Teacher and Mentor Nikki Melius is a Tremendous Faulkton Asset

Monday, June 01, 2020

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Strength of community is what makes small town living exceptional, and it’s the residents who are the source of that strength. Nikki Melius who has been the Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) teacher at Faulkton High School (FHS) for over twenty years is more than doing her part to better her corner of South Dakota.

When asked how the courses she teaches in the Human Services Career Cluster prepare students for their futures, she replied, “They are classes that sometimes adults ‘wish’ they had growing up. With the classes I teach, I can guarantee students will use this information in the future.” 

It is easy to see her point with class offerings such as Nutrition and Wellness, Human Development, Employability, Personal Finance, and Introduction to Education/Teach & Train. “The goals of these courses are to prepare young adults to function independently in society,” said Mrs. Melius. “They encompass all of home life from securing gainful employment, to  building and maintaining successful relationships. I teach classes that center on raising children and having a family as well as nutrition and food preparation. The Teach and Train course is specific to students who are looking at either the education field or another occupation that will relate closely to working with young children, like possibly studying to become a pediatrician.” 

Fifteen years ago, Mrs. Melius took steps to integrate classroom learning, practical experience, and community involvement by creating programs for job shadowing and internships. These programs open up students’ high school curriculum to include valuable job experiences and training. “I am able to work closely with the Faulkton business and professional partners as well as our local Economic Development group to place students primarily in Faulkton and surrounding communities,” said Mrs. Melius. “No career is turned away so students can have the best experience possible. It takes an entire community of business support (of which we have!) to make this experience possible for our students.”

Mrs. Melius shared a gratifying story about how her job shadowing program impacted one local entrepreneur. “As a student, she completed a job shadowing experience her junior year as part of my Employability class with our local massage therapist,” said Mrs. Melius. This student then went on to further education and training. “She has recently returned to Faulkton and is starting a partnership with the therapist who inspired and influenced her career decisions six years ago,” said Mrs. Melius. “It is a great story and we are so glad that she has chosen to come back to Faulkton to grow her career and clientele.”

Mrs. Melius’ work is award winning accruing such honors as New Professional Award, Outstanding New Technical Teacher of the Year, Outstanding Teacher in Community Service, Outstanding Leadership Award, and recently, the 2018 Faulkton Area Lions Club Community Service Award. For over twenty years as the adviser for the school’s Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), she has mentored and guided scores of students to be active citizens of their community. The Faulkton chapter has forty-six student members who spend their time and efforts facilitating local service projects, such as raising money to sponsor a Make-A-Wish child and handing out buckets of salt and sand for icy sidewalks, to name just a few.

The community is lucky to have kept Mrs. Melius as a hometown asset. She grew up in Faulkton, but gained outside perspective when she attended South Dakota State University, interned at the South Dakota Department of Labor, and began her teaching career at Tiospa Zina Tribal School. But when the opportunity arose to move back, she and her husband, Ryan, did not hesitate. When she started teaching at FHS, she had the opportunity to work with many of the same educators who had shaped and guided her, and now she finds herself teaching at FHS long enough to be in a similar situation. “Five of my former students now work as teachers for the Faulkton Area School District,” said Mrs. Melius. “It really says a lot for the standard of excellence the school provides and the impact teachers can make on their students.”

It is worth emphasizing how lucky Mrs. Melius feels to be raising her family in Faulkton with its job opportunities, outstanding healthcare facility, agriculture sector, schools, and churches. “Our brick and mortar storefronts have much to offer and the spirit of entrepreneurs is never-ending,” she said. “We have a variety of recreational spaces that enhance the Faulkton community such as several parks, updated ballparks, a movie theatre, a bowling alley, a wonderful nine hole golf course, lake access, and an operating carousel that is free to ride. If you want a little history, we have that with the county museum and Pickler mansion, and courthouse murals. Oh yes---the murals! They are plentiful and beautiful for sure.” Mrs. Melius summed it up well when she said, “If you cannot say that you love Faulkton, you simply have just not spent time here.”

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