Welcome faculty and staff - Six new faces at Central Schools

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By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

Classes being today at Central Community Schools and in addition to new room assignments, new classes and new routines, students will find a few new faces, as well. The district has hired four teachers, a school nurse and a social worker.

Meghan Bergan is the district’s new school nurse. For her, the job is a true homecoming: Meghan grew up on a farm outside Elkader and is a Central High School graduate. She earned her undergraduate degree in nursing at Mount Mercy College (now Mount Mercy University). After receiving her BSN, she returned to Northeast Iowa and worked as a nurse.

Meghan and her husband, Andrew, have two daughters, Adalynn, who is three-years-old and 11-month-old Cameryn.

“Elkader has always been where we both wanted to settle down and grow a family; so when the school nurse opportunity opened up, it was a very exciting prospect,” said Meghan. “Knowing that I could have a job close to home, in a small rural community that I’ve known my whole life, and allow me to spend time with children everyday motivated me to apply for the job.”

Meghan is looking forward to getting to know her new co-workers, students and families. “One thing I hope to accomplish this year is to get a routine down that will make me feel more confident about knowing all parts of my job,” she added.

Central’s new vocal music instructor is Brandon Davis, a recent graduate of Simpson College where he studied music education. Despite a rigorous academic schedule, he found time to perform in 11 operas/musicals and as a member of four ensembles. He did his student teaching in Des Moines, where he covered K-5 music at an elementary school and worked with 9-12 ensembles at a high school.

Brandon is a native Iowa who grew up in Burlington, Cedar Rapids, and Mount Vernon. Elkader is the smallest town he’s lived in.

“When I first arrived into town for the interview, I was taken aback by the beautiful countryside,” Brandon said. “As a kid, my Boy Scout troop camped up here a few times, and there was always some sort of connection with myself and nature. I immediately loved the area I would be working in.”

Brandon gave the school district high marks for including students in the interview process. “That left a major impression on me as a lot of schools I know of don’t include students. I can tell when a school really cares about their students when they include them in the decision-making process for one of their future teachers,” he added. 

Brandon’s greatest goal for the school year is to create an environment in which students learn but also have fun. “I want to get to know them as well as I can, I want them to make some wonderful music, earn some awards, learn a lot, but I mainly want them to enjoy making music together as a group and on their own,” he added.

Chicago native Nick Hirka is the district’s new high school and middle school English teacher. He’ll also be supervising the student newspaper, The Tatler. Nick graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He resides in Decorah and prior to accepting his new position, he taught for five years in Lansing.

Nick’s initial impressions on the town and school have been favorable: “Central seems to have a really committed and supportive staff and administration,” he said. “I have enjoyed my time in town. Locals have been friendly and welcoming. I enjoy the hum of Main Street, especially for a small town.”

Since he’s worked in a similarly sized community, Nick knows the challenges and rewards of teaching in a rural school. “I look forward to the community familiarity that so quickly develops in districts of this size,” he said. “It is rewarding especially to be familiar enough to witness kids essentially growing up right before me. The only real challenge is that it can be difficult to undo or change a class dynamic once or develops enough. This isn’t usually a bad thing, but it can alter classroom dynamics for years.”

Nick lists developing meaningful, productive relationships with students and connections to the community as priorities for his first year.

Also returning to the area is Trevor Hunt, a 2010 Ed-Co graduate who earned his K-12 physical education degree at Upper Iowa University. He did his student teaching at Central, where he helped with the high school football and junior high boys’ basketball programs, as well. More recently, he was the PK-12 PE and Health Teacher, Head HS Football Coach, and Assistant HS Track Coach at Seymour Community School in southern Iowa. At Central, he will teach physical education and coach.

“Being from the area originally, I was already familiar with the school and community, especially with my time student teaching and coaching,” Trevor said. “The support for the school both academically and athletically is great. Now that I am back, I have felt really welcomed. Everyone has been supportive and seems excited to have me be a part of the school and community. I also appreciate all the help people have given me in trying to find a place to live.”

“Working in school districts like this one is great because you actually get to know your students and coworkers,” he continued. “At bigger schools, you don’t always get that connection or chance to know everyone. As far as challenges, I worked at a school smaller than Central that was hit by a tornado this past March, causing us to finish the school year in an old care center. PE was taught either in the dining room or on the streets. How much more challenging can it get?”

Trevor is looking forward to a great year in the classroom, on the football field and on the basketball court.

The school’s new social is Heather Lechtenberg. She is also a Northeast Iowa native. Heather grew up in Elgin and graduated from the Valley Community School District. She earned an undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of Northern Iowa, and a master’s in marriage and family therapy at Mount Mercy University. She now lives in Clermont with her husband, Eric, and 14-month-old daughter, Ellie.

“This is my first position in the school setting and I am very excited to begin this new adventure,” Heather said. “Everyone at the school has been extremely gracious and welcoming. I am looking forward to exploring the beautiful community in the near future. My hope this year is that I meet and get to know as many of the students as possible.”

Central College graduate and Ackley native Alyssa Cobie-Nuss is Central’s new guidance counselor. She also earned a master’s in counseling at UNI. Education careers run in her family: Alyssa’s husband, Tracy Nuss, teaches at North Fayette Valley.

“I applied to Central because I wanted to be able to continue to work in the area and Central’s mission and values aligned with my own,” Alyssa said. “I have also loved Elkader since I first visited when we arrived in the area. I love its charm and the amount of shops, restaurants, and things to do! My first visit involved fishing on the river with my husband! Everyone at the school has been very welcoming so far as well!”

“Working in a small district is not new for me,” she continued, adding that she previously worked as a paraeducator at NFV High School, the Downtown Academy alternative school, and Peet Junior High in Cedar Falls. “However, working in the capacity my job entails will be challenge! I am the school counselor for the whole district, meaning in one day I will go from giving a guidance lesson in an elementary classroom, to teaching a middle school hex class, to helping high schoolers plan classes and life after Central, to meetings with students, teachers, and administrators! Yet, to be able to follow students throughout their school years and watch them grow will be a great reward!”

The Register joins the rest of the Central community in welcoming our new faculty at staff!

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