New teachers start school year

Lisa Depies
Teachers new to the Geneseo School District and new Henry-Stark?Special Education employees who will work in Geneseo were honored at a luncheon Aug. 13 at Grace?United?Methodist Church. Pictured are, front row, from left:?Megan Ernst, Caleb Graff, Kyle Bess, Nick McCauley and Tim Gronski. Middle row, from left:?Stephanie Miller, Allie Minnaert, Sarah Stafford, Alesha Arndt, Melanie Henderson and Ashley Stern. Back row, from left:?Jackie Call, Lyndsey Robbins, Joni Nelson and Sue Johnson. Not pictured is Nathan O’Dell.

The 2010-11 school year in Geneseo started Aug. 17 with several new faces. Thirteen new educators have joined the district. New staff members include:

Alesha Arndt

Alesha Arndt teaches music at Millikin and Northside. Originally from Janesville, Wis., Arndt graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. This is her first year of teaching.

“I chose to work in the Geneseo School District because of its high quality of standards and education for all students and because of the technology available for use in the classroom,” she said.

“The Geneseo community values its music and arts programs in the schools, and I was happy to accept this position where my work as a music teacher would be valued. I am very appreciative of all the friendly and helpful residents of Geneseo who have welcomed me to the community,” she said.

Arndt said she’s looking forward to sharing her love of music with her students and building relationships with the pupils and their families.

Kyle Bess

Kyle Bess teaches career and technical education at Geneseo?High School, including power and transportation, cooperative education and introduction to woods classes. He also will assist with the football and baseball programs at GHS.

Originally from Charleston, Bess attended Eastern Illinois University. A first-year teacher, Bess completed his student teaching in the building trades department at Mattoon High School.

“What really drew me to the (Geneseo) community was the support for all things within the district. Academics, athletics and the arts are all equally important at Geneseo High School and across the district. This in turn helps to create well-rounded individuals upon graduation,” said Bess. “I look forward to continuing and being a part of the many traditions that Geneseo High School has.”

Caleb Graff

Caleb Graff teaches American history and American government and politics at Geneseo High School. A native of Buena Vista, Colo., Graff graduated from Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn.

Graff recently completed his student teaching at Blaine High?School in Blaine, Minn.

He said he decided to come to Geneseo after being impressed by “the compassion and dedication of all the staff who I had the pleasure of meeting in my interview process.”

Graff said he looks forward to “building relationships with my students” and said he hopes to inspire them “to reach new levels of educational success.”

Tim Gronski

Tim Gronski teaches cooperative education, accounting, Web design, computer concepts and computer programming at Geneseo High School. He also will coach sophomore baseball and freshman basketball. Originally from South Chicago, Gronski lives in Bettendorf, Iowa.

He earned an undergraduate degree from?Illinois State?University and an MBA from the University of Iowa. Gronski also has a master’s degree in educational administration from?Western Illinois University.

He has taught for 17 years. From 1993 to 1999, Gronski taught in the Geneseo district. He also taught 10 years at Moline High School and one year in Houston, Texas.

Gronski said he returned to Geneseo because of its “tremendous community, outstanding school system and overall great people.”

He said he’s looking forward to once again being a part of the Geneseo school system and “working with the outstanding high-school students both in the classroom and on the athletic fields.”

Melanie Henderson

Melanie Henderson teaches fourth grade at Northside Elementary School. “I moved to Geneseo when I was 10 years old, so I would definitely call Geneseo my hometown,” she said.

A 1994 graduate of Illinois State University, Henderson served as the parent coordinator for Ladders to Learning preschool for the 2009-10 school year and served as a substitute teacher in the district for the past three years.

“I have five children currently in the district and am very impressed with the education they have received and the options that are available to them. The district has a great curriculum and some very amazing teachers and administrators who I hope to learn from,” said Henderson. “Geneseo is home to me and my family, and who wouldn’t want to teach ‘at home?’”

Henderson added, “I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend 15 years ‘at home’ raising my family and one year working part-time for the district.

However, it always has been my dream to go to work once all of my own children were in school. I?am lucky to be able to fulfill that dream and to have a classroom of my own and to share my excitement and enthusiasm with my own class. I feel truly blessed that I am able to start my career with the Geneseo School District.”

Susan Johnson

Susan Johnson team-teaches a second-grade class at Millikin Elementary School with Christy Sancken. Johnson teaches mornings at the school. A native of Moline, Johnson

graduated from Western Illinois University.

“I taught seventh grade at Seton School in Moline for five years before I?had children,” she said. After spending time at home with her children, Johnson returned to education and worked for the past two years as a reading aide at Millikin.

“Being a parent of children attending Geneseo schools has allowed me to see first-hand the quality education provided here. I am honored to get the chance to get back into the education field in such an outstanding district.”

Johnson said she’s looking forward to “being in my own classroom again and watching students grow and progress throughout the school year.”

