Reinvention comes in many forms. After serving a previous life in retail management, Vikki Hughes’ inner voice kept telling her, “Now is the time to learn Spanish.” It was something she’d always thought about, but work and family were higher priorities that consumed most of her time and energy.
Already familiar with the College from previously taking a computer course, Vikki enrolled in her first Spanish class through OLLI which offers courses designed for seasoned adults 50 and over. On her first day of class, she immediately knew she made the right decision. Thrilled with her learning progress, partly due to outstanding teaching, Vikki matriculated through Spanish I, II, and III.
“Nancy DeLisle-Brown was one of my favorite teachers,” Vikki said. “She made the class an experience which helped me immensely with language retention/acquisition. It wasn’t just book work.”
Nancy said, “Vikki is very enthusiastic and an encourager to everyone. She is very oriented to people’s interests and will do anything within her power to help others achieve their goals.”
A Church Connection
As her language quest progressed, she thought about her own place of worship and how she could help the Spanish speaking members. When Vikki contacted Yolanda Berrios, coordinator of Hispanic Ministries, at The Catholic Church of the Transfiguration in Marietta, she was asked to teach English.
“I laughed and said I would try,” Vikki said. “At the time it seemed like a complete reversal of my objective. However, I found out I enjoyed teaching. The students were learning English and it provided me Spanish speaking exposure.”
The Inner Voice
Reflecting on her Spanish class experiences, Vikki remembered how the teachers orchestrated and implemented their lessons. She realized she needed to equip herself in this manner in order to maximize classroom instruction time and increase student language absorption. That’s when her inner voice started speaking again.
“I registered for TESOL classes this time and encountered a program with substance,” Vikki said. “The format exemplified the latest in TESOL education with a well-rounded curriculum. Maura Nicholson, a seasoned and gifted teacher, produced engaging and thought provoking lessons that evoked student centered learning. Fortified with knowledge, resources and empirical exposure, I was ready to move forward.”
“Vikki was an outstanding student in both our TESOL program and Spanish courses,” said Lyn Cohen, KSU’s Languages program manager. “After finishing the TESOL program in 2013, she reached out to me in an effort to locate prospective teachers in the community. We assisted her with recruitment for instructors using the job board for TESOL grads.”
This led to a partnership between Transfiguration (TFIG) and KSU creating reciprocal benefits for both. TESOL graduates volunteer teach in TFIG ESL classrooms gaining valuable hands-on experience while the students receive knowledgeable and professional instruction. For the past three years under Vikki’s guidance, the ESL program at Transfiguration has flourished. Semester enrollments are up to 50-75 students with six to eight teachers and assistants. Additionally, Beginner and Intermediate Spanish classes have been added to the church’s language program. She says the biggest reward and motivation is seeing the students’ progress.
“Vikki’s an excellent ambassador for CCPE,” Maura said. “She opened her school to student observations and even hired graduates of the TESOL program. She’s a perfect example of someone who took advantage of what the College of Continuing and Professional Education has to offer and ran with it.”
Relishing Life-Changing Opportunities
As Vikki’s journey continues, she is now focused on building more community awareness by supporting similar programs for social justice and economic value. She is also planning on returning to KSU to enroll in a grant-writing course. Additionally, she is exploring job opportunities for teaching online courses as well as making travel plans to Latin America to teach English and for Spanish culture immersion.
“I remember one day driving to KSU thinking my life is changing drastically from a retail business owner of 20 years into an educator. Is this really happening? At that very moment I looked to the side of the road and on the marquee of a tiny church read, (Even Moses was a basket case.) I laughed and cried at the same time.”
In the meantime, Vikki will continue developing the TFIG ESL program, along with her teaching skills and résumé, while listening for her inner voice to say “Vamos!”