Every school year brings changes, and, as usual, all three county school districts are welcoming new personnel this year. As the school year gets under way, read up about the new faces at school and get to know three of them in more depth.
Moravia Community School
Moravia Superintendent Brad Breon says he is continually looking for ways to share with surrounding districts.
That includes himself: Breon is taking over superintendent duties at the Seymour School District this year. Kay Singley, elementary principal at Moravia, will be a shared curriculum director at Moravia and Seymour.
“It’s always a good idea to put resources together with other schools,” Breon says.
This summer Moravia added an FFA storage shed, a small building project compared to the one that is coming. Because of a bond issue that passed several months ago, the Moravia district will soon build an addition that will include a spectator gym, practice wrestling room, new weight room and lockers, and six classrooms.
Breon projects the addition will be complete by the winter after next. He is looking forward to the new classrooms because Moravia’s numbers are swelling in the lower grades. Last spring the school graduated 15 seniors but starts 34 kindergartners this fall.
Moravia is also implementing a new safety plan. During the day, all entrances to the building will be locked, and visitors will have to buzz in through a video surveillance system. Teachers will have swipe cards to get into the building.
New personnel at Moravia include Jewel Rockhold in 7-12 science, Sydni Graham in K-12 vocal and Kim Scherer, who will teach junior high English at Moravia and special education at Moulton. Emily Foglesong, previously shared with Moulton, will now be full time at Moravia.
Another new teacher at Moravia who will already know her way around is Wendy Alger. Alger, a new hire at Moravia in special education, started her career as exactly that: a new hire at Moravia in special education.
She and her husband, Randy Alger, currently the high school principal at Moulton-Udell, both took jobs at Moravia right out of college. She taught special education for a few years then secondary art for several more.
Then her father and her husband’s father were both diagnosed with cancer, and the family relocated to be near one or the other of them. Her husband was hired by the school system in Carroll, where she had grown up, in 1992.
The Algers intended to return to southern Iowa and retire on a piece of land they bought in the 1980s.
“We have no relatives, no family around here, but we love the area; we love the people,” she says. “This seems like home for us.”
In 2004, the Algers moved to their secluded spot in Wapello County. She says they do their best to keep the hustle and bustle of daily life from affecting their rural getaway.
“One of my sisters comes down here frequently just as her vacation spot, just to get away from all the hectic-ness and come and relax,” she says.
When they first returned, in 2004, Alger worked in Ottumwa for Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services and later the Area Education Agency as a special education consultant.
She says she wanted to get back into a school system to be around students.
“There was less time being spent working with students, and that was why I got into education,” she says.
Alger says she is looking forward to finding out how her students are connected to the students she had in the 1980s.
“I’m anxious to meet the kids of former students,” she says. “We have a lot of friends we have lost contact with over the years, and it will be a nice reunion.”
Moulton-Udell Community Schools
New personnel this year at Moulton-Udell include Caitlin Griffin, secondary English teacher; Casey Turner, pre-K through 12th grade band and vocal music teacher; and Dianna Davis, returning family and consumer science teacher.
Another new face is Michele Bellemare. Bellemare, the new first-grade teacher, moved to Centerville from Connecticut eight years ago with no thought of teaching.
“If you told me 10 years ago I would be a teacher, I would have laughed at you,” she says.
Bellemare, who worked in management at a convenience store chain, chose the area after visiting a friend and realizing life for her and her family could be more laid-back and fulfilling than in the Northeast.
But when she tried to get work with a convenience store chain here, her solid decade of experience ran up against expectation of a college degree. In the process of going back to school, she decided to become a teacher instead and earned an elementary education degree with endorsements in special education and reading.
For the past four years, Bellemare has volunteered through Americorps at Lakeview Elementary, which gave her teaching experience and some tuition relief. Last year she started a service learning club for Lakeview students and guided them as they developed and executed volunteer projects like recycling, cleaning school grounds and planting trees.
“Education is about building citizens, and Americorps is definitely teaching citizenship,” she says. “Even though they may be young, they are important members of the community.”
Bellemare says she is excited for the coming school year.
“I am just excited to be able to get out and mold my first-graders and teach them to love to learn and love to read and love math,” she says.
She met some of her students and their families over the summer, and says she looks forward to the high degree of family involvement at Moulton.
Bellemare says she strives to be the type of teacher she would want for her own sons.
“I don’t give up,” she says. “I am going to work as hard as I have to and if I can’t do something perfect the first time, that’s OK. It’s like with students; we want them to progress and learn and continue to grow.”
Centerville Community School District
Anthony Ryan, Centerville and Moulton-Udell superintendent, says one of the biggest changes at Centerville is new textbooks for the math and language arts curriculum for kindergarten through fifth grade.
“Teachers are excited about it; principals are excited about it,” Ryan says. “It has been long overdue to update some of our textbooks.”
Ryan says Centerville welcomes several hires this year. Many were previously in the district and were recalled this summer after layoffs last year. Those teachers include Laura DePrizio, special education at Lakeview Elementary; Sarah Zintz, sixth grade at Lakeview; and Jeri Bradley, kindergarten at Central Elementary.
Additionally, Sharon Brice is a new hire in high school math, and Megan Kirkland will be the new K-2 counselor and K-2 TAG teacher.
Two new administrators are Greg Fisher, the new assistant principal/activities director, and Rhonda Raskie, the new curriculum director, who is moving up from special education at the high school.
For Fisher, accepting the position of assistant principal/activities director at Centerville High School felt like his career coming full circle. His first job teaching science was at Mormon Trail Community School District, but he and his wife, Phyllis Fisher, lived in Centerville because of her job at the hospital here.
Fisher has been at several school districts since then and now finds himself back in Centerville.
His wife is living in Ames, where she serves as the clinical pathology laboratory manager at Iowa State University’s veterinary and medical center.
Fisher grew up around educators. His dad taught business, his uncle was a principal and another uncle was a guidance counselor.
“I had a family of educators — that is why I initially wanted to be an accountant,” he says.
Fisher had been studying accounting when he changed his mind about teaching. He and his wife volunteered with a little league softball team, and the experience of working with kids had a big impact on him.
“You see them accomplish something, and the look on their face, their happiness, is addictive,” he says. “I think that’s why I still do it.”
Fisher was a four-sport athlete in Eldora. He also participated in chorus and musicals, experience that will come in handy with his new position. Fisher is taking over parts of the duties of Rob Busch, but the title “athletic director” has changed to “activities director” and now includes overseeing fine arts as well as athletics.
After Mormon Trail, Fisher spent 12 years at Aplington-Parkersburg, where he and his wife mainly raised their two children. In 2005 he went to the North Cedar school district as a middle school principal.
Three years later, Fisher became high school principal in Charles City, his parents’ hometown. A year later, he left to become principal at Gilbert High School because of his wife’s job in Ames. After three years, he left the school district to work at John Deere but soon after lost his job in a layoff of 212 workers and decided to rejoin a school district.
Fisher says he is looking forward to his work at CHS.
“I think we have an opportunity to build some great things here,” he says.