AGE: 41. JOB: English teacher, mostly ninth grade.
DID YOU KNOW? While in college, Nielsen studied a semester in Oxford at the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

Ivy Nielsen grew up in tiny Soldier in the western part of the state, in a family in which teaching or farming were the family businesses. Relatives of hers even taught Abraham Lincoln.

She resisted the call.

“I didn’t want to be a teacher because I had to be different,” Nielsen said.

She saw how hard teachers worked. How much they cared. How they carried the stress home.

“It was too intimidating to me,” she said. “I didn’t know if I was up to it.”

She graduated from Morningside College in Sioux City with a degree in English and did other things for four years. Finally the siren song was too compelling.

“I faced facts and thought, ‘I’m a teacher; who am I kidding? This is what I love to do. I love kids; I love reading; I love talking to people about reading.’”

She completed a master’s program at the University of Iowa, student-taught at Northwest Junior High and landed a job at Solon High School.

“You have kids who say, ‘I hate to read,’ and yet you find out that they are reading Facebook constantly or they’re reading espn.com, but for some of them, that’s not reading,” Nielsen said. “But they are reading, and they are reading a lot. In some ways, they are probably processing more text than I did as a kid.”

Solon High School has been a revelation of sorts for Nielsen and she is trying to set the record straight.

“We offer a good, well-rounded education. For a small school, we have some chances to dig deeper. In addition to AP classes and college composition classes, Solon is involved in “Project Lead the Way” in engineering, advanced physics and chemistry.”

Nielsen says the staff impresses her every day.

“There are some amazing people. Not only do we have teachers who are from Duke and MIT and computer programmers, we have a teacher who runs marathons. We have a staff rock band. That’s how cool we are.

“I’m constantly thinking…” and here she whispers, “‘I get to work with these people.’ They’re all here not because they’re ‘stuck’ here. They’ve all been out there and worked in other places, other industries, other parts of the country. They are all here because they want to be here. This is what they like. I think that’s rare in a lot of fields.”

— Susan Harman

Solon High School teacher Ivy Nielsen

Solon High School

ADDRESS: 600 W. Fifth St., Solon.
Nathan Wear.
ENROLLMENT: 451 students.
MASCOT: Spartans.

School fun fact

Nearly 80 percent of the student body is involved in some type of activity, sport, club or organization.