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New teachers joining Red Wing School District this fall include: (back row, from left) Kari Matthies, Tom Zenzen, Matt Weichert, Katie Rausch, Kyle Blahnik, Brianna Dressen, Katie Nystuen, Cory Thorson, (second row) Debbie Navarro, Brette VanLoon, Marita Heins, Rachel Anderson, Mitchel Paulson, AJ Yusten, Mardell Grider, (front row) Sue Gorman, Lila Holst, Jamie Johnholtz, Christina Hughes and Trina Petterson. (Republican Eagle photo by Sarah Gorvin)

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Red Wing Minnesota 2760 North Service Drive / P.O. Box 15 55066

While temperatures reaching well into the 90s indicate that summer isn't over yet, the calendar tells quite a different story. Next week, it's already time for backpacks to be unzipped, locker doors to creak open and pencils to be sharpened.

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This year, the start of the school year is also the start of new positions for 20 teachers in the Red Wing School District. As in previous years, the new teachers are scattered across the district, with nearly every building getting a few new employees.

The R-E asked each of the teachers to fill out a questionnaire providing insight into their backgrounds. Here are their responses.

Cory Thorson

Education: Undergraduate degree from University of Northern Iowa; graduate teaching degree from College of St. Scholastica

What subject will you teach and at which school? Fourth-grade at Burnside Elementary

Past teaching experience: Paraprofessional, substitute teacher, and football coach for Goodhue Public Schools (past two years)

Who was your favorite teacher? Mr. Johnson, my high school algebra teacher, stands out as being one of my favorites because he was always challenging me and always available when I needed extra help.

Why did you become a teacher ? I realized how rewarding and fulfilling it is to serve as a positive influence to as many children as possible. Also, I finally caved in to the pressure I was getting from the other four members of my family, who are all teachers.

Brianna Dressen

Education: Degree in foundations of elementary education from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

What subject will you teach and at which school? Second grade at Sunnyside Elementary

Past teaching experience: Last year I had the opportunity to long-term substitute in two first-grade classrooms in Red Wing and Lake City. I completed my student teaching experience in St. Paul in a second-grade classroom.

What was your favorite lesson? When I was in sixth grade, we studied the country Egypt. I loved the hands-on learning my teacher incorporated into the lesson. My classmates and I wrote in hieroglyphics, traced ourselves and created life-size Egyptians and made pyramids.

Why did you become a teacher? My love for teaching was inspired by my mom. Growing up, I would love to spend hours in her classroom, helping her set up her room and pretending to be a teacher.

The past two years my love for teaching has grown tremendously. Making connections with my students and their families and creating a community of learners is something I look forward to each year.

Kari Matthies

Education: Degree in elementary education from the University of Minnesota; special education licensure at Augsburg College

What subject will you teach and at which school? Emotional and behavioral differences case manager/teacher at Twin Bluff Middle School

Past teaching experience: Hastings High School Bridge Program (special education)

Who was your favorite teacher? My favorite teacher was my tenth-grade geometry teacher, who refused to let me fail, went beyond her duty to help me succeed and made me feel empowered to learn.

Why did you become a teacher? I became a teacher to specifically work with students who have learning differences. Empowering students to succeed and helping them to develop their unique strengths is my favorite part of teaching, but I also enjoy the relationships I build with students and families.

Brette VanLoon

Education: B.A. from Bethel University

What subject will you teach and at which school? Fourth grade at Burnside Elementary

Past teaching experience? I student taught in the Minneapolis Public School District. This will be my first official year.

Who was your favorite teacher? Jody Sutherland because of her loving nature and ability to make everyone feel important. Sue Strom for bringing her humor to the classroom and making fifth grade exciting.

Why did you become a teacher? I have a strong desire to help students discover and explore their strengths and passions. Kevin Larson, one of my high school teachers, impacted my decision to go into education. His understanding that students have different learning styles encouraged me and I was inspired by his genuine desire to see all his students succeed. I am confident that teaching is my calling and I am excited to pass on what I have learned.

Katie Rausch

Education: B.A. in art education from College of Saint Benedict; post baccalaureate certificate in print paper book at Minneapolis College of Art and Design

What subject will you teach and at which school? I will be teaching art (mostly 3D classes) at Red Wing High School as well as a few fifth-grade art classes at Twin Bluff Middle School.

Past teaching experience: I've taught elementary art in both the Roseville (Minn.) Area School District and Rosemount, Apple Valley, Eagan (Minn.) School District.

What was your favorite lesson? When I was in high school, we were given an assignment in art class to do a series of charcoal drawings based upon various phrases (such as "bird on a wire," "shifting sands," etc.). They were completely up to our own interpretation and I loved the opportunity to have artistic freedom in class. I also built a meaningful relationship with this teacher, and he inspired me to become an art teacher.

Why did you become a teacher? I have a strong passion for art and desire to share this passion with my students.

Mitchel Paulson

Education: Master's degree in counseling education from Winona State University; bachelor's degree in sociology/psychology from Winona State University

What subject will you teach and at which school? High school counselor at Red Wing High School.

Past teaching experience: Rochester Alternative High School, Rochester

Who was your favorite teacher: My favorite teacher was my high school physical education teacher/baseball coach. He taught for over 30 years and had more spirit and energy than any other teacher I've ever met. He helped shape us into quality citizens, not just good students.

