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Pequot Lakes: Nelson takes over as PLHS principal - came from Roseau School District

With the start of the 2017-18 school year, Aaron Nelson begins his tenure as principal of Pequot Lakes High School. The Clear Lake, Wisconsin, native joins the Patriots after spending 16 years at the Roseau School District - the past seven of tho...

With the start of the 2017-2018 school year, Aaron Nelson takes the reins as principal of Pequot Lakes High School.
With the start of the 2017-2018 school year, Aaron Nelson takes the reins as principal of Pequot Lakes High School. Dan Determan/Echo Journal

With the start of the 2017-18 school year, Aaron Nelson begins his tenure as principal of Pequot Lakes High School.

The Clear Lake, Wisconsin, native joins the Patriots after spending 16 years at the Roseau School District - the past seven of those as assistant principal.

"The job in Pequot attracted me because I had heard about the school and knew some good things about it," Nelson said. "I liked what I had in Roseau and had some high expectations of success (in Pequot) and I wanted to be a part of that."

Nelson initially went to college to become an engineer, but soon realized his abstract mentality did not suit that career. From there, he decided education was the ideal fit.

"I was always interested in history and I seemed to connect with people easily, so I thought I would try teaching," he said. "It was the perfect fit."

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Once he began teaching, he found the connection he had with students - seeing them become excited by the material and eager to learn - was the most fulfilling aspect of his job.

"I still miss (teaching) very much," he said. "I think the farther you get away from it, that passion begins to dim a bit. My first three years in administration, though, I longed to be back in the classroom."

Nelson became the assistant principal at Roseau High School in 2010 and stayed in that role until joining Pequot Lakes.

"Your relationship with kids is different," Nelson said. "I have learned, as an administrator, the things I have to do to work on that relationship and make it a positive experience, because a lot of times you are dealing with the not-so-positive experiences as an administrator. As a classroom teacher, the relationship with the kids was so strong and it was so much fun."

Nelson now resides in Breezy Point. His wife, Tammie, teaches special education at Riverside Elementary School in Brainerd and their three children - Bretta, Caden and Parker - are students in the Pequot Lakes School District.

"I have felt very welcomed to the community," Nelson said. "I have had several interactions with students in an informal setting, and they have all been positive."

In addition to the school's reputation, Nelson was drawn to Pequot Lakes because it is a very similar size to his previous district and operates with a similar education system.

"The systems are almost exactly the same," Nelson said. "Because the systems are the same, the problems are the same ... We didn't do everything right in Roseau. It wasn't a perfect school. When you come to a new school, not everything is going to be perfect. When you talk about improvements, though, it is important to know how the systems work."

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In his first year as principal, Nelson sees a growing enrollment as one of the school's primary challenges. The high school's freshman class is the largest in the school, and next year's freshman class is set to be even larger, so he will look to accommodate the additional students without straining the staff.

"We are experiencing growing pains, so when talking about things that can improve, we have to adapt to that," Nelson said. "How are we going to do that while being fiscally responsible in the space we have available? If the classes keep getting bigger, what do we have to do to expand and meet student needs? That is one of things I'm excited about."

He also hopes to use his first year as an opportunity to integrate himself in the community, attending as many events as possible.

"I intend to not be a leader who sits in the office. I intend to be a leader who is in the halls, at the games, at the speech meets and mock trials. I want to be there to be seen and let the kids know that I do care about what they are doing and am interested in their interests ... It is a culture of success. How do I integrate myself into that, and how do I help to improve and grow that?"

The school year began Tuesday, Sept. 5, and Nelson believes the pieces are in place at Pequot Lakes High School for it to be a successful year.

"Without reserve, I am very excited about this teaching staff," Nelson said. "The things I have seen here are professionally exhilarating. You have quality teachers who are professionally driven to improve. There are difficulties in every district everywhere, yet the things I have seen here is that teachers express frustrations, but still work at getting better. I have been very impressed.

"I think we are a school of choice in the area. I want to continue to make this school a school of choice."

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