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Centennial High School Educator Enjoys Second Career as Teacher

Nina Dent with students

May 10, 2023 -- Nina Dent walked from student to student in her classroom, answering questions, helping students, and giving words of encouragement. 

“Can you see why I love this?” she asked.

Although Dent didn’t initially see herself as a teacher, she said choosing this career was one of the best decisions she ever made. 

Nina Dent with student“I tell people right now that switching careers, as hesitant as I was, was the best decision I made for myself in 20 years,” Dent said. “It’s absolutely the best decision I ever made, and I love it.”

Dent teaches Microsoft Office and Leadership at Centennial High School, where she has taught for the last four years. 

“I love this building,” she said. “I love everything about it. The teachers are awesome. They support each other. I feel like the administration supports us, too. I don’t think I could have found a more perfect landing place.” 

Dent graduated from The Ohio State University with a criminology degree and later got her master’s in adult education and human ecology with a focus on online learning. She spent 17 years of her career at the Ohio Prep Office organizing pre-student teaching and professional development for in-service teachers at The Ohio State University College of Education. She worked closely with many teachers at Columbus City Schools doing professional development.

However, a twist of fate brought her to her new career after a colleague recommended she look into teaching. 

“I remember Pegeen Cleary had asked me if I wanted to be a teacher, and I said no way,” Dent said. “She said she thought I would be great at it. She motivated me to submit my resume, and I can’t thank her enough.” 

Dent also spent 30 years of her career in gymnastics, with roles including gymnast, state director, coach, and judge, which exposed her to judging everything, including NCAA and JO nationals. She retired when she started teaching and was inducted last year into the Region 5 Hall of Fame. She said her experience as a gymnastics coach helped her in her teaching role. 

“As a coach, you’ll have kids on a rotation at many different levels–kids who can do a backflip and those who can’t walk backward on the balance beam. You have to keep them motivated and moving,” she said. 

Her favorite part of teaching is knowing that she makes a difference in her students’ lives. She mentioned a poem given to her by a student that is in a frame on her desk and how she felt after a student included her in a homecoming speech. 

“I remember one of our seniors’ homecoming speeches,” Dent recalled. “They said Centennial is filled with great teachers. Another teacher tapped me and said that I got a shoutout. Afterward, I asked the student whether they really meant me, and the student said, ‘Yes, you’re a great teacher.’ That’s just how you know you made a difference.” 

Dent hopes that she inspires students to go after their dreams.

“I would tell students not to stop believing in being what you want to be in life,” Dent said. “Sometimes, you can feel stuck and maybe not know how to get out. I want to push them to be more and to go after your dreams.” 

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