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Fleet of new faculty members at Marion school

Staff writer

At the beginning of every school year, it is typical to see a few new teachers around the halls.

Marion’s middle and high schools upped the ante for fall 2018, hiring six new teachers, an athletic director, and a guidance counselor. They come to Marion schools from across the state, some right out of college and some with a decade of experience.

Christian Cooper

Christian Cooper is a self-described nerd, who likes to use his imagination, whether playing games or music.

“I’m into Dungeons and Dragons, which is something that’s making a comeback,” he said. “D and D is so much fun and I think everyone should give it a try.”

While he likes to build the world around him in games, he prefers music he can deconstruct.

“I’m a huge music theory nerd too, I really like music theory and early-20th Century is my favorite,” he said. “That’s when people stopped paying attention to what had been the rules for the last 400 years and started exploring.”

“I’ve known ever since I was in middle school that I wanted to go in music,” Cooper said. “I had to decide what in music I wanted to do.”

According to him, his high school band teacher knew Cooper would eventually find his way to the conductor’s stand.

“I was like, ‘I’m not going to be a band director,’” he said. “But as soon as I got to college and I was talking to my advisors, I was like, ‘You know what, I’ll give music ed. a try.’”

Cooper, who went to school with Gfeller at Bethany, said seeing a former classmate in the halls helps with getting acclimated.

“It’s just nice to see a familiar face,” Cooper said. “I’m not just totally surrounded by people that I don’t know.”

Kyle Gfeller

To recent graduate Kyle Gfeller, teaching isn’t just a monologue, it should be a symbiotic relationship.

“I want it to be fun for them, I want it to be fun for me,” he said. I don’t want to just read off a PowerPoint.”

According to Gfeller, Marion was almost too far from Bethany College for him to do his student teaching.

“I knew I wanted a small school and this was inside the mile radius,” he said.

Gfeller was familiar with Marion since his aunt and uncle live in the area. After doing his student observation in Salina, he knew he preferred a smaller setting.

Gfeller, who graduated with a physical education degree and social studies endorsement, said kinesiology was the biggest surprise. He was originally terrified of kinesiology, which is the study of the body’s muscles and how they move.

“I just felt like the bones and the muscles were so interesting,” he said. “It probably was my favorite class.”

He especially enjoyed the final exam, where he recorded a systematic breakdown of himself kicking a football.

Riley Hill

Shakespeare, Robert Frost, F. Scott Fitzgerald. In high school, literature usually belongs in the English room.

Riley Hill is out to show her students that is not the case.

“I think it’s important for kids to know that literature isn’t just books,” Hill said. “There’s film literature, media literature, it’s everything.”

Her passion for the craft blossomed during her first year of high school when she took an American film literature class.

“We learned about the history of film, things like Charlie Chaplin,” Hill said. “That really just drew me in. I took that course all four years of high school, even though it only counted once.”

Eventually, Hill would like to expand the reach of literature at Marion and take it beyond the English room.

“My future goal would be to be able to teach an American film literature course at Marion,” Hill said. “I’d like to be able to integrate that because then all ages, freshman through seniors, could take that as credit.”

Ellie Klenda

Change can be good. Keeping busy can be good. High school science teacher Ellie Klenda is seeing plenty of each.

She moved to Marion after four years of teaching in Arkansas City, where she grew up.

“It seems a lot smaller,” Klenda said. “It’s been nice because it’s quieter.”

She taught middle school science in her hometown, but knew she preferred working with high schoolers because of her student teaching.

“They’re not as rowdy as the middle schoolers,” Klenda said. “They’re more subdued.”

She will be teaching biology, physical science and chemistry at Marion. Her passion for science began during her own days in the high school science lab.

“Probably when we were doing dissections in high school,” she said. “It was just really interesting to me.”

In addition to the move and adjusting to the new school, Klenda also has a one-year-old son.

Despite everything to keep her busy, she feels very welcomed by those around her.

“It seems like people are really friendly here and they’re willing to help when you need it,” she said.

