GMercyU Alumna Recently Named Vice Principal at Bensalem High School

Gwynedd Mercy University alum Nicole Copestick '06 was recently named Vice President of Bensalem High School.  

Path to GMercyU

Nicole Copestick attended Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster, Pa. During her senior year, the top 10 students in her class were offered the option to take college-level courses at a partnering institution, such as GMercyU. Nicole decided to take 14 credits, two classes and one lab per semester.

Already familiar with GMercyU thanks to the Dual Enrollment Program, Nicole applied to the Biology program. By then, she was used to knowing her professors and enjoyed being in a smaller community.

At GMercyU, Nicole was a member of Student Government Association (SGA) where she assisted with the annual Fall Fest. She also sang the National Anthem during basketball games and participated in the canned food drive with WMMR radio station.

“My favorite part of GMercyU was the community and family feel that helped me to grow and succeed. I wasn’t a datapoint or a grade on a paper,” Nicole said.

Nicole graduated from GMercyU in 2006 with her Bachelor of Science in Biology.

“I’m proud of my education from GMercyU. I loved it! I would encourage anyone to go there because it’s a great place to be, to learn, and to thrive,” Nicole said.

Getting Started with Education

Nicole always thought she wanted to pursue a medical degree upon graduating from GMercyU. That all changed after she completed a clinical rotation at Abington Hospital and discovered that the path she had chosen wasn’t right for her.

After graduating, Nicole ran into a former teacher of hers, and learned about the teacher shortage challenges that Catholic schools were facing at the time. From then on, she decided to become a teacher.

There’s so much impact that can be made on an educational level and personal level for students.

Transition from Teacher to Vice Principal

Nicole worked at Archbishop Ryan High School for one year, then transitioned into a lab setting.

“After working for one year in the lab, I realized that I missed education and decided to go back to school for my B.A. in Secondary Education,” Nicole said.

When she returned to education, she worked in the New Jersey public school setting for three and a half years before moving to Bensalem School District where she has worked for the last eight years.

In Fall 2021, Nicole became acting Vice Principal at Bensalem High School. She described last year as the hardest year for many educators and administrators. It was chaotic and eventful, and not always in a good way. However, she said it was her best year because she felt renewed and had a new purpose. Acting as Vice Principal allowed her the opportunity to learn again and challenged her to take on new responsibilities. Mostly, it gave her the chance to realize who she wants to be as a leader.

Challenges Faced

Although the role of teacher vs. administrator is different, Nicole expressed that many of the challenges are similar.

As a teacher, Nicole navigated challenges such as parental concern, absences, and students not getting the immediate gratification they want or caring about the learning process. She handled many personalities within one day.

As an administrator, Nicole faces those same challenges, but not in the same capacity. She tackles more holistic challenges, whether handling teacher contracts or challenges with the school board. She sometimes faces an inner tug-of-war between morality vs. legality. The one difference she identified is understanding educational challenges better because now she has the bigger picture.

Nicole often relies on her experience as a teacher when making decisions and facing new challenges. She’ll ask herself, “how did I feel about this as a teacher?”

In both roles, Nicole stresses that “it’s important to remember that it’s about the kids and we have to keep them at the forefront of everything.”

Ultimately, students are why she chooses to stay in the field of education when many are leaving the profession – she wants to help students unleash the potential that they may not realize they possess. She wants to help them realize the endless fields of possibility in the world.

Pandemic Impact on the Learning Curve

Educators are playing a crucial role in helping to quell the impact of the pandemic on the learning curve. While there has always been a learning gap, it’s even more apparent today.

As a teacher, Nicole has noticed that the biggest challenge is knowing how to be a student rather than just trying to comprehend content. In other words, they have to learn basic skills such as studying, staying organized, and how to take a test. A large struggle she has seen amongst students is the stamina needed to get through a full day of in-person instruction.

Nicole expressed that it’s important for each level within the educational hierarchy to reinforce these skills with students.

“It takes practice and studying to get better,” Nicole said. 

Sharing the Value of Higher Education

“Having a degree is like having a ticket to options,” Nicole said.

Within her setting at Bensalem High School, Nicole has continued to stress the value of higher education to her students, that expanding your knowledge and earning a higher degree offers a brighter future of a unlimited options.

Goals as Vice Principal

Nicole is joining new Principal Frank Flanagan, a student in GMercyU’s EdD program, as the new Vice Principal at Bensalem High School this year. A big focus of theirs this year will be communication and building relationships. Overall, Nicole hopes to create and promote a positive culture and vision for Bensalem High School.