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The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

TRACING FOOTSTEPS: New social science teacher follows in the path of his former mentor

Noah Lee
Social science teacher Troy Nelson explains the Chinese Exclusion Act to his fourth period U.S. History class in Room 56 on Wednesday, Aug. 30.

This is the ninth in a series of profiles on new, full-time instructors hired at Sunny Hills during or before the fall semester of the 2023-2024 school year. Expect more profiles to be posted soon.

When new social science teacher Troy Nelson graduated from college, he contemplated joining the Marine Corps and becoming an officer.

What set him off on a different career path was his unexpected encounter with his former history instructor, Earl Bench, at his old high school while picking up his brother. Following the meeting, they decided to meet at Starbucks to talk about Nelson’s future career path as an educator. 

“So I was debating what I was going to do career wise and we sat down and talked about how to get my credentials to start teaching,” Nelson said. “The way he cares about his students definitely made a big impact on me.”

Now teaching Advanced Placement [AP] Psychology teacher during first and third period and U.S. History teacher from fourth-sixth period at Sunny Hills, he said teaching AP courses was an experience he was never used to. 

“I love it. It’s an exciting and challenging course to teach,” Nelson said, “The hardest part for me is probably keeping up with the students who finish their assignments too early.” 

Nelson’s path to becoming a teacher began way back in high school where he played four years in Buena Park High School [BPHS] as a varsity utility baseball player from 2008-2012 and attended a local Santa Ana College to pursue his baseball interests and finish his general education. 

After being redshirted for his first season, Nelson had a transfer scholarship to the University of Northwestern-St. Paul, Minnesota to seek new opportunities to play more games. He played baseball for three seasons and graduated in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in Bible.

He then attended the National University [NU] in Costa Mesa the same year to take part in a hybrid teaching credential program, occasionally attending classes in-person for mandatory check ups. Though the credential program takes approximately one year to complete, Nelson said he had to postpone his plans while he balanced his work and raising his stepson he adopted in 2014 and another son born in 2018.

“Having kids and not having the resources to be able to balance both at the same time became a little bit difficult, so I had to push certain things back,” he said. “I want to say it took almost four years for something that should have taken a year.”

Nelson’s first working experience at a school was in 2016 working as an instructional aide to help special needs and coaching baseball at Sonora High School until 2020. 

He holds the background and experience that will help him be successful in our school.”

— principal Craig Weinreich

“I was getting used to working in an educational environment as an instructional aide and coaching as well as working towards my path to become a teacher,” he said. “I definitely learned a lot from my time [at Sonora], and I definitely gained a lot of experience there.”

As part of the credential program, Nelson contacted his former teacher and a baseball coach at BPHS, Earl Bench, for an opportunity to student-teach US history beginning in January 2020 to the end of May.

“I reached out to Earl Bench, head of the department, and he set everything up, and since they’re having a hard time finding a place for students and teachers, he set up a bunch of guys from NU,” he said. “It was like 11 or 12 people getting picked out at the same time, so it was really cool.”

Before teaching at Sunny Hills, Nelson finished his teaching credential in 2020 and taught U.S. and World History at Marco Antonio Firebaugh High School, Lynwood in 2021 for two years until he was informed of a new job opening opportunity by his colleagues at Sonora.

Despite the competitive SH social science applicant pool, Nelson was able to receive the position on Wednesday, Aug. 9.

Nelson said he was hired only two weeks before the school year started. Nonetheless, principal Craig Weinreich said he looks forward to the contributions Nelson will have to the SH community — both in the classroom and in athletics.

“He holds the background and experience that will help him be successful in our school,” Weinreich said. “I think [Nelson] being involved athletically as both an athlete and a coach will help him to relate to our students on a personal level beyond the classroom.” 

Since Nelson was also an athlete in high school and college, he said he hopes to help SH athletes get recruited from high school to play at the collegiate level.

“Getting to know the players and watching them succeed and learn is what makes everything worth it,” he said. “Being able to help them with finding their path and helping them be the best athletes that they can be is a lot of fun.”

Nelson said he hopes to foster a supportive environment for his students to feel comfortable learning and be confident in their accomplishments.

“I want them to succeed not just in my classroom, but be able to choose their own paths and succeed in life,” Nelson said. “Just being able to help them in that process is something I am thankful to be a part of.”

He creates a fun mood; he jokes around with us which makes me like being in his class.”

— sophomore Aaron Green


Sophomore August-Jade Dorris, a student in Nelson’s third period AP Psychology class, shares her thoughts on Nelson’s way of teaching that helps her to feel more engaged when learning. 

“Even though he’s new to the school, he already has made an impact with the way he teaches,” Dorris said. “Since he’s young compared to the other teachers, he can connect with us.” 

Likewise, sophomore Aaron Green said the environment Nelson sets up for students to learn is casual and easy-going.

“He creates a fun mood; he jokes around with us which makes me like being in his class,” said Green, who is a student in Nelson’s first period AP Psychology class. “But he lets us manage stuff on our own to be accountable and is strict when he needs to be.”

Outside of school, Nelson said he enjoys spending time with his family, watching movies, going on hikes and playing baseball. 

“I try to go hiking at least once a month with my kids with trail destinations with waterfalls to entertain my kids and also get a good workout,” the social science teacher said.

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Nathan Lee, Assistant Entertainment Editor
After serving his first year part of The Accolade as a staff reporter, junior Nathan Lee is now spending his second year as an assistant arts & entertainment editor. Lee plans to use the experience gained during his first year to contribute to a wide variety of eye-catching articles. Outside of The Accolade, Lee plays for the boys tennis team and enjoys playing various sports.
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