.

Mentoring is not something new to John. He has had mentors and been a mentor in lots of situations. Still the state wide mentor program is a stretch. He too will learn while the new teachers learn. The end result is what is important; confident and capable new teachers and students prepared for future challenges.