The new school year brings with it several new faces as over 30 people join Fairbury Public Schools to begin preparing the next generation for a bright future.
On Friday, the Fairbury Chamber of Commerce hosted a meet and greet event at the Elks Lodge for members of the community to welcome the new faculty and staff members of Fairbury Public Schools. Chamber President Jill Davis explained that they have been hosting this event for several years, and it has always been successful.
“It’s really a nice way for the new teachers to get to know other people in the school and in the community,” said Davis. “It’s a great way for people in the community to get to see who is teaching the kids as well.”
Davis believes that it is important for the event to be hosted at the Elks Lodge so that the new faculty and staff can connect with the community and see what organizations are available for them to join.
“It’s nice just to have them feel welcome in the community,” said Davis. “Sometimes, you move into a place, and if you’re a young teacher, you might not know anyone. So I think it’s very important for people to be active in their community.”
Davis emphasized how thankful she was to have many local businesses sponsor the event. She noted that many of them donated items for the new faculty and staff so that they can feel welcome to Fairbury.
The new faculty and staff members include some first-year teachers, as well as experienced teachers. They are: Derek Andersen, Activities Director/Assistant Principal at Fairbury Jr./Sr. High School; Patty Smith, Principal at Central Elementary School; Ashton Feldkamp, science; Logan Katz, business; Tammi Mans, family consumer science; Brandee Goosman, kindergarten and first grade teacher, looping; Mikayla Schroeder, second grade; Becky Urian, fifth grade; Taylor Lyons, sixth grade; Megan Pachta, Chance; Travis Steinhoff, physical education; Trevor Kern, vocal music; Hannah Pahre, kindergarten through fourth grade vocal music; Megan Oswald, preschool; Brittany Talbot, preschool; Andrea Hynek, Jefferson Intermediate Secretary; Hillary Christ, Step Ahead preschool; Amanda Snook, Step Ahead Preschool; Megan Katz, Central special education (SPED) para; Sarah Torkelson, Central Title I para; Kim Ruhnke, Central SPED para; Trish Vculek, Jefferson SPED para; Naomi Lutze, Jefferson SPED/English Language Learners para; Becky Meredith, Jefferson Title I para; Jeanne Novotny, LIFE SPED para; Rosie Hill, LIFE sign language interpreter; Jessica Parker, LIFE SPED para; Melissa Brown, LIFE SPED para; Patty Swartz, Teammates Coordinator; Kim Tracy, cafeteria; Deb Hein, cafeteria; Brenda Williams, cafeteria; Jolleen Kuhl, maintenance.
Superintendent Stephen Grizzle believes that these new educators and other staff members will help to improve the quality of education at Fairbury Public Schools.
“We’ve got a mix of first-year teachers and experienced teachers,” said Grizzle. “When we set out to hire teachers, we want to hire the best teachers possible. We’re really trying to find the teachers with good character who will be good role models for our students. We’re fortunate this year to have a couple of teachers who are returning home. They graduated from Fairbury, so we’re excited to have them back in the community.”
Grizzle encourages the new teachers to stay active in the community. He noted that a number of the student organizations have taken an active role in Fairbury through service projects and other activities. He hopes that this engagement will continue, and he hopes that other administrators will lead by example to keep Fairbury Public Schools active in the community.
Although some of the first-year teachers may be overwhelmed at first, Grizzle encourages them to not give up. He offered some advice to those teachers.
“The best advice that I have to offer to teachers is to care,” Grizzle said. “Build those relationships, and never be afraid to ask questions. If you do those three things, I think you’re going to set yourself up for a successful year.”
Becky Urian, who is originally from Delaware, will be teaching fifth grade this year. Although this is her first year teaching, she explained that she has always wanted to be involved in education.
“I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to be an educator since I was a little girl,” said Urian. “I’ve never wanted to be anything else. Teaching kids is just a passion of mine.”
Urian brings with her a great amount of practicum and student teaching experience. She believes that Fairbury’s schools are a perfect match for her.
“When I saw that there was an opening at Jefferson, I was really excited,” Urian said. “The interview lasted like two hours, and after I left the interview, I just knew that it was the right fit and Jefferson Intermediate was where I was supposed to be.”
She emphasized that her goal at Fairbury Public Schools is to shape the lives of the next generation.
“I just want to have a lasting impact on their lives,” said Urian. “My philosophy on education is that parents send their kids to school every day, and our job as educators is to send them home better than the way they came. It’s my job to do that, and I can’t wait to do that. I want to impact their lives because I know my teachers impacted my life and molded me into the person I am today.”
Grizzle is glad to have this new group of faculty and staff at Fairbury Public Schools, and he hopes that the quality of education offered in Fairbury will continue to increase.
“We’re just really excited to have a new group,” said Grizzle. “We’ve got two new administrators this year, and we’re glad to have them come into the district. I think it’s just going to be a fantastic year. Our fall sports season this year is also really setting off to be a fantastic opportunity for improvement. It could be a great start to the school year. There are a lot of new things at Fairbury this year!”