The Island’s Peter Nelson promotes discovery-through-play approach to education at Manitoulin Secondary School

Manitoulin Secondary School teacher Peter Nelson, right, teaches Grade 10 student Jacob Bebamash a few riffs on the electric guitar.

M’CHIGEENG—Optimistic, humorous, respected and humble. These are some of the words used to describe Manitoulin Secondary School teacher Peter Nelson who has been inspiring students for the past 20 years.

As a skilled educator in communications technology and computer programming, Peter Nelson incorporates the latest software into his curriculum, giving students access to cutting edge 21st century technology.

He practices hands-on, heuristic teaching, allowing students to immerse themselves in their own learning. “Computers are ever-changing and they support a discovery-through-play approach to education,” says Peter Nelson. “I find this process fun and enjoyable for students, and the skills they learn tend to stick.”

In order to meet the needs of his students and ensure success for all, Mr. Nelson customizes his lessons and promotes computer literacy. In his Life Skills class, every student works at their own pace and learns to use a computer to the best of their ability.

On his own time, Mr. Nelson posts his lessons online, making them accessible to students at home and at school. These online lessons not only respond to various learning styles, they also allow for easy sharing of curriculum with colleagues across the province.  

“Peter Nelson is a positive role model for his students and is always willing to go that extra mile to help them succeed,” says Manitoulin Secondary School Principal Laurie Zahnow.

Prior to teaching, Mr. Nelson was a professional musician, a skill he has brought with him to the classroom. With some 50 years of experience playing guitar, he has studied with world-class musicians including Philip Candelaria, a four-time solo-recording artist and graduate of the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University, and Bobby Edwards, a long-time musician and band member of Bobby Edwards & The Four Young Men. Bobby Edwards was the top and most recorded studio guitarist in Canada.

During his time as a musician, Mr. Nelson produced a dozen studio albums. To better engage students who are musically inclined, he keeps his personal music collection stored in his classroom so that he may share it with students.

He has also managed to capture the imagination of ‘at risk’ students through their interest in music, getting them excited about learning. Each year, he works exclusively with one or two students to help them pursue their passion.

Most recently, Mr. Nelson developed a children’s album with lyrics aimed specifically at mental health, well-being and personal empowerment. He works with recording artists Carl Stedmond and Andrew Lowe to deliver these very important messages to children.

“Peter Nelson is an outstanding contributor to the lives of our staff and students,” says Principal Zahnow. “He is well respected by all and his positive attitude and delightful sense of humour are infectious. He loves his family, his students, his career and life in general, and it really shows.”

In 2006, Mr. Nelson received a Rainbow District School Board Award for Excellence for his effective teaching practices for all students, including students with special needs.

“I enjoy the high level of influence I can have during such a critical time in a student’s journey,” says Mr. Nelson. “I relish the opportunity to be truthful, kind and empowering to students, at a time when it may be needed the most.”

Above all, the teacher remains modest and humble and refuses to take credit for the accomplishments of his students. “My students do the work. I am merely a facilitator.”  

“It is a privilege to be in a position of impact,” he adds. “We all need to be reminded of where we shine.”