Stephanie Miller

Stephanie Miller teaches third grade at Northside Elementary School. A native of Geneseo, Miller earned degrees from Black Hawk?College and?Western Illinois University.

Miller previously worked as a sixth-grade special education teacher’s aide at Riverdale Middle School in Port Byron. She taught first grade for two years at Lyle Elementary School in Kewanee and spent a year teaching a second- and third-grade reading support class at Irving Elementary in Kewanee.

Last year, Miller worked as a substitute teacher for the Geneseo district. “As a substitute teacher, I was able to witness the dynamics between the teachers, staff and students,” said Miller.?“I am honored to be part of such an amazing team of educators. I feel that Geneseo sets high standards for its faculty and students. I enjoy challenging myself to be the best that I can be.”

Miller said she’s looking forward to working with the staff at Northside. “I?am eager to learn from them and grow as an educator,” she said.

Alexis Minnaert

Alexis Minnaert teaches second grade at Southwest Elementary School. A native of Geneseo, Minnaert graduated from Western Illinois University. This is her first year of teaching.

“I aspired to teach in Geneseo because I went through the Geneseo school system myself, and I know Geneseo truly is committed to excellence in education. It is an honor to be able to be a part of that and give back to the community,” she said.

Minnaert added, “I am really looking forward to getting to know my students, getting them excited about learning, helping them achieve at their highest potential and having fun.”

Joni Nelson

Joni Nelson teaches science at Geneseo High School.?She did not respond to Republic requests for additional information.

Nathan O’Dell

Nathan O’Dell is the dean of students at Geneseo High?School. A 1997 Geneseo graduate, O’Dell earned degrees from Black Hawk College and Illinois State University. He has a master’s degree from the University of Northern Iowa.

O’Dell previously taught a year of middle and high school social studies in Des Moines, Iowa, and taught eight years of AP world history, government, and economics at Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School, where he also served as the attendance facilitator.

O’Dell said being “born and raised” in Geneseo influenced his decision to return. “I respect and love the school and community for what they accomplish every day in the lives of young and old. (Geneseo) has a unique culture that cares for and supports its schools. I want my kids to go through Geneseo schools,” he said.

He said he’s looking forward to “being a part of an incredibly diverse staff with backgrounds from all over the nation, all gearing to prepare the next generation to take leadership roles in this fast and challenging world.”

“I am excited to be part of the Green Machine again and to support all of our extra-curricular clubs and teams,” he said.

Lyndsey Robbins

Lyndsey Robbins teaches fourth grade at Millikin Elementary School. A native of Lincoln, Robbins graduated from Aurora University.

This is Robbins’ first year of teaching, though she previously was a student teacher in a kindergarten class at McCleery Elementary School in Aurora. She also served as an aide in the enhanced kindergarten program at Northwest Elementary School in Lincoln.

“I’ve wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember,”?said Robbins. “Once graduation day arrived, I sent resumes out anywhere I could. When I first drove to Geneseo, I knew this was where I wanted to be.?It’s a beautiful town. I remember telling some of the staff during the interview, ‘I could really call this place home.’”

Robbins added, “After meeting some of the staff and getting a feel for the community, I knew this was what I?wanted. I liked the idea of being a part of the community and its district.

“I look forward to all that my first year as a teacher will bring. I am ready for the learning, fun and challenges. I?look forward to collaborating with my colleagues. They have already been wonderful,” she said.

Sarah Stafford

Sarah Stafford teaches seventh-grade science at Geneseo Middle?School. A native of Moline, Stafford graduated from Western Illinois University.

“I completed my student teaching experience during the fall of 2009 at Glenview Middle School in East Moline, teaching seventh-grade language arts. During the spring of 2010, I substitute taught in the Moline and East Moline school districts,” she said.

“I chose to work in the Geneseo School District because I liked the positive community atmosphere.?I also noticed how much importance the community places on academics and education. I feel very fortunate to be a part of a community and school district that supports the growth of their children in all areas of learning,” said Stafford.

She added, “I am looking forward to working with the students and parents of the

Geneseo community.”

Ashley Stern

Ashley Stern teaches fourth grade at Millikin Elementary School. A native of Kewanee, Stern graduated from Augustana College. This is her first year of teaching, though she conducted her student teaching training in Bettendorf, Iowa.

“I feel Geneseo is not only an excellent school system, but also an excellent community to live in. There are many opportunities for growth both in and out of the classroom. It’s a truly refreshing place to live and work,” said Stern.

“I am looking forward to learning about the students and creating unique, fun lesson plans to fit the students’ likes and needs,’ she said.

Henry-Stark?Special Education

Jackie Call, Megan Ernst and Nicholas McCauley are employees with the Henry-Stark?Special Education cooperative. Ernst will work at Millikin and Call and McCauley will work at Geneseo High School.