West Grand welcomes new staff

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Hunter Hill
6th grade Math/Science

Ms. Hill is a first-year teacher, but will be familiar in the district through her work as a coach and paraprofessional. She is from Byron, Nebraska, a tiny rural town on the Kansas border. She played volleyball for Hastings College and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from DeVry University while working on the pipeline in Texas. However, she says, “I really love mathematics, so I would say this is my specialty in education.

I have always found joy in helping people,” says Ms. Hill. “Being a teacher means I get to help children every day. I get to be a person they trust and rely on, and that makes me happy. Also, being a part of the school allows me to feel like I am helping in our community, and I will be able to be a huge part of my boys’ education. I already live in Kremmling, and I love this community. I am excited to be a part of these students’ lives!”

On making her classroom unique and inviting, she responds, “I think that I am what makes my classroom unique and inviting. The first thing you see in my classroom is a sign that I made that says, RESPECT. I treat my students like my equals; I respect them as I want them to respect me, and each other. I am going to really push for positivity in my classroom and making each other smile each day. I think our world needs more compliments and respect for one another. I may not be able to change the world, but I can start in my classroom!”

Mackenzie Heffernan
2nd Grade

Ms. Heffernan will spend her first year in Kremmling and in her own classroom as a 2nd grade teacher at West Grand Elementary. She is originally from Aurora, in southwest Missouri. She attended Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS, where she received a degree in elementary education. “I am so excited for this new journey of finally having my own classroom,” she enthuses.

Participating in a tutoring program in high school in exchange for community college tuition, she worked with a school counselor. “By the end of my senior year, I realized that education was my home. I fell in love with helping the community and working with students.” She saw that school was a safe place for some students and says, “I wanted to be that safe place for my future students.

My goal for my classroom is to make it welcoming and inviting for my students,” elaborates Ms. Heffernan. “I want them to feel comfortable in their space. In the classroom library, there is a comfy rug and chairs for the students to sit down and get cozy with a book. I wanted to make sure to put up posters to remind students to think positively through such a weird time. I am going to constantly remind my students that they are loved and that they are important to me.”

My main goal for this year is to get students back into the classroom as safely as possible,” Ms. Heffernan responds when asked about COVID-19 impacts. “With that, the classroom might look a bit different than previous years. In my room, desks will be spaced six feet apart to allow distance between each student. Periodically throughout the day, we will take time to sanitize our spaces. We will be washing and sanitizing our hands at any chance we can get. I will also be wearing a mask along with my students. When in small groups, there will be dividers between students. I still want to have interactive lessons that the students enjoy and love. The students will still be getting a quality education. At the end of the day, the safety of the students is #1.”
Finally, she is looking forward to living and working in Kremmling. “From the very beginning, I saw how supportive a community Kremmling is. Every person that I have encountered since I moved here has been so quick to lend a hand. This made my move so much easier. I’m excited to teach in a community where they will do anything to support our students.”

“In my free time, I love to go find a new adventure. With being new to Colorado, I want to experience everything this beautiful state has to offer. I love finding cool hiking spots, finding a new town to explore, trying new restaurants and coffee shops, or anything thrilling.”

Lorena Lott
HS business

Ms. Lott, who will teach high school business, is originally from Walsh, Colorado. She graduated from Oklahoma Panhandle State University with a degree in business education and went on to achieve her master’s degree in technology education from American Intercontinental University. 2020-2021 will be her 18th year as a business teacher.

Ms. Lott describes teaching as a calling. “I was subbing just after receiving my associate degree from Seward County Community College in Liberal, Kansas. There was a little girl in preschool who was scared and just learning English. I had that teachable moment (I did not know what that was at the time.) I had farm animal toys and knew muy poco español, and said, ‘vaca,’ ‘moo,’ ‘cow.’ The joy and understanding I saw in her eyes–I knew that teaching was my calling. There have been so many reasons why I teach since then. I have a journal that has what I call my successes.

I would like to think that my classroom reflects my personality.

I have the enthusiasm of a child, an open mind to all that is around me, an open heart, and love to share my experiences. My mother has quilted several quilts for me that are in the room. Pictures and other things I have from other students–that’s my motivation to keep going.”

COVID-19 has affected many pieces of teaching, and Ms. Lott describes having cut down the work load for some of her classes in order to teach remotely by Chromebook. “I had to convert lessons from Excel to Spreadsheet. It was simple. It was harder to motivate students.”

Ms. Lott brings additional skills and enthusiasm with her as well. “I really like to watch, act, and direct theater plays. I love to watch musicals, but my participation has been limited. Coaching forensics became a huge passion for me. Those are speech and drama competitions. I did have a student that placed 6th in Serious Solo Acting and 3rd place in Informative Speaking.”
“Another item I would love to share is travel with EF tours. We have two exciting trips because the student travel group I helped start had to reschedule from this last summer. One is in New York, last of June, and then Germany and Switzerland, middle of July.”

Ms. Lott comes to Kremmling from “102 degrees southwest Kansas, to this beautiful mountain town.” She is looking forward to “getting to know everyone in the community and be a part of it”

“I want my students in FBLA to be even more involved with community service projects, and learn not only from me but all the businesses in town. That is the wonderful thing about business no matter your interest business has a hand in it.”

Courtney Frazier
5th grade

Ms. Frazier comes to West Grand as a brand new 5th grade teacher. She is originally from Winfield, Kansas and attended Pittsburg State University in Missouri, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education. “This year is my first official year of teaching,” she states. “I have spent the last three years in and out of many different classrooms, but this is the first year I have one of my own.

I decided to become a teacher because of the teachers who put in the extra time and effort to help me grow in my education. School was never easy for me. However, there were a handful of teachers who always went out of their way to help me overcome adversities, both academically and personally. I was inspired by their dedication and decided that I too wanted to be the teacher that my students could turn to when they need help.”

