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Favorite Place: The West

Best Trips: Hiking thousands of mile of trails in the West, rafting mountain and canyon rivers, including the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

Music: Only the best...

Hobbies: Hiking, Kayaking, Natural History, Reading, Writing, Golf and Guitar

Mountains, Desert or Ocean: Mountains, Oceans, Valleys AND Deserts!!!

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Thomas Nelson


professor and dog

"In what ways do relationships with the landscape around us influence who we are, what we do, how we do it, and who we become?"

To bring a sense of adventure and passion to the world of teaching and learning; to support and nurture questioning and critical analysis of the ways in which schools, teachers, and students interact; and to  provide opportunities for personal and community exploration of educational issues, ideas, and  possibilities.

I believe that, as a result of political and media influence, schools have become ever-increasingly narrow  in their attempt to define education and what it means to be a successful student.

Emphasis on curriculum standardization and the recent high stakes testing mandates are having a  detrimental impact on teachers’ ability to engage students in meaningful learning experiences.

Hence, schools are moving further and further away from being educational organizations, and the role  of teacher is becoming less professional, as decisions about the content and pedagogy in classrooms are  being made at great distance from the classroom.

Therefore, I believe it is critical that teachers become more politically savvy and active in their role as  change agents. It is our responsibility as educators to fight for democratic ideals, social justice, moral and ethical  considerations, and equity for all students. Our future lies with how well we prepare students to become problem-solvers and advocates for civility  and democracy. Remember, it is not so much what we do as teachers that matters most, it is what we are able to  get students to do!

"Teaching has to do with releasing people to learn how to learn. It has to do with possibilities and personal  discoveries, making connections, opening doors."

Recent Publications

John Cassell '09, doctoral candidate,  and Thomas Nelson, Curriculum and Instruction, had their article, "Exposing the effects of the 'invisible hand' of the neoliberal agenda on institutionalized education and the process of socio-cultural reproduction," accepted for publication with Interchange: A Quarterly Review of Education. They also had their chapter, "Control, choice and the fulfillment of fundamental human needs: William Glasser's humanistic vision of individual, classroom and school-wide positive behavioral support" published in the 2013 printing of the Handbook of Educational Theories, published by Information Age Publishing, Inc.   

Ph.D.     1993     University Arizona
M.A.      1989     California State University, Sacramento
B.A.       1975     California State University, Northridge