When Kelilah Brown finished being a student at Newton High School in 2007, she didn’t know she’d be returning someday to teach there.
Brown was one of 33 new educators welcomed Tuesday at the Greater Newton Chamber of Commerce’s annual new teacher luncheon, at Newton DMACC. The Newton High School graduate was all smiles, like many at the event, though the NHS grads seemed especially happy to be welcomed as teachers at their alma mater.
“It’s really exciting,” said Brown, who left her position as Knoxville High School’s director of bands to take over as an assistant director with Newton’s high school and middle school band programs. “It’s fun to see so many familiar faces at the place where I’ll be working.”
There were slightly more teachers than usual hired by the Newton Community School District this year. This was due, in part, to the Teacher Leadership Compensation Grant, which allowed some teachers to apply for newly created leadership positions, leaving general teaching positions to be filled.
Chamber Director Amanda Price emceed the luncheon, with brief teacher appreciation remarks from various school officials and sponsors of the event.
Dr. Steven Rabedeaux of The Dental Practice, one of the event’s main sponsors, said it’s tough to place a value on education.
“The most valuable thing Newton produces isn’t wind blades or dentistry services,” Rabedeaux said. “The most valuable thing we produce is children.”
Newton Christian School, which has the highest enrollment in its history this year, has three new teachers this year — Martha Van Walbee, Mary Lothe and Carolyn Ansley — who were recognized at Tuesday’s event by dean of students Mary Patterson. Lothe wasn’t present.
Newton Community School District Superintendent Bob Callaghan then introduced the principals of each facility, who, in turn, introduced the new teachers or other certified staff at their campuses.
Newton High School Principal Bill Peters introduced math teacher Hannah Hemann, industrial technology teacher Derek Bair, chemistry teacher Jeff Richardson and science teacher Quin Knepper.
Berg Middle School Principal Lisa Sharp introduced fifth-grade teachers Kelly Krueger, Jen Wiebel and Alyssa Crosby, sixth-grade teachers Emily Svatosch and Shannon Roberts and eighth-grade math teacher Emily Julin.
Shelly Fitzgerald, who wasn’t at Tuesday’s luncheon, taught with Newton Schools for 20 years before earning her guidance counseling credentials and began working at Grinnell-Newburg High School last year. She is technically a new staff member to Berg, returning to be the grades 5 and 6 counselor.
Sharp will have assistant principals for both the grades 5-6 and the grades 7-8 sides of the middle school. Amy Shannon will be the grades 5-6 assistant principal.
Woodrow Wilson Elementary School Principal Todd Schuster introduced guidance counselor Jessica Marks, second-grade teachers Emilee Brisel and Hilary Nguyen and special education teacher Rebecca Taylor.
Thomas Jefferson Elementary School Principal Tom Bartello introduced fourth-grade teacher Rachelle Hyde.
Katie Craney will teach art at both Thomas Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson. Amanda Miller will be the library media and tech teacher for those two schools.
Aurora Heights Principal Jim Gilbert introduced special education teacher Laura Darnielle, third-grade teacher Jenny Jensen and guidance counselor Catherine Ferguson.
Emerson Hough is reopening as a regular elementary school this fall. Tuesday, Principal Jolene Comer introduced third-grade teachers Lauren Barrick and Madison Christy, fourth-grade teacher Brian Keeton and special education teachers Liz Mount and Melissa Randall.
Nicki Hornbaker will teach art at Aurora Heights and Emerson Hough.
Jenny Moore will work with the recently renamed Learning Opportunity Center — a disciplinary alternative program — as a success coach. She was introduced Tuesday by WEST Academy Principal Mike Moran.
Brown, one of six NHS graduates joining Newton Schools this year, said she knows how much her community loves to see its hometown educated students succeed and come back to contribute to the school system where they began.
“A lot of people seem excited to see us back here,” she said.
Contact Jason W. Brooks at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or firstname.lastname@example.org