Seeing the Power of Education Firsthand, Center Director Pursues a College Degree at Rasmussen College
Michelle Nelson, a mother of two and a full-time KinderCare Learning Center director, could have let her full plate hinder her as she made her way through the Early Childhood Education program at Rasmussen College. Her 60-hour work weeks, son preparing for college and kids at the center did not stop her from pursuing an Associate’s degree … but math almost did.
When Nelson was in her last quarter of college, she had a general statistics course she needed to take for graduation. “I am not a math person; I could write papers all day but I am not good at math,” said Nelson. Having struggled through the beginning of her course, she felt so close to graduation, but the class was adding a lot of stress to her already-busy workload. When her husband, who was always the first to support her, couldn’t help with statistics, she knew she needed to turn to a different resource.
Nelson decided to reach out to the Rasmussen College online tutoring services. Through the instant messaging platform, she was able to connect with a tutor promptly and work through the concepts she was unsure about. “I would always apologize to the tutors for being so bad at the subject, but they were always so supportive and were quick to reassure me that I would get through it,” she said. Nelson believes she wouldn’t have passed the class if it weren’t for the help of the tutors. “They are fabulous. If anyone is struggling in a course and not doing anything about it—that’s a shame. There are so many wonderful resources available at Rasmussen.”
For Nelson, receiving support from Rasmussen College allowed her to make a longtime dream of going back to college and getting her degree come true. After a challenging upbringing, which forced her to leave the house at 18 years old, Nelson was forced to forge her own way. As someone who had always valued education, Nelson enrolled at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. After a semester-and-a-half, she realized she was too young to be balancing work and school on her own, so she dropped out.
At 19 years old, Nelson went to work for a KinderCare Learning Center. “I had always wanted to teach since I was a young child. Due to my circumstances, I wasn’t able to pursue that after high school,” she said. KinderCare gave her the opportunity to work with kids and make learning fun for them at a young age. She got her Child Development Associate (CDA) credential as the first step to her early childhood education career and slowly worked her way up at the center. Wanting more, Nelson pursued her National Administrator Credential (NAC) so she could become a center director. In 2010, she was offered a position to take over leadership of the center she began at to help get it through a dire time. With her guidance and years of experience, she led the center through re-accreditation, and it thrived once again.
Ever since her sons were little, Nelson and her husband instilled in them a strong desire to learn, to not be afraid to ask questions and to take accountability for their education. As she has done for her children, she has also tried to instill these qualities in all of the kids at the KinderCare Learning Center, too. “I am passionate about the early childhood education field because I get to educate children in my own community. I believe every day we should learn something new and learning should be fun,” she says. She believes getting a strong start early is the key to future success and has seen it in action in her own kids’ lives.
“I talk about the importance of education every day to my sons, and to everyone at the center, so after working in the field for 25 years, I knew it was important for me to go and get my degree,” says Nelson. She enrolled in the online Early Childhood Education Associate’s program at Rasmussen College. At first, she was nervous about online learning, but she came to find the live lectures very enjoyable. “I ended up getting so comfortable in the live lectures—I loved the interactions. I felt like my teacher and peers were right there,” she said. Learning online became fun, even for Nelson, who says she most enjoys face-to face-interactions. She felt comfortable and confident in her courses. She loved applying what she was learning in one class to another and tying it in with her previous experiences.
Although she had been in the field for years, she found her courses enlightening and learned something new every day. Nelson was able to be refreshed on basic concepts and was introduced to new advances and approaches to early childhood education she hadn’t known before. Not only was she given support at Rasmussen College and at home, but also at her job, since many of the older children at the center knew she was in school too. To hear two of her students saying, “We are proud of you, and you should be proud of yourself too,” encouraged Nelson and solidified why she put in all the hard work. “I truly love what I do. I love being with the children,” she says.
Even though Nelson had been working as a center director for many years, she felt it was important to educate and push herself to get her degree. Nelson says, “Make it a personal gain and don’t just go to school to advance your career or make more money. Education is something to take seriously.”