Dinuba educator doubles up on SkillsUSA awards

Dinuba High program coordinator Nikki Ritchie receives awards for Hall of Champions, Outstanding Career and Technical Educator

Jon Earnest
Published June 14, 2023  • 
10:00 am

DINUBA – SkillsUSA has honored a Dinuba High School educator with a pair of national awards for her work with students in development and growth in the national skilled trades program.

Nikki Ritchie, the SkillsUSA program coordinator at the school, is a recipient of the Virginia-based organization’s Hall of Champions Award along with the SkillsUSA Outstanding Career and Technical Educator award. She will officially be recognized for the awards during the SkillsUSA National Conference in Atlanta on June 16-24.

The awards are two of SkillsUSA’s highest honors, recognizing what the organization calls “exceptional educators who have a true dedication to career and technical education and service to SkillsUSA.” Ritchie leads Dinuba High’s SkillsUSA program, providing her students with opportunities to develop 21st century skills such as problem solving, collaboration, communication and time management.

When it came down to her recognition, Ritchie, with a 22-year background in education, directed the credit for the Dinuba program’s success to the students.

“I can’t be successful if they’re not successful,” Ritchie said, having spent the last eight years of her educational career at Dinuba High. “I only mark and brand and put myself out there  and apply for things for students, and school recognition. It’s because they’re doing the work. They’re the front runners.”

SkillsUSA describes Ritchie’s qualities as “motivated, determined, enthusiastic, collaborative and passionate” in her work with students at Dinuba High School.

Ritchie’s and Dinuba High’s efforts to improve in the Chapter of Excellence program reached new heights this past school year, jumping from a bronze level to a gold level chapter.

“I had a strong officer team this year that really drove our hours in community service across the board with all of our pathways at Dinuba,” she said. “In California, there are 289 chapters, and we were ranked number two in the state; so we received the gold standard.”

State and national recognition and participation from SkillsUSA isn’t new to Ritchie. In 2020, she was named the California High School Advisor of the Year and sat on the state board of directors. She has supported the national organization by serving on strategic planning teams and presenting at SkillsUSA University. She also was an interviewer at the 2022 Washington Leadership Training Institute’s for the Statesman Award.

Ritchie got the Dinuba High program rolling with a career tech education credential with an industry specific focus.

“When I came on board to Dinuba, they needed a club and/or pastor to represent that career technology bridge for students at the high school level,” she said. “When I took it on, it was myself and one other advisor at the high school. We started out our very first year with 41 students, and now we have over 789 students at our high school.”

Ritchie runs the Intro to Education pathway at the high school in a dual enrollment program partnership with Reedley College and Fresno City College. When students in the program leave their senior year, they have nine college-level credits banked. The students also participate in the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, now in its third year at the school. She said students have clocked more than 2,500 combined hours of community service in the pathway.

Incoming juniors and seniors in the program receive more than 220 hours of hands-on opportunity in kindergarten through sixth grade (K-6) classroom. Students work with three local elementary schools: Jefferson, Wilson and Kennedy.

When it comes to the future, Ritchie has a clear goal in mind for the school’s SkillsUSA program.

“We’re really gunning to be a model of excellence,” she said. “And so that gives us the opportunity to actually compete as a chapter at nationals [competition]. Model of excellence is a process, so we have to come up with a business plan. Mind you, this is not advisor driven. This is a student organization, so the business plan is the responsibility of all our officers slated to work with business and industry partners.”

Officers must draft up a document that consists of hosting three different community events. They must display personal skills, workplace skills and technical skills grounded in academics.

“Nikki is a SkillsUSA champion with a true passion for helping youth develop the knowledge and skills that empower every student to achieve career success,” SkillsUSA executive director Chelle Travis said. “Her passion and dedication to SkillsUSA and career and technical education is inspiring.”

Ritchie also makes a point to spread that passion of career success through all of her students.

“The one thing I tell my students often is, ‘show your passion, and you do you’,”  she said.

Jon Earnest