Nikki Vancil, of Forked River, discovered her gift for teaching early. She was in seventh grade when the absence of an English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) program at her school gave her the chance to help younger Spanish-speaking students.
From an early age, Vancil has been able to connect with students who don’t speak English by using hand gestures and pictures to communicate foreign concepts, a talent that quickly earned her the title Miss Nikki. Her elementary school now has an ESL program, and Vancil volunteers in the school’s library during after-school hours to help ESL students.
One of her most rewarding experiences was working with a third grader who was at a first-grade reading level. He was on the verge of having to face third grade again, but Vancil created note cards and found websites that helped him reach a fourth grade reading level. “I remember him coming to me with the paper [advancing him to fourth grade]. He came running,” recalled Vancil.
“Children are so incredibly smart,” and it’s important to give them the time they need to excel, she explained.
Vancil says that at one time during first grade she was behind in reading, but she persevered, earning advanced proficient scores on the state tests. She wants to help others do the same.
Vancil is a sophomore Literature major in the teacher education program as a member of the pilot four-year certification program. Her long-term goal is to earn a Ph.D. in ESL to improve the structure of our education system, but first she plans to teach.
Vancil says she wants to become a teacher first to gain valuable experience. “I need to know firsthand what it’s like,” she said.
Ultimately, her sights are set beyond the classroom because she wants to reach as many students as she can. “I don’t want to help one class, I want to help all classes,” she said.
“When I see a stressed face turn to relief, it makes it all the better for me.”
Vancil is a member of the Stockton Honors Program and is currently serving her second term as outreach coordinator, which gives her responsibilities such as advertising and describing student life to prospective students. She represents the Honors Program at the college’s Open Houses and gives tours to parents and students.
When describing her personal Honors experience, she said, “I was instantly in a community, which made it a lot easier to immerse myself in college life.”
She credits her preceptor and freshman seminar professor, GT Lenard, associate professor of Developmental Writing, with having a huge impact on her Stockton experience and always being there to help.
A Literature class focusing on the fairy tale genre inspired Vancil to become one of the first to research how the story of Little Red Riding Hood changes to fit social morals. “Everyone’s version is different. I traced its roots through history and tied it to historical events,” she said.
As an avid writer, Vancil has journals everywhere. “Writing is a way for me to understand and get out my emotions,” she said.
She’s a published poet with works appearing both online and in print in Teen Ink magazine.
At Stockton, Vancil is a member of WaterWatch, Circle K and the Alpha Lamba Delta (ALD) national honor society, and with her friends, she helped to found the Billiards Club. She works in the School of Education and volunteers as a tutor in the Writing Center. In her spare time, she practices jiu jitsu (she’s currently a blue belt) and helps her sister care for their four lizards, three dogs, cat, turtle and fish.