New SCHS Athletic Director and teacher Nelson Gifford creates opportunities for students in the classroom and on the playing field


James Kepner

Gifford aims to guide students and athletes to success.

Nelson Gifford is a new SCHS history teacher and athletic director who wants to help students succeed and meet their academic and athletic goals. With the responsibility of balancing his academics and athletic duties, Gifford is grateful for his co-athletic director Dee Dee Kiyota. 

“We share all the responsibilities. We collaborate on a daily basis, and that is just such a huge benefit,” Gifford said. “Her knowledge of the school and the culture and the students along with her experience as athletic director has been invaluable. And so I’m not alone.”

Prior to teaching at SCHS, Gifford was the athletic director at Palo Alto High School. However, his first year led into COVID-19, but Gifford said he tried to look on the bright side. 

“It definitely prepared me for all the potential obstacles that can come with the job,” Gifford said. “It also helped me build a lot of relationships with the other athletic directors in the community.”

Gifford also has experience as a football coach at Palo Alto and Fremont High School, which taught him what it takes for athletic directors to make sports possible. 

“It forced me outside of my comfort zone as a football coach and put me into other sporting arenas,” Gifford said. “It’s given me a lot more empathy and understanding with the different needs of the various student athletes and coaches.”

Additionally, Gifford worked as an assistant coach’s assistant at University of California, Davis, where he learned more about sports and how the coaches’ lives are both personal and professional.

“My job there on the offensive side of the ball was to help on the scout team break down film, work with a wide receiver coach, set up drills, help run drills, that sort of thing,” Gifford said.

Gifford also enjoys music and carries over this passion to his classes, often using music to keep students engaged and to build community. Music is not only meant to inspire the students who walk into Gifford’s classroom but also himself.

 “It’s kind of a change in mood and community. It’s also a way to get people’s attention,” Gifford said. “It’s going to encourage me and make me want to work harder and make me want to get better.”

Gifford wants everyone at SCHS to feel welcomed.

“Inclusivity in my mind means creating opportunities for people to be involved,” Gifford said. “We all have these gifts, and our gifts are different.”

Gifford’s main goal at SCHS is to encourage students to become the best version of themselves. Using athletics and academics, Gifford is working to guide students and athletes through high school.

“We just want every kid to be a little bit better when they leave,” Gifford said. “The approach that I take in the classroom is the same one that I take as a coach and the same one that I take as an athletic director.”