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Good Evening friend!
Gering Schools welcome new teachers
August 26, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
Editor’s note: This is our final installment of new teachers at the Gering Schools.

Jo McCoy – Northfield Counselor

Jo McCoy, who grew up in southwestern Iowa, is the new Counselor at Northfield Elementary School. Her Bachelor of Science degree is from Peru State College. She also has a Master of Education degree in School Counseling from the University of Idaho.

McCoy has been a counselor for the past 17 years, including 11 years in Oregon and the past six years at Bridgeport.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with children and I want all students to have a positive association with school,” she said. “I enjoy helping students that may struggle to feel connected and cared about at their school.”

She added it’s important to create positive relationships with students because they’ll feel more invested in learning and be able to achieve more.

“The staff has been incredibly friendly and welcoming,” McCoy said. “They have done an excellent job informing new staff of expectations and district information which can be overwhelming for a new staff member to navigate.”

Sarah Cline –
Lincoln Elementary 5th Grade

Sarah Cline is a first year certified teacher who earned her K-8 Elementary Education degree from Chadron State College.

“I enjoy working with students and helping them discover a new world through books, history, experimenting and problem solving,” she said. “I love that I’m able to help kids discover their talents and strengths.”

Her advice for students is to have fun learning about themselves and world around us. She said there will be challenges that will be met as the class works hard and helps each other.

“I like that Gering educators are a team focused on student growth,” she said. “I fee, that Gering values the whole child, as academics, behavior, and emotional well-being are addressed when educating students.”

JoAnn Wilson –
High School Business Education

JoAnn Wilson is from Yoder, Wyoming and graduated from Torrington High School. She holds a Master’s Degree in Education from Chadron State College and will teach Accounting, Personal Finance and Business Math at the high school.

Before coming to Gering, she taught high school business classes at Morrill for 16 years. “My first goal is to develop positive working relationships with students and staff,” she said. “My second goal is to develop engaging lessons and to create an interesting, safe learning environment for my students.”

Wilson is the oldest of eight siblings. She said when they would play school, she was always the teacher. “Teaching challenges me every day to be better than I was the day before. I’ve never found working with kids to be boring.”

Janeth Reyes Nunez –
High School Spanish

Janeth Reyes Nunez will be teaching Spanish at the high school this year. She grew up in Mexico City and has seven years of experience teaching English with the Ministry of Public Education in elementary, secondary and high schools. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education, with a specialty in English as a Foreign Language.

“I want to make my students really enjoy learning Spanish and about cultures where Spanish is spoken,” she said. “I hope my students will learn to speak Spanish in their everyday life situations.”

Nunez said she became a teacher because she enjoys the opportunity for people to learn new things. At Gering, she wants to improve her teaching practice through different experiences and to provide new ways of learning.

Katie Rice – High School and Freshman Academy English

Katie Rice, who grew up in Morrill, comes to Gering to teach English in the High School and Freshman Academy. Previously, she taught Middle School English for two years in Torrington. Her Bachelor’s degree is from the University of Wyoming and her Master’s degree is from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire.

“I started teaching when I was about 8 years old in the basement of my parents’ house,” Rice said. “Much to the dismay of my younger siblings, teaching has been my passion from very early on.”

Her philosophy is simple: every student can learn and everyone learns differently. “My goal is to convert as many non-believers as I possibly can that reading and writing are some of the most powerful tools that we possess,” she said.

Although she’s interviewed in many schools in both Nebraska and Wyoming, Rice said Gering has the friendliest, most welcoming staff she’s seen. “I’ve never met so many kind, helpful spirits in one building at the same time,” she said. Anyone who knows anything about a school knows the staff sets the climate for the building.”

She added her classroom is an open community and encourages parents to join in the rally for reading and writing.

Jodi Huddleston – Junior High 7th, 8th Grade Social Studies

Jodi Huddleston, who grew up in Scottsbluff, is a first time teacher. She will be teaching 7th and 8th grade social studies at the junior high school.

Huddleston earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History at the University of Alaska – Anchorage, and a Bachelor of Arts in Science in Secondary Education from Chadron State College. She also holds an endorsement in History.

“I’ve wanted to be a teacher since the 8th grade,” she said. “It’s a subject I really love and I’m hoping I can give my students an exciting experience in a subject that can sometimes seem boring.”

While teaching is a collective endeavor, Huddleston remembers the importance of every individual student. “Every child deserves a proper education in an environment that safe and respectful,” she said. “My goal is to provide all students with the best possible education and help them all individually.”

Pam Engstrom – Geil Elementary K-3 Special Education

Pam Engstrom brings 21 years of Special Education teaching experience to Geil Elementary School this fall, where she will work with grades K-3.

