By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Going to the head of the class
Great Bend USD 428 welcomes new staff
Shown are 39 of the 41 new teachers joining the staff of USD 428 this year. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

There is a large new crop of teachers joining the ranks in Unified School District 428 this fall. A total of 41 new instructors will be working with students in seven of the district’s schools. They include:


Rachel Clawson is returning to USD 428, but this time she will have her own third-grade classroom at Eisenhower School. Previously, she was a substitute paraprofessional, teacher assistant and student teacher. She is a graduate of Barton Community College and FHSU.
Clawson and her husband, Kane, have two sons, Logan, a first grader, and Bennett, 14 months old. She likes singing and walking and is up to a FitBit challenge with anyone.
She said her career choice all started with a parenting course that she took when she was an undecided major at Barton.
“I was a single mom and I knew that wouldn’t be a waste of time,” Clawson said. “I enjoyed learning about child development and continued down that path. I am excited to share my love of learning with young minds. I hope to show them that being smart is a good thing and being curious will help you grow.”

Nicole Hertel is a first-year, first-grade teacher at Eisenhower School who is a recent graduate of FHSU. She and her husband, Darin, have a dog named Onyx and a cat named Saydie. She enjoys leisurely walks and bike rides and spending quality time with her family and friends. She also plans to work toward her graduate degree.
“The reason that I chose to pursue a career in education is because of my passion for helping children become the best that they can be,” Hertel said. “I have known since I was very young that I wanted to work with children, but it wasn’t until five years ago when I began working at Eisenhower School as a teacher’s assistant that I knew I wanted to become a teacher. I believe that all children deserve to come to school every day knowing that they are loved and respected, and I want to be the teacher that leaves a lasting impression in their lives.”


Tarra Foster has a new role in USD 428. She worked as a paraprofessional here while going to school at FHSU and will now join her husband, Jeremy, as a teacher. He is a social studies teacher and coach at Great Bend High School; she will be a second-grade teacher at Jefferson School. They have one son, Charlie.
She enjoys being involved in her church and wants to make a difference in the lives of her students.

Matt Rorabaugh comes to Jefferson School as a sixth-grade teacher having previously taught in Salina and Mulvane. Originally from Smith Center, he is a graduate of Tabor College. He likes sports including football, basketball, track and hunting and enjoys working on the family farm as well as traveling. He has one brother who is a school psychologist.
“I’m an educator because I enjoy making a positive impact on students,” he said.

Experience with fifth- and sixth-graders at Maize and Larned will undoubtedly be helpful as Angela Tremain begins her job as a sixth-grade teacher at Jefferson School. She is a graduate of FHSU and enjoys traveling and watching her granddaughter in gymnastics. She and her husband David have a blended family with six children, Christina, Jamie, Ryan, Chad, Hayden and Wyatt. Wyatt is a sophomore at Larned High School. They also have six grandchildren.
“My husband and I raise pigs for show and for butchering,” Tremain said, noting, “I have a bad habit of naming all the piglets, which is not good.
“I am in education because I enjoy helping children succeed in early life experiences that will assist them in becoming successful adults,” she said. “Helping a child build self-esteem is also an added joy of teaching.”

Jenae Wear was a substitute teacher last spring for USD 428 and liked it well enough to accept a job as a first-grade teacher at Jefferson School. She is a graduate of BCC and FHSU.
Her parents are Brad and Kristi Rouse and she and her husband Shawn have a cat named Sherlock. Her interests include Pinterest, scrapbooking, cooking and walking.
“I am in education because it is my passion to teach,” Wear said. “Becoming a teacher has always been my dream ever since I started school.
“I have had some amazing role-model teachers growing up and I always knew I wanted to be just like them,” she said. “It is very rewarding to teach children the skills and information they will need for the future.”

Amy Williamson, who hails from Texas, will wear the hat as a family support worker at Jefferson School. A graduate of Asbury University and the University of Texas at Arlington, she worked previously as a school social worker at Shawnee Mission School District. She and her husband Jacob have two Vizlas, Rosso and Rosie. She likes to sew, ride bikes, be outside and play with her dogs.
“I want to be part of supporting students as the reach their potential and fulfill their dreams,” Williamson said.