“I believe what makes my classroom unique is the sense of ‘home’ that I have brought to it.

I have worked hard to make sure that the room feels as comfortable and welcoming as possible. I want students to feel a sense of ownership when they enter my room. I want them to know that it is a safe place where they can be themselves and I’ve tried to create that feeling in the way the room is set up.

This year, COVID-19 is going to change how a lot of things are done in the classroom and the school building as a whole,” Ms. Frazier goes on to explain. “Students and staff will be required to wear masks, we will have to sanitize many times throughout the day, we will be washing our hands frequently, supplies will not be shared between students, we will have to practice social distancing as much as possible, and temperature and symptom checks will be done.

However, what won’t be changing is the importance of having fun while learning. In my classroom, students will still be pushing themselves to new heights, academically and personally. We will continue to grow, even in the face of adversity and we are going to work hard at keeping a positive mindset with everything that comes our way!”

“I feel incredibly blessed to have been welcomed into this community,” Ms. Frazier adds. “I met Dr. Peppard and Mr. Daly at an interview day held at my university last February. At that time, moving to Colorado was not in my ‘original plan.’ However, when I met the two of them, I knew there was something special about West Grand. I trusted my gut instinct, decided to take the leap of faith and made the move to Kremmling.”

“Since moving to Kremmling, the community that I have interacted with has been nothing but welcoming and helpful. I’m greatly looking forward to continuing to meet new members of the community and making connections. I’m eager to begin the school year and see what kind of positive experiences I can continue to have.”

John Kleinhenz
bus driver/mechanic

Mr. Kleinhenz will be joining the West Grand school community as a bus driver and mechanic. He is from Columbus, Ohio and received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Wright State University. He lived in Highlands Ranch for 25 years before making the full-time move to the Troublesome Valley with his wife Julie in 2018.

As a member of the extended educational team, Mr. Kleinhenz has completed rigorous training and testing for his commercial drivers license.

“I plan on providing a safe and supportive environment on the school bus,” he assures. “This is my second career, after spending 26 years in enterprise software sales / account management. I decided to leave the corporate world behind and secure a less stressful occupation. I am excited to transport students to and from school in a safe manner. My bus route will be safe, fun and engaging. I’m hoping to encourage and motivate students along their educational journey.

Over the summer, all the school buses have undergone a thorough and detailed cleaning and sanitation process,” Mr. Kleinhenz explains.

“This includes adopting best practice protocols pertaining to the COVID-19 virus. The goal is to ensure a safe environment for student transportation.”

He and his wife have owned Two Dog Ranch since 2007. “Julie and myself are in year two of full-time residency at the property. While we miss Costco and Chick-fil-a, we love the slower pace and beautiful surroundings of Grand County.”

“My spare time is spent trying to tame the rugged landscape. Gophers, sagebrush and mosquitos are my summertime foes. Chasing elk and deer around the forest consumes many fall weekends. Driving a school bus in a Kremmling winter will be an interesting adventure.”

Colleen Dolan
kindergarten

Ms. Dolan returns home to Kremmling as she takes up the position of kindergarten teacher at West Grand Elementary. She attended the University of Montana Western, where she achieved a BS degree in early childhood education, with a K-8 teaching certificate. She is mom to Tristan and Kayley, “who are growing up much too fast.” And she says, “I love to read and take drives in the woods. I have more shoes than the average person and love to wear jewelry.”

“I have always loved children,” she says, when discussing her journey to becoming a teacher. “When my children were younger, I wanted to start college. It all started with an Associate’s so I could work in a school and have the same hours as my kids. After my first degree, I decided I was kind of good at college so I went on to get my Bachelor’s degree. Now here I am with my teaching certification and back home.”

This is Ms. Dolan’s seventh year as a classroom teacher but she spent the 10 years prior as an aide in classrooms as well.
On what makes her classroom unique and inviting, she laughs, “Me, of course,” and goes on to elaborate, “My classroom is a community of learners. The children have ownership in classroom rules and we take good care of each other. The space is colorful and cozy.”

Ms. Dolan acknowledges the uncertainty of the COVID-19 impact on the classroom. “It’s all day-to-day. It definitely makes it different when I can’t hug or greet the kids with a handshake or high-5 to start the day. It’ll be air hugs and air 5’s for the time being. We will still have hands-on learning and the children will get to interact with each other. Things will be a bit different for the kids compared to last year, but we are working hard to make sure it’s not too much of a change for them.”

On living and teaching in Kremmling, Ms. Dolan says she looks forward to “being back home and teaching where I was taught.
I am excited about teaching a new curriculum and working with my team teachers. Everyone has been so helpful and inviting, and I can’t wait to start the school year.”

Jacob Walter
Agricultural Education Program Instructor FFA Sponsor

Mr. Walter comes to West Grand as a first-year teacher. He will lead the high school’s agricultural education program and sponsor FFA. He is originally from southern Colorado, near Trinidad, and earned his degree in agricultural education from Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

He looks forward to the year and says, “I enjoy seeing the growth in students as they learn new skills and develop themselves as leaders. In agricultural education, we teach a wide range of subjects–everything from food science and natural resource management to vet science and how to rebuild an engine. The variety of subjects offers a space for everyone to get excited about learning.”

Mr. Walter notes that Kremmling is “considerably larger” than where he group up, but says “Growing up on a ranch in southern Colorado, I have always appreciated small town living and the values associated with it. There are still those small town values present [in Kremmling] that drew me here.”

NEXT WEEK will feature two other teachers recently hired. Zachary Shraberg, High School Language Arts Teacher and Della Albrighton, Middle School Special Education Teacher. Teacher profiles were edited and written by Marissa Lorenz.

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