A-W has eight new faculty members

Posted August 22, 2018 at 10:53 pm

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By Julie Ann Madden

There will be at least 15 new staff at Akron-Westfield Community School when students walk through the doors for the first day of classes Thursday.

And we’re still hiring, said A-W Shared Superintendent Randy Collins at the Aug. 13 school board meeting.

Meet the new faculty members here:

Jacob Heckt

Band Director

Jacob Heckt, of Sioux City, replaces Timothy Zorr who resigned this past spring.

The Lansing, Kan., native graduated from Lansing High School in 2014 and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Grades K-12 Music Education with emphasis in instrumental music this past spring.

Heckt is engaged to Gabby Higgins. He enjoys practicing the saxophone, playing video games and working out.

Kelsey Reifenberger

Fifth Grade

Kelsey Reifenberger, of Ireton, is a Crystal Lake, Ill., native who graduated from Prairie Ridge High School in her hometown in 2005.

She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Carroll University in Waukesha, Wis. Her major was Elementary Education with emphasis in Spanish and Social Studies.

Reifenberger taught Grade 6 Language Arts and Social Studies one year at Hannah Beardsley Community School in Crystal Lake, Ill.; fourth grade for three years at Seitz Elementary School at Fort Riley, Kan.; and two years at Newell-Fonda Community School.

She and her husband, Chris, have one daughter, Madison, age 1 1/2.

Reifenberger enjoys spending time outside and with her family. She also loves playing volleyball.

They are members of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hawarden.

Jade Calvillo

High School Art

Jade Calvillo, a Sioux City native, graduated from North High School in 2012 and earned a Bachelor of Arts degrees in Grades K-12 Art Education from Morningside College this past spring.

She and her husband, Nate, live in Sioux City, and have a son, Parker, and a daughter Hailey.

Calvillo enjoys painting, pottery, Crossfit and running.

Ellen Gant

High School Science

This Ponca, Neb., native graduated from Ponca High School in 1998.

Gant earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration at Wayne State College in 2001 and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Secondary Education from Briar Cliff University in 2006. She just completed her Master’s degree through Mississippi State University’s Teachers in Geosciences Masters Program and is awaiting arrival of her degree certificate.

Gant and her husband, Paul, live in Merrill and have two sons, Mark, 11, and Garrett, 9, and one daughter, Anita, 6.

She enjoys camping and competing in smoking ribs contests with her husband.

They are members of Merrill United Methodist Church.

Gant taught the last 12 years at Dakota Valley Community Schools.

Jeff Drent

Industrial Technology

After teaching Physical Education for 19 yeas at Round Lake-Brewster Community School in Minnesota, Jeff Drent joined the A-W staff this past summer, helping coach the Westerners’ Middle School Baseball Team.

He also coached football, basketball, baseball and golf. Drent plans to continue coaching the Westerners, too.

The Worthington, Minn., native graduated from his hometown high school in 1994.

In 1998, Drent earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Education from Mankato State University in Mankato, Minn. Drent is earning his Industrial Technology teaching endorsement through St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minn., and has a provisional license.

He and his wife, Laura of Akron, have four sons: Carter, Sawyer, Dalton and Easton.

Drent enjoys fixing cars and trucks and playing any sport with his children.

Kyle Schroeder

Grades DK-5 Music

Kyle Schroeder, the son of Tom and Jill Schroeder is an Akron-Westfield Community School Class of 2013 alum. He returned to his hometown this fall.

Schroeder will be teaching elementary music, a new position as elementary music has been the responsibility of the Band Director and Vocal Music director for several years now.

At A-W, Schroeder will join his mother, Jill Schroeder, who teaches mathematics, his brother, Joel, who teaches high school science; his sister, Sarah, who is assistant volleyball coach; and his brother, Cameron, an A-W senior.

Schroeder earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D., in December 2017. He taught Grades K-5 Music at Sisseton, S.D., this past spring.

Schroeder enjoys playing guitar and hanging out with family and friends.

He is a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Akron.

Victor Mena III

High School English

Victor Mena III replaces Kati Fang in High School English.

He is a Phoenix, Ariz., native who graduated from West View High School in 2013 and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Secondary Education this past spring from Northwestern College in Orange City. While at Northwestern College, he worked as a writing tutor and was the college’s baseball team starting pitcher. He achieved an .81 ERA in the Conference.

Mena is the son of Victor and Bernice Mena of Phoenix. His father is the Dean of Discipline at Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix and his mother is a dietician at Gen Croft Nursing Home in Phoenix. He has two brothers, Andres, a senior at Arizona State University, and Christian who is studying at Estella Mountain Community College in Avondale, Ariz.

Mena, who lives in Orange City, is engaged to Nicole Montgomery, also an English teacher on the staff of MOC-Floyd Valley Community School. They attend St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Le Mars.

Mena enjoys watching Anime, reading, playing video games and eating really good food.

Carrie Thonstad

Grade 7 Reading

The former West Sioux Elementary Principal, Carrie Thonstad, will be teaching two periods of Reading at Akron-Westfield this fall while she is studying Curriculum and Instruction for her Doctorate degree through Capella University. She will also be teaching collegiate courses at Northwestern College in Orange City.

Thonstad, who was born in Yankton, S.D., but lived in Minneapolis, Minn., Seattle, Wash., and Sioux Falls, S.D., throughout her childhood, graduated from New Port High School in Bellevue, Wash., in 1995.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education, minoring in Reading and Early Childhood Education at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Wash., in 1999. She completed Reading Recovery training at Western Oregon State University at Salem, Ore., in 2001.

Thonstad, a lifelong learner, earned a Masters of Science degree in Educational Administration & Leadership from Capella University’s online classes program.

Thonstad began her teaching career at Lincoln Park Elementary School in Portland, Ore., teaching Reading and Title I for three years, then as a second and third grade teacher for four years.

After moving to Iowa, she was a substitute teacher at West Sioux, Sioux Center and Elk Point-Jefferson for two years. She joined the West Sioux faculty as a Kindergarten teacher in 2008. She also taught Title I classes before serving as a West Sioux principal for six years.

Thonstad and her husband, Andrew, have four children: Ayden, 16, Morgan, 13, Zaron, 9, and Corbin, 5. Andrew is A-W’s High School Business teacher who also teaches Journalism and is the yearbook advisor. They are members of Hope Lutheran Church in Sioux Center.

She enjoys being a mom, writing, reading, learning, cooking, creating artwork, crafting, and raising alpacas.

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