Different experiences and different backgrounds define new teachers and staff at USD 408 this year, but all express the same sentiments. They are glad to be part of the Marion school district.
“This is such a cute little town,” said Wood, new art instructor for grades eight through 12. “I was a little nervous at first, but now I am really liking it here.”
Wood, who grew up in Macksville, taught art for grades seven through 12 in Nebraska last year. Prior to that, she graduated from Fort Hays State University with an Art major in painting and a minor in ceramics.
She said she really liked working in acrylics and one of her favorite subjects was horses.
“My goal here is to get the kids excited about art and have them win some awards at the league art contest,” Wood said.
Wood came to Marion because of the opportunity, plus she had relatives in the area.
“I have sisters living in Wichita, Emporia, and Lindsborg,” she said. “Here I am closer to all of them.”
In addition to traditional art classes, Wood is teaching photography and graphic design. Her class sizes range from six to 15 students.
Dani Lange also teaches art at Marion this year but at the elementary level. She started a half-time position in the afternoons last week, leading kindergarten through sixth grade students in artistic adventures.
“I just love being able to draw and learn with them,” Lange said. “I am very excited about being here and learning to know all their names.”
Lange, married to Jeremiah Lange, and mother of two, Sadie, and Keenan, will need to learn about 260 names in her new position.
“It is going to take a little while to learn them all,” she said. “But I have subbed a lot here in the past two years, so I already know a lot of them.”
Prior to coming to Marion in 2010, Lange taught at Temple City Elementary School in Pasadena, Calif. She graduated from college in Washington as an elementary education major with an art emphasis.
Michelle Flaming lives near Lehigh and makes a short 20-minute commute to Marion every day in her new position as Title I reading instructor. This is far easier than driving over an hour each day to ESSDACK offices in Hutchinson where she was formerly employed, and she is very happy to be back in the Marion school district after a 13-year hiatus.
“It feels so wonderful to be back,” Flaming said. “I taught sixth grade math and science and second grade here for five years. I am just really glad to be back.”
In addition to enjoying a shorter drive to work, Flaming said she also enjoyed working with children again.
“At ESSDACK I worked mainly with adults, doing in-service seminars for teachers,” she said. “Sometimes you wonder if you are really making a difference when working with adults. It’s just really good to be back in the classroom with the kids where I can actually see if I can make a difference.”
Flaming is a Marion County native, growing up in the Lincolnville area. She graduated from Centre High School, McPherson College, and Kansas State University en route to a master’s degree in computer-based education.
In addition to her work in Title I, Flaming also serves as the district’s curriculum coordinator.
Anita Hancock did not leave the district of her own choosing in 2010, but she is very glad to be back teaching vocal music to kindergarten through grade four students at Marion.
“I taught here for 21 years before they eliminated my job because of budget cuts,” Hancock said. “I have missed it so much and I feel so very much appreciated by students and other teachers now that I am back.”
For the past two years, Hancock stayed involved in music instruction giving private voice and piano lessons at the school, after regular hours. She also served as a substitute teacher.
“I didn’t want to leave in the first place,” she said. “It feels so good to be back in the classroom.”
Mark Felvus, new high school counselor, is also glad to be in Marion. He and his wife, Jennifer, moved to area this summer, renewing connections with family and friends.
“I came here for the opportunity,” Felvus said. “Mr. (Lee)Leiker sells this district better than anyone else I know. Plus, my wife has a brother-in-law at Tabor and a sister coaching in Hillsboro. It has just been a very good transition for us, with everything coming together.”
As USD 408 counselor Felvus said he was busy working with seniors to make sure they were on pace to graduate and to help them formulate future plans.
“It’s so important to start securing scholarships at this time and to make sure they are where they need to be as far as requirements for what they want to do next,” he said.
Felvus came to Marion from Clay Center where he was a full-time counselor at the elementary level. He also previously taught technology and coached several sports at Junction City Middle School.
He is a Kansas State University graduate with a degree in counseling.
Chris Barlow, formerly of Abilene, will direct instrumental music for grades five through 12 at Marion this year.
A 2012 graduate of Fort Hays State University, Barlow played the tuba and trumpet through his own school years. He now lives in Marion and is excited about sharing his band knowledge with students.
“I just can’t wait to get kids on board,” he said. “I want them to learn that band is not just a class. It’s an organization where we will have a lot of fun making music.”
Barlow student taught band at Cheney and is comfortable teaching at Marion.
“I am very excited to be at Marion,” he said. “I saw the job open last spring. I like the size of school and it’s a great district.”
Megan Thomas, who lives east of Marion with husband Joel and their 2-year-old daughter, Rylee, began teaching business classes for grades nine through 12 at USD 408 this year.
A graduate of Emporia State University, she commuted for five years to Northern Heights High School in Lyon County to teach business classes before taking the position at Marion.
“I will be teaching banking and finance, webpage design, graphic design, and entrepreneurship,” Thomas said. “A goal I have is to help students create a business plan to open a school store or coffee-shop in the library someday.”