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Walnut High School | 400 Pierre Rd. Walnut, Calif. 91789

the hoofprint

Walnut High School | 400 Pierre Rd. Walnut, Calif. 91789

the hoofprint

Walnut High School | 400 Pierre Rd. Walnut, Calif. 91789

New staff brings in nostalgic feelings

Former Walnut High School student Nikki Neeley returns as a head softball coach and education specialist.
Photo by Rylyn Wang
New education specialist and head softball coach Nikki Neeley assists freshman Ty Thompson with his work.

Former Walnut High School student Nikki Neeley returns as an education specialist and head softball coach.

As the familiar horse statue comes into view, Nikki Neeley, Walnut alumnus, is hit with a strong sense of nostalgia. After five years of education experience, Neeley returns to her former high school as the head softball coach and education specialist, pursuing her passion for helping special needs students. 

“Working in the special education program, that’s my passion,” Neeley said. “I want to help the inclusive environment for all students, whether it’s in the [general education] classroom or separate special education classrooms, to just feel normal, to work together and break down those barriers that we create in society.” 

Neeley first began her special needs career at a non-public school in Brooklyn, New York. After two years, she left to work on a program at San Bernardino City Unified District to support students who were “showing difficulty inside of their mainstream classrooms.” Neeley worked as a substitute teacher in the Walnut district as well as for a couple of years, and when a position opened up, she immediately jumped at the opportunity. 

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“It’s a full circle moment for me since I’ve been given a special education spot in the ASD (autism spectrum disorder) program, and it aligns with all of the things that I was doing in my other district,” Neeley said. “I love teaching, and I love working with kids. I just want to see growth in my students and I want to just continue to learn myself as much as I can.” 

Throughout her teaching career, Neeley moved back and forth between elementary and middle school. This semester marks her first year working with high school students, and she has met this change in setting with great enthusiasm. She has shown great enthusiasm with this change in setting. 

“Working in high school, you have mini adults and you can talk with them differently,” Neeley said. “The way they make connections with life is different, so you’re preparing them not just to get through elementary, middle and high school; you’re preparing them for life.”

In 2015, Neeley developed her interest in special education after working for a grant program in Maryland, where they were trying to prepare two-year-olds diagnosed with autism for transitional kindergarten. She currently wants to start a podcast to support parents and “bridge the gap” between parents and teachers with special needs students. 

“I fell in love with that because it was so interesting to me,” Neely said. “The umbrella over autism and the scale we call the spectrum was just fascinating. I just wanted to know more about things like why. What’s going on? How can we help? What do we need to do?”

In her current role, Neeley hopes to improve the success of special education students by dedicating her time and effort to giving them the best learning experience possible. 

“I’m just so excited to be here. I am so grateful and thankful for the opportunity, and I’m just going to keep doing what I know best,” Neeley said.

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About the Contributor
Lydia Chen, Staff writer
Hi, my name is Lydia Chen. I am a freshman staff writer for The Hoofprint. I have been dancing for almost 10 years, and I am currently on the WHS dance team. During my free time, I enjoy watching movies with my family and riding bikes. One fun fact about me is that I am a middle child with one older brother and one younger brother.
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