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Marion teachers identify with local atmosphere

Staff writer

Marion’s new teachers have been hired to guide students in a variety of subjects, yet they all share ties to small-town Kansas communities.

“I always loved the small-town feeling and community support, so I’m very happy to be in Marion,” middle school social studies teacher Austin Murphy. “When I came here that was what I was looking for, that small-town feeling and a family. I’ve really found that at Marion Middle School.”

Donald Raymer steps in as Marion High School’s principal after two years as principal for grades six to 12 at Centre. Already living in Marion, with his wife working for Marion school district, he viewed it as a chance to bring his family together.

“Driving the 20 miles with little kids each day was tough, and my wife worked in this district,” he said. “It was an opportunity to become a family in one place and give my kids an opportunity down the road.”

When taking the new position, Raymer felt it was important to try leaving Centre in a better place than when he arrived.

“It was a tough decision,” he said. “I loved my time at Centre. I appreciated everything they did for me, giving me an opportunity, and they were very supportive.”

Middle school counselor Alli Rice grew up in Moundridge and that proximity was a key factor in choosing Marion.

Friends of Rice’s family live in Marion, which is helpful, but the atmosphere she’s experiencing is about more than a few friends.

“Once I started coming to the school regularly and meeting all the teachers, it’s like everyone is a longtime family friend,” she said. “Everyone wants to help and is willing to bend over backward for anything I might need or to answer any questions I have.”

Rice isn’t Marion’s only incoming faculty member with ties to Moundridge.

Elementary gym teacher Corey Graber also is from Moundridge but he has spent five years teaching in southwestern Kansas. The move to Marion was about finding the right time.

“My dad just retired and my brother moved to Topeka, so it was about being closer to everybody,” he said.

Having grown up in a farming family in Onaga, high school communications teacher Adam Gudenkauf understands when struggles arise.

“I’m used to the nuances of trying to get harvest out of the way early,” he said. “I know students schedules aren’t going to be on-par with how school is going to be. I can look at some of these things and try to work with them.”

Shawna Hake has lived in Marion since the 1990s. Her career as a teacher began with Marion County Head Start, and she began working the county special education cooperative in 2004.

More recently, however, Hake wanted a change and accepted the job as Marion Elementary’s preschool teacher.

“I’ve wanted to get back to my own classroom,” she said. “That’s kind of my motivation to change.”

Hake enjoys being able to see new students with familiar names after two decades of living in Marion.

“I’m seeing children of my students,” she said. “I find it interesting and fun that I can say, ‘Hey, I had your mom.’ ”

Of the several staff members joining the fold, only Rice is stepping into a newly-created role.

“Marion Middle School hasn’t had the opportunity to have a full-time counselor up until this point,” she said. “I’m really excited to engage with students. It’s going to be a learning experience for all of us.”

Rice is working under a provisional license until she receives her master’s degree next spring.

“It’s definitely busy and time-consuming on both ends,” she said. “It’s actually been a great learning opportunity because I’m able to apply everything I’m learning while at school during the day to my classes, and vice versa. It’s awesome to share with some of my classmates how we’re doing things.”

Murphy also was working with students while earning his degree, coaching football at Wichita Independent while attending college at Wichita State University.

“It took an extra level of commitment, but I felt like it was necessary to not only coach but teach in the classroom as well,” he said. “It gave me an opportunity to interact with young people while being a young person myself.”

Gudenkauf thinks his theater experience and interest in science fiction are assets. He plans to integrate them into his teaching, not just as forensics coach, but in his classroom as well.

“I’m trying to develop that interest in fiction, as well as the nonfiction applications,” he said. “With sci-fi you can look at the development of all those technologies. How could they occur?”

Graber found what helped him integrate with students in the past was participating in events, whether helping at games or going to school concerts.

“It helps to get you out there and be more visual with them,” he said. “They see that you’re not just at school. You’re doing things outside so they can see you’re there for them.”

Last modified Aug. 27, 2020

 

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