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New teachers join Great Bend school district
group photo
The new teachers for USD 428 take time out of their orientation for a group photo last week. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Unified School District 428 proudly welcomes 27 new educators to the district.
Mandy Adams has been hired to teach world history, geography and U.S. history at Great Bend High School and brings almost 10 years of experience with her from schools in Missouri and Oklahoma. She calls Butler, Mo., home and completed a BS of education degree at University of Central Missouri and a master’s of education in secondary administration from William Woods University. She and her husband, Chad, have one dog, Bo. She enjoys reading, running, cooking and sports in general, especially softball and football.
About her career choice, Adams says, “I am in education to affect positive change in the lives of today’s students and to assist in the development of independent, responsible and accountable citizens of tomorrow. I find it rewarding to help students achieve their full potential, accomplish their goals and develop a sense of pride in hard work and in seeing something through to the finish.”
Kelli Burks, SFA teacher/tutor at Riley School, is a recent Fort Hays State University graduate who calls Jetmore her hometown. She and her husband, Adam, have at a shih-tzu named Khloe, but no children yet. She was a cheerleading coach for two years and enjoys craft fairs, University of Kansas basketball, music, home decorating, playing cards and board games.
“Inspired by my own elementary teachers, I became a teacher because I want to provide children with an educational experience that gives them a positive attitude about learning,” Burks said. “When children are motivated and excited to learn, anything is possible. Being in education keeps me educated as well! The kids are the best teachers and I love that I can learn new things from them each and every day.”
April Burns from Frisco, Texas, has been hired as a ninth-grade algebra teacher at GBHS. She is a Sterling College graduate who enjoys playing volleyball and serving at her church.
    “I am in education because when I was growing up, I was sick and tired of students coming into high school and hating math,” Burns said. “I want to teach so that I can make math fun and enjoyable for my students while inspiring confidence in them as well.”
Deirdre Deiter, school psychologist at Riley and Great Bend Middle schools, received her bachelor’s, master’s and educational specialist degrees from FHSU. She is a native of Beloit. She and her husband Jack, have one son, Kaden. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, riding bikes and spending time with her family.
“I have always had an interest in helping others,” Deiter said about finding a career in education. “My senior year, I took a teacher cadet course that inspired me to work in schools. (I wanted to) help increase students’ desire to learn and to be a part of a team that ensures students obtain a quality education.”
Malia Divilbiss grew up in Hoisington and graduated from Barton Community College and Oral Roberts University. She was a private vocal and piano teacher for and has been hired as a music teacher at Park School. She is married to Cory Divilbiss, a 2008 graduate of GBHS. They have two dogs – Raena, a sheltie, and Max, a dorkie (dachshund/yorkie mix) and a cat named Eli. She loves singing, playing the piano and guitar, reading and watching movies.
“I became a teacher because the biggest calling on my heart is to change children’s lives through music,” Divilbiss said. “Music absolutely influenced and changed my life for the better and I wish to pass on my passion, love and knowledge for music to the next generation.”
Jessica Ferguson, GBHS English teacher, grew up in Corinth, Miss., and is a graduate of Mississippi University for Women. She has a master’s degree in reading literacy. She and her husband, Josh Allen, have two dogs, Sugar and Lucy. She enjoys running, baking and playing with her dogs.
“I feel that any opportunity to shape the lives of children and help them be successful is important and I love being a part of that process,” Ferguson said.
Kylee Graves, new family support worker at Eisenhower and Lincoln schools, grew up in Ellinwood and graduated from Kansas State University. She was previously a children’s case manager at The Center for Counseling. She and her husband, Gavin, have a 9-month-old son, Aiden, and a black lab named Harlee. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, spending time at the lake and with her family.
“I took this job because I have a passion and desire to help children become successful,” Graves said. “I’m looking forward to helping families and kids grow in today’s society. I hope I can help families identify necessary community and educational resources to help their children as well as themselves, if needed.”
Dena Hiss worked for USD 428 as a para for two years before earning a degree from Newman University and landing a job as a fourth-grade teacher at Park School. She and her husband, Matt, have a King Charles spaniel named Rudy and are busy remodeling their new home. She also enjoys traveling.
“I am in education because it is my belief that every child deserves a rewarding and encouraging education so they will be better prepared to be a positive citizen in the community and world,” Hiss said. “I am very proud to help instill these positive values in each individual student academically, socially and intrinsically.”
Melissa Hittle, SFA teacher/tutor at Lincoln School, grew up in Guymon, Okla., and spent the past six years teaching fifth grade in Liberal. She is a Newman University graduate with a master’s degree and has been nominated twice for Disney’s Teacher of the Year Award. She and her husband, Chris, have two children, Bailey and Jake. Her free time is spent with her children and their activities.
“I want to make a difference,” Hittle says about her decision to become a teacher. “I love making kids feel loved and valued. In 10 years, I want my former students to share their ‘I-remember-when-Mrs.-Hittle stories’ for it to put a smile on my face.”