“I had a wonderful elementary teacher who inspired me to not only be my best, but also instilled the love of learning and teaching in me to help others be their best,” she said. “Being an outstanding teacher is something I aspire to be. It is my belief that an outstanding teacher must make sure that all students have access to learning and that the students make the most growth possible.”

Engstrom grew up north of Lake Minatare and graduated from Minatare High School. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in K-6 Elementary Education with endorsements in K-12 special education and K-12 English as a Learned Language. Her Master of Education degree is in Reading. Prior to coming to Gering, she taught Special Education for 17 years at Scottsbluff.

Engstrom added she hopes to establish a culture for learning where there are clear expectations for learning and student achievement. She plans to establish herself as a good communicator for her students, their parents, and other staff members.

“I’ve always associated Gering Public Schools as a district that is at the forefront of best teaching practices,” she said. “It’s a district that is committed to quality staff development for their teachers, and it’s viewed as a leader for other districts across the state.”

Lacy Helms – Junior High
Language Arts

Lacy Helms, who grew up in Alliance is another new teacher to Gering. She’s been assigned to the 7th and 8th grade to teach Language Arts. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Education with an endorsement in English.

“I became a teacher because one of my goals is to help students become great citizens in their communities,” she said. I’m excited to be a stepping stone in my students’ lives.”

As a new teacher, she wants students to know she cares about them and she’s there to help them grow in learning, while having fun doing it.

“I like that they have been very welcoming to me as a teacher and an individual,” she said about the school system. “I also like that whenever I have a question or may need help, there’s always someone to offer assistance.”

She reminded parents she’s always available if they have any questions or concerns.

Lori Peterson – Lincoln
Elementary 3rd grade

Lori Peterson, from Box Butte County, will be a 3rd grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary this school year. Her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education, with an endorsement in Early Childhood, is from Chadron State College. She also has a Master of Science degree in Elementary Education, with an endorsement in English as a Second Language, from Kansas State University.

After teaching four years in Sheridan County and in Kansas, she spent the past 12 years at Roosevelt Elementary in Scottsbluff.

Peterson said she’s excited to be teaching in the same district her children are attending. “The opportunity to influence the lives of children is a great responsibility and blessing,” she said. “Every child can learn and should be given every opportunity to learn.”

She hopes to make connections during the year as she sets high expectations for both herself and her students. “Gering Public Schools has the best interest of every child in mind and they strive to help each child be successful,” she said. “I love teaching and look forward to getting to know my students and their parents.”

Pam Shaylah Stephens –
Northfield Elementary 6th Grade

Gering native Shayla Stephens has spent the past three years teaching 7th grade Science and 8th grade in both Social Studies Study Skills at Dawes Middle School in Lincoln. This year, she’s back home to teach 6th grade at Northfield Elementary.

She received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary and Middle School Education from Doane University and is currently working toward a Master’s degree.

“This is the first time I’ve taught 6th grade in my career and I’m excited about this new chapter in my life,” she said. “It’s good to be teaching back in my hometown where I received a great education.”

She credits the Gering schools with helping set the foundation of who she is as a student. They helped create her passion for learning and she wants to do the same for her students.

Stephens said she wants to build strong relationships with her students and to take them from where they are to learning at the next level.

She also hopes students will teach her as much as she teaches them. “I’m excited to get to work with them and help prepare them for life by holding them to high expectations,” she said. “I want to help them become lifelong learners.”

Susie Hessler – Junior High
Special Education

Mitchell High School graduate Susie Hessler will teach Special Education at the junior high this year. Hessler has worked with individuals with disabilities for more than 10 years in both residential and vocational settings in Maryland. She’s been a substitute teacher in numerous schools and has also taught an introduction to psychology class at Western Nebraska Community College.

Hessler holds Bachelor’s degrees in K-12 Special Education and Human Services from Chadron State College. Her Master’s degree in Counseling/Psychology is from Bowie State University.
“This isn’t a new job for me,” she said. “It’s a job that feels and fits right and gives me the satisfaction that I have been searching for in working with individuals, families and communities. I give a voice to those who do not have one, or who have been unable to voice their wants and needs.”
Hessler has the heart of a teacher. Outside the classroom, she’s taught step, yoga, and weights classes for 15 years and has trained people in gyms for 10 years. “I love giving people insight, knowledge and understanding to what they want to do and where they want to go in life,” she said.

She also was very impressed with the organization, support structure, and communication she receives from the entire staff in the Gering schools. “If I had this much help in school as a kid, I think I would have enjoyed school so much more than I did as a teen and young adult,” she said.
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