Jessica Geist is moving west from Abilene to accept her first teaching job as s sixth-grade teacher at Lincoln School. She is an FHSU graduate and did substitute teaching there as well as being the director of an after-school program. She enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching and playing different sports, shopping and reading.
“Every student deserves an opportunity to excel and succeed in the classroom and outside of the classroom,” Geist said. “I want to be the person that gives them the tools and guidance to do so.”
Jenna Gourley has been hired as a third-grade teacher at Lincoln School. She is a graduate of Emporia State University with a degree in elementary education. Gourley will be driving from Ellsworth where she lives with her husband, Cristopher, her cat named Raccoon and her two horses, Midnight and Daisy. In her spare time she enjoys making jewelry and riding her horses.
“I have always wanted to teach since I was young,” Gourley said. “I enjoy bringing a creative side to teaching so that students love to learn.”

Nina Burton will join the staff at Park School as a fifth-grade teacher. She is a hometown girl and recently graduated from Fort Hays State University. Her parents are Kelly and Colleen Burton and her brother is Tanner.
Burton has a dog named Ralphie and enjoys sports (especially KU), spending time at her parents’ pond, family, friends and “anything adventurous.”
“I have been inspired by many of my teachers and coaches,” Burton said. “I want to make a difference in the lives of children.”
Signe Cook, a new fifth-grade teacher at Park School, is a K-State graduate and comes to USD 428 from Ellinwood where she has experience teaching grades K-3 and 6-8. She and her husband, Mark, who is the principal at Ellinwood High School, have two sons, Taylor, 17, and Matthew, 10, and a daughter, Courtney, 14. They also have a cat named Matches. She likes KSU football, reading, running and family activities.
“I enjoy learning and sharing the joy of leaning with others,” she said. “I want to start a life-long love of learning with my students.”
A recent graduate of Barton Community College and FHSU, Megan Henry will join the staff at Park School as a fourth-grade teacher. She is the daughter of Ray and Kelly Henry of Great Bend and likes riding her Rzr in her spare time.
“I want to educate students and play a role in them becoming successful in all aspects of life,” Henry said about her career choice.
Morgan Fletchall, a FHSU graduate, has been hired to teach second grade at Park School. She has two dogs, Paisley and Petra, and loves being around her family and friends and doing adventurous things. She is engaged to Devin Hoffman.
“It’s plain and simple,” Fletchall said. “I love kids. It is so neat that I can teach, be a caregiver and a role model all in one.
“Having children grasp onto what you teach and how you teach it is indescribable,” she said.
Molly Mumm has accepted a position to teach music at Park School after teaching for four years at Sacred Heart Cathedral School in Dodge City. She is a graduate of Bethany College, having majored in vocal performance and music education with a minor in sacred music. She has a dog named Gizmo.
Maggie Miller, who calls Odin her hometown, has been hired as a special education teacher at Park School. She and her dog, Mayci, now call Great Bend home. She is a graduate of Kansas Wesleyan University and enjoys playing and watching sports and spending time with family and friends.
“I am in education because I have always wanted to help students be the best that they can be,” Miller said. “It is my passion to teach students of all ages and abilities that they can learn and become whatever they want to be.”
Kyle Vierra comes to Great Bend from Moss Landing, Calif., by way of Sterling College. He will teach sixth grade at Park School. He has a dog named Ozzy and enjoys hunting, fishing, camping, weight lifting and coin collecting.
“I love kids and want to make an everlasting, positive impact on the next generation,” Vierra said.

Meg Clark’s grandmother was in education and it fueled her desire to teach at an early age. Accepting a third-grade teaching position at Riley School will allow her “to make a positive impact in children’s lives.”
Clark and her husband, Brennan, have a dog named Rocky. She enjoys nature, pets, sports and spending time with her family. She is a graduate of FHSU.
Anne Chipman will join the staff at Riley School as a kindergarten teacher after having taught first grade the past two years. She is a graduate of K-State and loves “seeing those light-bulb moments when a struggling student has worked so hard and finally reached understanding.”
She is engaged to Kolten Cook and has two dogs named Luna and Nemo.
Dana Wilson is looking forward to a new journey in her nursing career as a nurse at Riley School and Helping Hands Preschool. She received her degree from Barton Community College.
She and her husband, Joel, who works for USD 428 grounds and maintenance, have three children Amanda, Charles and Mathew; and four grandchildren, Easton, Emmi, Addyson and Brantley; and one dog, Zoey.
Wilson said she would like to “promote health, education and healthy living to the students and families of USD 428.”
Riley School will have a new first-grade teacher this year as Lacy Hammack joins the staff. A graduate of FHSU, she has been a paraprofessional in Russell for the past five years. She and her husband, Joshua, have two daughters, Caitlyn and Brianna. In her spare time she likes to read, bake and watch her children’s activities.
“I am very excited and looking forward to my first year of teaching,” Hammack said. “I love working with children. I want to make a positive difference in their lives.”