Taylor Minihan

For Taylor Minihan, becoming the new guidance counselor at Marion high school is more than the next step in her career. It’s about coming home.

“I saw this job opening and was really excited to come back to Marion,” she said.

Minihan graduated from Marion in 2012 and went to Kansas State University to pursue a bachelor’s in human services and family studies, with minors in leadership studies and animal science.

After graduating in 2016, she worked for the Kansas Department of Agriculture almost a year, but went back to school to pursue a master’s degree in school counseling.

“I really loved it there and learned a lot,” Minihan said. “But I really felt a purpose in working with students and really loved the school setting.”

According to Minihan, there are three primary facets to counseling — being the mediator when conflicts arise, helping students search for colleges or careers, and making sure they are academically on track.

That’s part of why I went into counseling,” she said. “I love finding out what people are really interested in and what their passions are as well.”

“I learned a lot from working in KDA and from where I grew up,” she said. “You know, we have a lot of kids maybe interested in agriculture, I can help with that as well.”

Judy Noller

Noller is another Emporia State graduate with more than a decade of prior experience.

She and her husband moved to the area in 2003, but since there were no openings for a math teacher, she took a position at Remington High School.

After working there for 15 years, she transitioned to Marion to teach Algebra I and Geometry.

Noller enjoys math as a whole, but her favorite is geometry.

“I just think you can use it more out in the real world,” she said. “There’s just so much of it, I think I took three courses of it in college.”

For her, becoming a teacher was not planned, but she was always good at it and her father taught the subject.

“Normally, if you just show that you have a passion for the subject area and the kids see that, it kind of builds to that,” she said. “Most kids either love math or don’t like it very well, so if you can show them how it’s useful and how you like it, maybe it’ll rub off on them.”

Outside the classroom, Noller will be keeping it geometric by working on the softball diamond as the new coach.

“I walked on for softball at Emporia State, so I have some experience,” Noller said.

Brian Schuh

Some people are born knowing what they want to do when they grow up. New athletic director Brian Schuh is one of them.

“I just always wanted to be a coach of some sort, from the time I was really young,” Schuh said.

Doing well on the field is important to Schuh, but so are respect and integrity.

“I think we measure success more by how we compete than wins and losses,” Schuh said.

For him, it was the time at Emporia State University where Schuh first had the opportunity to test his coaching abilities.

“I coached wrestling when I was in college still, that was a big turning point for me,” Schuh said.

His order of priorities shifted considerably, since Schuh no longer focused solely on his own performance.

“It’s a lot more important to see them succeed than to see me succeed,” he said.

At the same time, there was a shift in Schuh’s personal life. He had two sons while student-teaching and has had two more since.

Having the opportunity to coach his sons bears extra meaning and he encourages his athletes to spend time with family.

“That’s what I told the kids I was teaching, ‘Go out and do something with your parents,’” Schuh said. “So I do the same with my family.”

Jasper Shrake

New vocal music teacher Jasper Shrake did not want to be a teacher in high school. He didn’t even lean toward teaching through most of college.

“I didn’t decide I actually wanted to teach until my student teaching,” he said. “I was an extremely late bloomer.”

The one who made him realize his desire for teaching was the band director at Topeka from his time student teaching.

According to him, his mentor-teacher in Topeka was one of the first positive male role models in his life, and he encouraged Shrake to pursue education.

Shrake originally filled out the application for band director at Marion, but when he was offered the choral position, he accepted.

“It’s like the sciences,” Shrake said. “You might not be an expert on astronomy, if you’re a doctor, then you’re obviously smart enough to figure it out.”

He has more than just the knowledge to teach, he also plays monthly shows in Topeka with his jazz band, the Jasper Shrake quartet.

“It’s the way that I pretty much paid my bills through senior year of college,” he said.

To Shrake, teaching music is about more than Marion.

“It’s just furthering music in America,” he said. “I like getting people together and just letting the music do the work.”

Last modified Aug. 16, 2018

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