This past week I intentionally reserved time on my calendar to meet individually with the new teachers who are joining our team in August. This was a good use of my time as it allowed me to form connections and communicate a critical message that they are welcomed and valued as part of our learning community. It was great to learn more about each of them, hear the excitement in their voices, answer their questions, and understand why they have chosen Shenandoah CSD as the place to be in Iowa.
Talking with these staff members was a highlight of my week. They are full of enthusiasm and ready to start the year. It was encouraging to visit with some of the teachers who are familiar with the district as they are former graduates, previous staff members, or live in the general area. There are some who are new to the community and are just settling into Shenandoah. They are looking for housing, learning where things are at, seeking out recreation and social opportunities, and trying to find childcare just like the rest of us have done when we have relocated.
Allow me to introduce them to you.
Zach Dotzler is from Harlan, IA and will be teaching High School Language Arts and assisting with the speech program. He was in the band at Harlan High School, but he is now a Mustang at heart.
Jennifer Edie has been teaching preschool in Red Oak, IA. She will be joining our staff as a second grade teacher. Her experience with early childhood will be a great addition to the team.
Alisha Fleck relocated to Shenandoah with her family from the Maple Valley, IA, area this summer and will be teaching Biology at the High School. Her son will be in second grade.
Jamie Geho previously taught in South Dakota. She will be teaching fourth grade. Moving here from out of state is a big, important decision in her life and we are glad she chose us. She has some good background in Crisis Prevention Intervention which will be an asset to the district.
Lindsey Lundgren was formerly on our staff as an Agriculture teacher and will now be teaching Science at the High School and Middle School.
Vanessa Keenan is from Atlantic, Iowa. She will be joining us as a fourth grade teacher. I have to admit seeing her wear a Univerisity of Northern Iowa shirt in Shenandoah, IA, made me smile.
Holly Martin is from Shenandoah and filled in as a long-term substitute teacher at the Middle School last year. She will be teaching special education at the Middle School. She is a Shenandoah CSD graduate. It is good to have her on staff full time.
Tahrae "Rae" Metzger is from Shenandoah and has been teaching early childhood in a different part of the state. We are glad to see her return home and join our preschool team. She has a lot of family in the area who are also glad to see her back.
Tiffany Stanton will be joining us from Offutt Airforce Base to teach special education students with behavioral challenges at the High School. This has been a difficult position to fill. It is difficult to find teachers with the right type of training and teaching license to meet this need. We are looking forward to growing our Special Education services in this area.
Nicholas Stuart is from Millard, NE. He has experience teaching in Franklin, NE and also at Boys & Girls Town. He will be teaching Social Studies at our High School and Middle School and also serving as our assistant High School football coach.
Jackie Sunderman is from Pella, Iowa. She has family in the Clarinda area she wanted to be near. She will be teaching Kindergarten.
Danielle Terry student taught in Shenandoah and then accepted a position in Creston, Iowa where she taught last semester. We are glad to have her back in our system to teach first grade.
Kady VanFossen is from South Page which means she is close to home and we are pleased she will be teaching special education at the elementary.
This was Don and me three years ago. We were thankful to have staff and community members who reached out to support us and help us make the transition. Jon Weinrich, Ryan Spiegel, and Jon Skillern were at our doorstep ready to help us unload the truck before we even pulled in the driveway. Others helped us find different things we needed in town and helped us make many connections to the school and community that helped us feel welcome and supported as we made the transition. We most certainly appreciated their efforts and knew this was a good place to be because of the kindness they expressed.
As a system, we will provide an intensive orientation program and mentors to support these new teachers. These are good things to do that help staff acclimate to their new roles. I also have found that it is the simple things that matter the most to new staff. It is the invitation to sit with someone at lunch, a meeting or school activity that helps people know they are welcome. It feels good to be included and lessens the anxiety of being the "new" person. Let's work together to support our new teachers, help them to feel included, welcomed, and valued as a part of the Shenandoah community and school district.