Erin Holste is a Great Bend native who has returned to her roots. She is the daughter of Dave and Susan Holste and graduated from K-State. She was hired as a second-grade teacher at Jefferson School after working for a year in the special education department in the Manhattan/Ogden school district. She managed the Club West swimming pool this summer.
“I am in education because it is a career that will never stop teaching me,” Holste said. “No matter how much we learn, children will always be able to teach us more. It is a job that has limitless rewards.”
Sarah Johnson, GBMS seventh-grade social studies teacher, put in two years at Dodge City Middle School before accepting a position here. She is originally from Wichita and graduated from Emporia State University in 2010 with a degree in secondary education with an emphasis in social sciences. In her spare time, she likes playing sports, reading and doing crafts.
Johnson says, “I am in education because I enjoy finding ways to get students excited about learning and making an impact in their lives.”
Amie Kreis, Lyons native, is a graduate of Hutchinson Community College and Sterling College. She was a substitute teacher in USD 405 for two years and is now a third-grade teacher at Eisenhower School. She and her husband, James, have a miniature daschund named Maddie. She enjoys playing sports, especially volleyball, and playing cards.
“I have a desire to make a positive influence on the children of our future,” Kreis said.
Bill Maddy hails from Stockton and has degrees from FHSU and Emporia. His master’s degree is in instructional design and technology. With 16 years experience in Ellinwood and four in Lebo, Maddy was hired to teach at the Alternative Learning Center. He will also be a high school football, girls basketball and golf coaching assistant. He and his wife, Angie, have two children, Josh and Hanna. He enjoys golfing, traveling and watching the KC Royals, KC Chiefs and the Jayhawks.
“By the time I was in high school, I knew I wanted to be in education,” Maddy said. “I was lucky to have teachers who were great role models. They instilled the values of hard work, discipline and pride in our school – all the qualities I’ve tried to encourage in my students throughout the years.”
Leah Mawhirter calls Moundridge home and Hutchinson Community and Bethany Colleges her alma maters. She has previously worked in the Dodge City and Haven school districts and will work at GBMS as a learning disabilities teacher. She and her husband, Cassidy, have a 3-year-old son, Jericho; and 2-year-old daughter, Rallye. Taking care of her family and two dogs consumes her free time.
She followed a career in education because of her love of children.
Richard Mehringer, GBHS art teacher, brings a career full of experience to his position, having taught in Colorado, North Carolina, Coffeeville and Larned. He grew up in Kinsley and completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees at FHSU. He and his wife, Linda, have one daughter, Andrea. His hobbies include photography, jewelry, gardening and anything outside.
He chose a career in education to make a difference.
Keith Moeder has returned home to accept a position teaching seventh-grade math at GBMS. He is a graduate of Emporia State University and is working toward a master’s degree in instructional leadership from Emporia. He and his wife, Kimberly, have two daughters, Victoria and Larresha; and one son, Kaiden. In his spare time he enjoys woodworking.
“I understand the importance of a good education for children in terms of their future opportunities as well as their self-esteem,” Moeder said. “I enjoy helping students find success in learning and in realizing how much potential they truly have.”
Paige Nowlan comes to Great Bend from Sterling via KU where she recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music education. She will teach music at Jefferson School and she enjoys reading, theater, running, knitting and crocheting.
“The reason I am in education can be summarized in a quote by Paul McCartney,” Nowlan explained. “‘I love to hear a choir. I love the humanity to see the faces of real people devoting themselves to a piece of music. I like the teamwork. It makes me feel optimistic about the human race when I see them cooperating like that.’”  
Alysia Owen has moved from her hometown and alma mater in Wichita to accept her first teaching job as a second-grade teacher at Eisenhower School. Her family includes her parents John and Julie; sister, Amelia; and two brothers, Aaron and Ashton. In her spare time, she enjoys shopping, movies, bowling and spending quality time with her family.
“I am in education because, when growing up, I had great role models for teachers,” Owen said. “My goal is to be the teacher students will remember for the rest of their lives. I love working with students and have always wanted to be a teacher since I began school.
“I moved here from Wichita to Great Bend,” Owen continued. “While I do feel a bit homesick, I already feel like a part of the teaching community in Great Bend. It makes me feel important when the superintendent already knows me by my first name. This district has shown me all it has to offer me and I love it!”
McKinley Phillips is from Great Bend and got her start in education at USD 428 as a substitute para professional and has been hired as a sixth-grade teacher at Jefferson. She is a graduate of Lindenwood University in Saint Charles, Mo. She has a puppy named Lil’ Abner and enjoys crafting anything, reading and swimming laps.
“There is no greater feeling than seeing a kid light up with that ah-ha moment and feel good about themselves,” Phillips said. “I want to be able to help all children feel that way about themselves in their lives.”