Why did you become a counselor? I became a counselor because I thoroughly enjoy working with students. I want to be an advocate and role model that they can rely on as they prepare for life after high school.

Trina Petterson

Education: I earned my BA (psychology) from St. Olaf College and my Masters (elementary education) from UW-River Falls.

What subject will you teach and at which school? I am the elementary computer teacher at Sunnyside and Burnside elementary schools.

Past teaching experience: I taught LD for a year and first grade for a semester in Zumbrota and a semester of fifth grade in Cannon Falls, as well as subbing at all levels before I had my own children. For the last 10 years I've enjoyed the flexibility of being a substitute teacher in Red Wing as my boys went through school.

Who was your favorite teacher? I have many favorite teachers, ones that I had and ones my sons had in the Red Wing Schools. I have been inspired the most by subbing for the teachers in our schools and seeing all the wonderful things they do with their students.

Why did you become a teacher? I've wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. I like to help children feel successful and be the best they can be.

Jamie Johnholtz

Education: Bachelor of Art in English from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire; master's in education/special education teaching from the University of Wisconsin-Stout; eucation specialist, educational leadership from the University of St. Thomas

What subject will you teach and at which school? Special education at Red Wing High School

Past teaching experience: Prescott School District, Zumbrota-Mazeppa School District.

Who was your favorite teacher? Mr. Zierer, high school biology teacher

Why did you became a teacher?: To replace "you won't" and "you can't" with "you can" and "you will."

Debbie Navarro

Debbie Navarro will be teaching the mixed ages and Spanish enrichment preschool classes. Debbie has a varied background in education which includes teaching in special education, elementary school, resource and preschool. She lives in Northfield, Minn., with her husband and son.

Tom Zenzen

EducationMaster's degree in industrial technology education

What subject will you teach and at which school? Industrial technology at Twin Bluff Middle School and Jefferson.

Past teaching experience: Industrial technology at Red Wing High School, Kellogg Middle School and Pepin Area Schools

What was your favorite lesson: Find what motivates the student.

Christina Hughes

Education: I graduated in May with my master's degree in speech-language pathology from Minnesota State University-Moorhead

What subject will you teach and at which school? I will be the speech therapist at Colvill Family Center and Twin Bluff Middle School.

Past teaching experience: I completed internships at Lake Region Healthcare in Fergus Falls, Minn., and at the Lodoen Kindergarten Center in West Fargo, N.D.

Who was your favorite teacher? My favorite teacher was my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Keller. She was always so kind and wanted her students to succeed.

Why did you become a speech-language pathologist? I became a speech therapist because I love working with children. I love seeing a child make gains on a certain goals that we have been working on in therapy sessions. I love seeing children succeed and I am so excited to work with the kids at Colvill and TBMS!

Rachel Anderson

Education: Bachelor's in psychology from University of Wisconsin-River Falls; master's in special education from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

What subject will you teach and at which school? Fifth-grade special education at Twin Bluff Middle School

Past teaching experience: This is my first teaching position. I student taught in the Stillwater Area School District for 15 weeks.

Who was your favorite teacher? Mr. Serkowski from high school. He never taught any of my classes, but was my study hall teacher and academic decathlon coach. I was his teacher's assistant my senior year. He once said to me, "Act like you've been somewhere," and it is still the best advice I have ever been given. Mr. Serkowski was there for me at a rough time in my life. I was new to the state and missed my old home. He made enough of a difference to help me feel accepted and welcomed in my new school.

Why did you became a teacher? I want to give to my students what Mr. Serkowski gave to me: the chance to succeed and see my true potential.

Sue Gorman

Education: B.S. food science and technology from University of WI-River Falls; agricultural education teacher certification from University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

What subject will you teach and at which school? I will be teaching at Red Wing High School and I will be teaching all of the agriculture courses as well as advising the FFA chapter

Past teaching experience: Agriculture instructor and FFA adviser at Clinton (Wis.) High School for six years.

Who was your favorite teacher? One of my favorite teachers was my agriculture instructor because he introduced me to all the opportunities that agriculture and FFA provides. I was the stereotypically ag student in that I grew up on a farm, but my education in agriculture initially landed me in a laboratory testing food samples as a meat inspector for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and finally as an educator and promoter of agriculture and FFA in a classroom setting.

Why did you become a teacher? I have a passion for agriculture and I want to help people become informed consumers. Everyone is tied to agriculture in one way or another, whether they know it or not. It is my responsibility as an educator to make them realize the importance of an amazing industry. Basically without agriculture we would all be naked and hungry.

Kyle Blahnik

Education: Bachelor's in social studies and education from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

What subject will you teach and at which school? I will be teaching at Red Wing High School and teaching social studies.

Past teaching experience: Long- term substitute at Tower View Alternative High School.

Who was your favorite teacher? As a graduate of Red Wing High School I had many great teachers.

Why did you become a teacher? I became a teacher to positively influence student experiences, and to encourage students to become lifelong learners.

Marita Heins

EducationUniversity of Wisconsin - River Falls

What subject will you teach and at which school? Third grade at Burnside Elementary School

Who was your favorite teacher? I had many wonderful teachers during my education. The best were the ones that came to school every day excited to be there.

Why did you become a teacher? To make a difference, and for the excitement on students' faces when learning something new.

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Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.
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