In addition to new superintendent Susan Beeson, Centre school district has five new teachers.
Alex Cain of Marion teaches kindergarten. She graduated from Tabor College last spring with a degree in elementary education.
Cain has longtime familiarity with the school. Her mother, Marci Cain, has taught there for 27 years. Cain said she often spent time with her mother in her classroom.
“My mom is my best friend and my mentor,” she said. “I had four offers, but I told my mom, ‘I want to work with you.’”
Another plus was her student teaching experience at Centre.
“It helped with the transition, and I knew the other teachers would be a great support,” she said.
She noted that common core standards are advanced from when she was in kindergarten, but she thinks it is good.
“There is more emphasis on academics than on creative play,” she said. “Teaching is a new experience for me. I’ll be learning right along with my students.”
Cain is living at home while paying off debt, which is just fine with her. She said she enjoys spending time with her extended family.
“Sports is our big bonding,” she said. “There’s always some sporting event to go to.”
Kristen Phillips teaches fourth grade, a large class of 28 students. She grew up on a five-generation farm at Rozel, a town west of Great Bend.
Phillips has an associate’s degree from Coffeyville Community College and graduated from Emporia State University last spring with a bachelor’s degree in education.
She had an experience in fourth grade that provided inspiration for her own teaching style. She suffered a severe head injury and was homebound for several months.
“I had a teacher who came to my house and spent countless hours with me, getting me back up,” she said. “I struggled, but I progressed by leaps and bounds. It showed me that you do things out of the goodness of your heart.”
She got tears in her eyes when she talked about how, “by chance,” she ended up teaching fourth grade at Centre. Centre counselor Jill Day overheard her looking for an elementary school teaching job at a career fair in Emporia. Day grabbed her arm and told her about the job at Centre. She visited and accepted.
“I’m happy to be here,” she said. “One thing that is fabulous about this district is the community aspect. They are always helping each other.”
She said students don’t have homework now as they did when she was in school. She plans to emphasize hands-on project-based learning, which she enjoyed as a student.
Phillips lives on the late Carl Hedstrom farmstead west of Burdick. She has a horse named Rio, with which she competes in rodeos, and a dog named Bailey.
Amy Harms teaches kindergarten through 12th grade music. She was born in Nevada. Her father had gone to college in Kansas and liked the friendliness of the people, she said.
They later decided to move to Kansas, where she enrolled in Colby Community College and went on to graduate with a degree in music education from Kansas State University.
She has had nine years of teaching experience, the last six in the Rural Vista school district.
She likes teaching music.
“I have the best job in the world,” she said. “I get to play, sing, and dance all day long, and I get to help kids learn.”
She said the style of teaching music hasn’t changed much since she was in elementary school.
“I would say I’m more fun than my music teacher was,” she said.
She likes the bigger classes and the opportunity to inspire learning and appreciation of music. She is pleased so far with her experience at Centre.
“I think Centre will be a great place to work,” she said. “Everyone is friendly and helpful.”
Harms lives in White City. She has two sons, ages seven and five, who are attending Centre. The family has a dog named Chub-chub.
Wayne Rziha is a homegrown teacher who has a newly created position at Centre. He has experience as a substitute teacher, but this is his first year as a full-time teacher.
Officially known as a “7-12 at-risk” position, Rziha describes his job as “providing junior high and high school tutoring and enrichment.” He works in five classrooms and has three business classes and two science classes. He also is a mentor, or student-learning advocate, for Centre’s Kansas Online Learning Program.
Rziha grew up at Tampa and graduated from Centre in 1990. He has Bachelor of Science degrees in business communications and general science from Fort Hays State University.
Rziha served in the Roman Catholic Church for 15 years, working with youth and young adults and promoting vocations.
He was married in 2000 and has three children. The family was living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when his wife became ill and died in February 2011. His job ended that August. He worked as an insurance salesman for three years before deciding to move back to the area.
Rziha has a license to teach business at Centre while finishing a two-year “transition to teaching” program from Fort Hays. He plans to obtain a master’s degree in education.
“It’s nice to be back in my home community and close to family,” he said. “While it’s different being on the other end of the student-teacher relationship, there is still a sense of comfort in being in the same place and the same halls where I went to school.”
Rziha and his children — Cecilia, 12; Anthony, 10; and Daniel, 8 — live in the home of the late Margaret and Leo Jirak south of Tampa.
Jon Meyer is a first-year teacher in the ag department. He grew up at Parsons and graduated from Kansas State University last spring with a degree in ag education.
He teaches horticulture, ag welding, ag education, plant and soil science, and ag power and electricity. He also is an FFA sponsor.
Meyer didn’t grow up on a farm, but he was in 4-H since age seven. He enrolled in an ag class as a freshman because it fit into his schedule. He said his ag teachers inspired him to want to teach ag.
He said agriculture is seeing many changes, especially in technology.
“A lot of the research I learned about when I was in high school now is a reality,” he said.
He likes that every student has an iPad. He believes the technology now available to students will spark their interest in pursuing an ag career.
Meyer said he chose Centre because it is a smalltown community much like the one he came from.
“This has been one of the easiest transitions I’ve had into a new community,” he said. “Everyone has been so welcoming. I’m very excited.”
Meyer lives in a farm home two miles east of Lincolnville.