Ashley Riley, new special education teacher at Eisenhower School, is sticking close to her roots and will actually be working with teachers she had as an elementary student. A native of La Crosse, she graduated from BCC and FHSU and has previously worked as a substitute teacher. She and her husband have four children, Jacob, 10; Calli, 9; Dustin, 8; and Evan, 7. When she is not busy with her family, she enjoys running and traveling.
Daniel Schneider tried USD 428 on for size last fall as a student teacher and the fit was good enough for him to accept a position as a GBHS geometry teacher. Originally from Olmitz, he is FHSU graduate and is engaged to be married. He enjoys working construction, watching football, wrestling and spending time with his family.
“I always had good math teachers growing up and math always seemed to come easy to me,” Schneider said. “I figured that I would try to give back to those who may not have an easy time with math. Teaching has always been very natural for me and I enjoy interacting with youth.
“My parents are both from the area and my grandparents are still here in Great Bend,” Schneider continued. “I have a twin brother who is studying for the Diocese of Dodge City at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver, Colo., and there are six kids in my family.”  
     Bethany Stoney grew up in northwest Kansas and the Black Hills of South Dakota, but she has called Great Bend home for the past 10 years. She has associate degrees from Colby Community College and Barton Community College and a bachelor’s degree from Newman University.
Stoney has joined the staff at Lincoln School as an SFA teacher/tutor. This is her eighth year of employment by USD 428 having worked as a paraprofessional for the gifted, a substitute teacher for a year and an SFA tutor at Lincoln Elementary last year.
She is married to Keith Stoney, co-manager at Wal-Mart, and they have two daughters, Tierra and Kaitlyn; two German Shepherds and one calico cat. She loves to watch NFL games (especially the Raiders), travel, attend her daughters’ activities, decorate (especially for the holidays) and spend time with family and friends.
“I am in education first and foremost because I love children,” Stoney said. “I am grateful that I have the opportunity to be a part of their lives, to work with them in areas that they struggle with, to teach them new and exciting content and to be a part of the foundation that helps build them to become responsible educated members of our community.”
This will be Ashley Turnbull’s first teaching position as she takes on a second-grade class at Jefferson School. She comes from Gypsum, went to college at Kansas Wesleyan University and lives in Otis. She will continue to coach the middle school cheerleaders for Otis-Bison. She has a blue heeler named Abby that has lots of energy. She and loves to visit with her friends and family, but her favorite activity is dancing to country music.
“I am in education because I think that it is one of the most important jobs there is,” Turnbull said. “I can make a difference in the lives of children. I can help them grow and learn important life skills. I also think that teaching is a very rewarding career.”
Connie Ward, a new interrelated/adaptive teacher at Lincoln School, comes with 24 years of experience in the Newton school district. Originally from Goessel, she is a 1987 graduate of Bethel College. She has one son, Skyler Stucky, who just moved to Los Angeles to start college. She became the bride of Jake Ward on July 5 and gained three step-daughters and six step-grandchildren, two of whom are in the Great Bend school system. She also has one black cat named Rebel, who lives up to his name. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, biking, eating Mexican food and being a newlywed.
     “I enjoy teaching because I grow with my students each day, learning from them as I help them reach their fullest potential,” she said. “I like to see the sparkle in their eyes when they catch on to a concept that’s been difficult for them. I look forward to working closely with students, parents and colleagues in Great Bend.”
Stephanie Weber, a new first-grade teacher at Park School, is a Hays native and recent graduate of FHSU. She is not married, but hopes to be in the near future. She loves running, playing all kinds of sports and watching movies in her free time.
“I wanted to become a teacher so I could see young students faces light up when they finally understood something they have been struggling with,” Weber said. “I want to change students’ lives by opening the door of endless possibilities for them and lead them to a better future because of the knowledge I am able to teach them. I also wanted to become a professional educator because of all the great teachers I had growing up that made a huge impact on my life. I want to do the same by leaving my students with unforgettable experiences, memories and a great education that will help them succeed in life.”
Being a seventh-grade math teacher is the first step on Jennifer Wondra’s career ladder. She student taught in McPherson and substituted in Salina and Wichita, her home town, and graduated from Bethany College in Lindsborg. Her parents are Alan and Karen Wondra of Wichita and she has a brother, Aaron, who is attending FHSU. Her grandparents are Art and Mary Ann Wondra of Great Bend.  She likes to play tennis, country dance, travel, make jewelry and spend time with family and friends.
“I am in education because I like being around kids,” Wondra said. “I enjoy helping them learn and motivating them to achieve their very best. Education is a very rewarding career and I like going to work every day.”
Amanda Wyatt became familiar with USD 428 first as a student and then by working as a substitute teacher last year. Now, she will join the staff at Park School as a fifth-grade teacher. She graduated summa cum laude from Bethany College with a degree in elementary education, K-6. She is married to Chris Wyatt and likes walking in her spare time.
“I am in education because I think that students need an adult advocate,” Wyatt said. “I would love to be this person for my students. I also enjoy lifelong learning and having fun with my students.”