OMS has three new teachers

Mindy Carls
Susan Monahan
Sean Shepard
Brad Cirks

Orion Middle School students will meet three new teachers this year.

Brad Cirks replaces Dan Diamond as a physical education and health teacher. In the math department, Sean Shepard will teach sixth grade in place of Brandon Wilkerson, and Susan Monahan will step into the eighth grade classroom in place of the retired Beth Galliart.

Brad Cirks

He graduated from Aledo High School in 1992. At Eastern Illinois University, he received a bachelor of science degree in P.E. and health, and at Western Illinois University he earned a master of science degree in health.

His previous teaching experience includes three years at Camelot Therapeutic Day School in Moline.

“I have always enjoyed educating teens and seeing how much of a difference I can make in their lives,” Cirks said.

He’s hardly new to Orion.

“I know the district and students well because I’ve been a football and track coach in the district for 22 years,” he said.

Cirks is looking forward to “teaching P.E. and health to the athletes I coach and building stronger relationships with them.”

He said the most challenging part of the position will be “making sure I relax and understand that my first year at Orion is supposed to be fun and informative, and not to stress too much about being new.”

Susan Monahan

She graduated from J.D. Darnall (now Geneseo High School) in 1994.

Monahan earned two bachelor of science degrees, one in education specializing in middle school mathematics from Western Illinois University and the other in sociology from Illinois State University. She has a master’s in sociology from Illinois State.

She was a substitute teacher in the Orion and Geneseo school districts from the spring of 2018 to the spring of 2021. She was a student teacher at OMS in spring of 2021.

“There is not one thing that I would say told me that I should pursue a career in education, but part of life’s journey is finding what is my passion and what makes me happy,” Monahan said. “After spending a little over 12 years in Corporate America and not being fully happy or satisfied with my life choice, I had the opportunity to try something different: teaching. My mother is the one that encouraged me to try substitute teaching.

“The joy and happiness I have experienced inspiring and teaching these students is something that I had not known existed,” she said. “Furthermore, the inspiration and wonderful personalities that these students have shown me moves me more than I can express with words.

“Over the past several years, I have been a substitute teacher in the Orion school district,” Monahan said. “During this time, substitute teaching at C.R. Hanna and the middle school, I have fallen in love with these students and teaching. I have always had a passion for mathematics and finding this position open in this district was a dream come true.

“I am looking forward to getting to know the students and helping them to learn the mathematical concepts and principles they will need to be successful,” she said. “The most challenging part of this position will be the unknown. I am prepared for having fun teaching these students, but it is the unknown that will be the most challenging. However, I am confident I have the skills and great support at the school and home to conquer anything that is thrown my way.

“Today’s mathematics students are expected to learn more information at an earlier age,” she said. “I have noticed that the things that I learned in high school are now being taught in the middle school and this trickles down into the elementary school. This is why I like to create a stress-free environment where students know that it is okay to make mistakes and ask questions.

“I believe in a teaching pedagogy that incorporates teacher-led and student-led instruction along with small group classwork,” Monahan said. “I believe that with a little imagination, lesson plans can include activities for learning mathematics fun, engaging, and relevant to the world around us.”

Sean Shepard

He graduated from Bureau Valley High School in 2015. Shepard received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from St. Ambrose University.

He was a student teacher in second grade at Hopewell Elementary School and at eighth grade at Pleasant Valley Junior High School in 2021.

“I chose education as a career because many of my family members work in a school setting and I wanted to be like my junior high math teacher,” Shepard said. “I chose the Orion district because it is close to my family.”

He is looking forward to having good relationships with his students, their parents and all of his colleagues.

“The most challenging thing will be getting the students excited about learning math,” Shepard said. “I am excited to start my first year at Orion.”