A seat at the big table; Los Rios district Board of Trustees’ newest member shares her story

Tami Nelson is the newest member of the Los Rios Community College District Board of Trustees, elected in 2016. | Photo by Bobby Castagna | Photo Editor | robert.castagna@gmail.com

Amari Smith
Staff Reporter

With a passion for teaching and determination to help students all around Sacramento, Tami Nelson recently became a member of the Los Rios Community College District Board of Trustees.

Nelson, 38, says she has always had a passion for teaching. She has been teaching for the past 15 years and continues to teach middle school in Sacramento. She was voted in as the newest member of Los Rios Community College District Board of Trustees in 2016.

Nelson is one of seven members of the board in addition to a student representative. She represents Area 7, one of the largest in the city.

“Our task is to vote on those issues, to ask pertinent questions about how the district is doing the job it’s supposed to be doing. Our job is to look at where the district is and where the district needs to go,” said President of the LRCCD, Pam Haynes.

Haynes notices Nelson’s hard work and acknowledges her consistency.

“Being new, I think she’s asking the right questions at the board meetings and she engages in terms of the questions I’ve heard her ask, they’ve been right on point. She’s listening and learning,” says Haynes.
The board does their best to make sure that students as well as the community have everything they need to make their experience as exuberant as possible.

“I think she’s doing a job that she wants to learn and it’s apparent in the questions that she asks,” said Haynes.

Nelson originally migrated to the United States with her family when she was three years old.

“I was born in Belgium, and my first language was French,” says Nelson. “My parents learned English once they moved to California.”

Nelson is the first in her family to attend and graduate college. Growing up in Santa Rosa, she completed a full semester of junior college while attending high school.

“It was really nice to have the opportunity to be able to do that with all the options you get at community college, so you’re not limited to what was offered,” says Nelson.

Nelson received a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from Humboldt State University. She transferred to University of Oregon for one year, moving on to getting a Master’s degree at Cardiff University. She received her teaching credential through Sacramento State.

In 2014, Nelson decided she wanted a Community College Faculty Certificate as well. She approached Dianne Heimer, a respected City College professor who taught English and journalism for over 17 years, and is now City College’s Faculty advisor.

“She came to me, and I agreed, and so she started coming into my classes that I was teaching,” said Heimer. “And then sometimes I would have her take over the class and do some plans, she did that for a semester, teaching mass media.”

Nelson’s teaching style is said to be casual, organized and respectful. She grabs the attention of students with controversial topics and keeps them interested with diverse conversations, while
creating a comfortable environment.

“(Nelson) always showed respect toward the students,” said Heimer. “When engaging in conversation, she treated them as adults worthy of respect by asking what they thought.”

Heimer recalls the feedback from the students Nelson had taught during her time at City College, saying how much they enjoyed (Nelson’s) teaching style, and was grateful for Nelson providing a helping hand. Teaching at a college level brought Nelson joy and anticipated working with the students and faculty, but she knew that she had a calling with her new job position.

“The culture of the (City College) campus is definitely unique, it’s a great campus but it definitely has rich history,” says Nelson. “I just feel comfortable at City College. Down to earth people, students and staff.”

Nelson will be serving on the board through the year 2020.