BetterEd Coaching

John Nielson is an instructional coach and classroom teacher. He empowers teachers to transform their classrooms using regulation skills and multi-disciplinary projects. The result can be dynamic learning spaces for everyone.

Our approach

BetterEd Coaching helps teachers and kids make the most of their time in the classroom working specifically in two areas. BetterEd provides teachers with the tools to help students regulate their nervous systems so they are ready to learn. BetterEd also helps teachers create, implement, and manage integrated, multi-subject units (PBLs) to fully engage all learners in the classroom.

BetterEd can help teachers:

  • Integrate subjects to deepen students’ learning
  • Experience more satisfaction and fun in teaching
  • Build cohesion within groups of teachers
  • Do more in less time by integrating subjects
  • Create more neurologically regulated learning environments
  • Unleash their creativity and create powerful new learning experiences for students
"His educational programming and teaching is done in a heavily experiential manner—math was taught through the lens of a pirate and by budgeting for a vacation, physics was taught by building leprechaun traps, biology was taught by going on field trips to wetlands, restored creeks and burned forests. He found a way to make my kids passionate about learning."
—Robert, parent of kids in John's classroom
"John worked some kind of magic. He got a group of teachers that I had been trying to get to work together for 3 years to work together with ONE project! Now they are a team. Just like that."
—Brian, principal
"I am so excited about getting back to some projects...I have tons of ideas running around in my head. I definitely want to create more."
—Kim, teacher
"I have often felt a sense of helplessness in dealing with children's behaviors in the classroom. Some of the things I would try would land with the children and others would not. Now I have some tools to try and I think I know why I am using them. I have never had that before."
—Holly, teacher
"John was a brilliant guide. He helped me see my tried and true project that I thought was amazing in a new light. Now it is really, really good and I have so many other pieces that I need to teach the kids as a part of it."
—Kate, teacher
"John has a real presence as a presenter. He has a way about him that manages to make people feel empowered. I have rarely seen teachers wanting to stay longer and work more after a workshop. But they did after his."
—Bob, administrator

What We Offer

Tools for the Co-Regulated Classroom

The overwhelming variety of student needs fuels most teachers’ feelings of burnout. Co-regulation tools help teachers identify students’ neurological state in the moment, and gives teachers tools to nudge those students back into a window where they are able to learn. The tools are non-disciplinary, relationship-building, skill-building for the child—and easy for teachers to use, even in a classroom of 30 kids. And, for the most part, co-regulation tools allow teachers to spend more time as their best selves everyday.

Creation and Management of Multi-Subject Integrated Units (like PBLs)

Integrated multi-subject units or projects are cool. They are engaging for students, fun to teach, and effective ways to increase learning. But multi-subject units also take planning, management, communication, and organization to pull off. Most teachers are never taught how to implement integrated, multi-subject learning in their classrooms, unless they are willing to learn by trial and error. BetterEd aims to change that.

When teachers create a project (any kind of project—STEM or STEAM, Project Based or Problem Based Learning, Passion Projects, Multidisciplinary Unit, etc.), they own it. BetterEd facilitates and guides the creative process. Then we march through what it will be like to use the project in the classroom. We work through management, expectations, schedules, timing, assessment, differentiation, special needs of students and parents, products, and any other issues that come up. At the end of this preparation day, teachers will be fully prepared to launch their own projects. Later, when they are working their magic in the classroom, we support them as instructional coaches. And after it’s all done, we reconnect to help them plan future projects—because once teachers figure out their system, they will want to plan more (and more and more) integrated, multi-subject units. 

About John

John has been a classroom teacher for 22 years. In that time, he had multiple classrooms of grades 3-5 and one year of high school. He also taught in a private, multi-age classroom for middle schoolers.

John was an instructional coach, trained by Jim Knight, for eight years. In that time, John worked with teachers and administrators in grades K-12.

At the heart of John’s teaching and coaching work was always a desire to find more success and joy from learning for the kids as well as the teachers in the classroom. Often, this was accomplished through projects that were integrated (had many subjects combined into them). In education speak, they were called project based learning or problem based learning (PBL’s), or STEM or STEAM projects (Science, Technology, Engineering, [Art,] and Math), or integrated projects, multi-disciplinary units, or integrated units. The precise name is not entirely important, all of these integrate multiple subjects and are of high interest and engagement to students (which translates to higher learning) and energizing for teachers to teach. If, and it is a big if at times, they are prepared and managed well.

Why are these integrated projects so successful, you ask? Kids do not remember the day they did page 73 in the textbook and the worksheet that followed. What they do remember are the hands-on experiences where they were given choice and the ability to create and work in their differentiated ways. Integrated projects, of all names, do this. But not every teacher is trained to teach them and not every teacher is confident in how to make the integrated projects come to life from start to finish.

This is where John’s experience and coaching history are serendipitous. Using his years of coaching teachers and years of his own successes and failures to draw upon, John facilitates the creative, project building process. Teachers are working with their curriculum and their standards. The resulting multi-disciplinary experiences become what teachers want to teach or possibly need to teach. They will be successful and enjoyable for both the teacher and the student.

Through coaching, John found that working with teachers who share students throughout the day (commonly a middle school or upper elementary practice) can be a cohesive, team-building process. This co-teaching or team teaching is equally as powerful for students and teachers but takes very different levels of coordination, management, and communication by the teachers in charge. Building the project, creating expectations, agreeing on the flow, management of the process, and creating means of communication are all amazing team building activities for the teachers.

A brief list of John's skills:

  • Jim Knight trained instructional coach
  • PEER coach trained
  • Bob Chadwick trained in mediation
  • Certified teacher in Montana
  • Certified Exercise and Sports Psychology Coach
  • 22 years of classroom teaching experience from grades 3-10
  • Worked with thousands of students and teachers
  • Presentations to large groups (500+)
  • Coached athletes from middle school to college in multiple sports