Kathy Nelson: Transforming Young Lives
Written by Crystal Ward Kent
For Kathy Nelson, president of World Academy in Nashua, New Hampshire, 2019 was a year of transition. “It was a fabulous year, personally and professionally,” she recalls. “It centered around my completing the transition to becoming school president after serving as head of school. I started World Academy in 1980, so that’s more than three decades that I’ve been involved with its expansion and growth. To now be president of a place that I love and believe in so strongly is amazing, and such a gift!”
World Academy offers innovative nurturing and education for children from infant through eighth grade. The school focuses on helping students reach their full academic and personal potential, and emphasizes building confidence while teaching a wide range of skills that will be useful both in school and in life.
Nelson notes that her transition to president was carefully planned by the school to evolve over a three-year cycle, and that World Academy used the transition as a time to strategize about overall structure, Academy goals, and the roles of everyone involved. “We have wonderful people on staff, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that everyone loves the school. We used this time for some team building, reexamining accreditation goals, succession planning, reassessing our needs and strengths, and to talk about where we want to go from here. It wound up being a great exercise and very energizing. We felt that it was also educational for the students as they participated in the process as well.”
Nelson is excited for 2020 and already has several key goals she is working toward. “As president, I see my main role as continuing to develop the resources that the school needs to be its best, and that the teachers need to do stellar jobs. I will be assisting in maintaining our duel accreditations and researching strategic directives to keep us on the cutting edge of educational best practices.”
She is eager to build more local partnerships and corporate connections, and to strengthen existing relationships with the community, noting that “a school of this size takes a village; we are fortunate to have some great relationships and we want to continue to build more bridges.” She also wants to work more on supporting diversity, educating the public about the value of a quality education in the early and middle school years, and fostering support for the vital early childhood field. “At World Academy, we say that we follow an educational roadmap from ‘cradle to career’ for students,” Nelson explains. “Every teacher here understands what the ‘whole child’ needs at every stage and we work hard to make sure that no step is omitted. Giving a child a good start in life makes a huge difference. By starting with a good foundation, we can then provide a world of opportunities and the skills that students will need to make good choices in the global future.”
Nelson stresses that her number one job is to work for the students and their families. “That’s what I tell the parents—I work for you,” she says. “I want to help your kids accomplish great things.” Towards that end, she is constantly seeking to add more innovation to the school, to increase the number of international students so that all students can embrace a more global perspective, and to maintain the school’s successful format. “We are very experienced-based, project-focused and intentionally respectful here,” Nelson says. “We work hard, but we have fun. We now have more than two generations of very successful alumni—over 20,000 students–so we know what works. Our enrollment continues to increase as our success stories grow. We’ve achieved a lot, but we never stop looking for ways to add quality.”
World Academy will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2020, and while Nelson is proud of all that the school and its faculty and students have achieved, she also celebrates that intangible “something” that makes the school special.
“Everyone says that this is a joyful place,” she says. “When people come in the door, they feel it—the teachers are happy, the students are happy. How can you not be passionate about a place like this? I feel blessed!”