Great Bend Middle School
Kyle Kriegh has been hired as a social studies teacher at Great Bend Middle School where he will also be the eighth-grade girls’ basketball coach. He is a graduate of K-State and in the Transition to Teaching program at Fort Hays State University. He has a dog named Mayci and likes to fish, hunt, watch sports and learning about history. He also enjoys grilling and spending time with family and friends.
“I have always enjoyed helping others and my biggest influence has come from former teachers and coaches,” Kriegh said. I want to impact my students and help them achieve in their educational experiences.”
It’s a family affair as Darcy Leech joins the USD 428 family with her husband, Daniel, GBHS teacher, and her father, Randy Bartz, GBMS custodian, who are also new hires. She will be the instructional technology coach at the middle school. She is a graduate of Bethany College and ESU with bachelor’s degrees in philosophy, English education, special education and a master’s degree in gifted.
She is writing on a book titled “From My Mother” about her brother, Dustin, and mother, Jolyn, who both suffered from the same rare genetic disease, myotonic dystrophy. Her brother died at age 13 and her mother died four years ago at age 51. She won a Horizon Artist Grant in Salina to edit and publish the book.
“My brother enjoyed school even though he never spoke, walked or read a text book,” Leech said. “I believe strongly that we should enable the education of every student. …
“I believe in the power of education to improve the quality of live, increase human potential and enrich our existence,” she added. “I want to open doors for the leaders of tomorrow.”
Cathy Lewis, has been hired to seventh-grade English at GBMS while her husband, Denny, will be the pastor at New Life Baptist Church in Hoisington. They have an adult son, Tony, 24, and fourth-grade twins, Eli and Caty. For hobbies, she enjoys hiking and writing letters.
“I love reaching out to children, sharing my knowledge and experience with them and encouraging them,” she said.
Sharon Reed has joined the staff at GBMS as a physical education teacher. She was raised in Dewey, Okla., and is a graduate of Pittsburg State University. She and her husband, Brad, who is the USD 428 superintendent of schools, have three children – sons Blake and Cooper and daughter Megan. They also have a dog named Harvey. Her interests include walking, baking, church, outdoor activities and projects around the house.
“I enjoy working with children,” Reed said. “Seeing them learn is very rewarding and being a part of that growth is very special.”
Andrea Vegter is traveling cross country to accept her first teaching assignment as a math teacher at GBMS. She is a Michigan University graduate. Her hobbies include reading, writing, singing and helping people.
“I am in education because I had teachers who cared about me and my future,” Vegter said. “They challenged me to explore my potential and my passions.
“Having just a few teachers like that really influenced how I’ve lived my life,” she said. “I hope to be that person for my students and to influence their lives in a positive, caring manner.”
John Westbrook has been hired to teach math at GBMS. He is a graduate of Florida College with a degree in music and Wichita State University with a degree in music education. He received his math endorsement last spring.
He has a keen interest in piano, photography, swimming and biking and likes working with young people and taking part in their development.

Great Bend High School
Nathan Broeckelman will join the staff at Great Bend High School as a math teacher, but also has been named as the head wrestling coach and football and track assistant coach. A graduate of Kansas State University, he comes to Great Bend from Greeley County High School where he was a junior high math teacher and a head high school coach for football and wrestling and head junior high track coach. He and his wife, Hannah, have two sons, Kashton, 3, and Declan, 1, and a baby due in February. He enjoys sports, traveling, spending time with his family and his miniature pinschers named Jax and Kaiah.
Broeckelman said he is in education “to help my students/athletes become responsible and skillful adults that will lead the future of our society.”
Alyssa Lane has accepted her first teaching position as the assistant orchestra teacher at Park and Lincoln schools, GBMS and GBHS and band instructor at Eisenhower School. She is a graduate of Kansas Wesleyan University and has a double major in music education and computer science and education.
Lane said she is in education “for me that ‘ah-ha’ moment. To see a student get something for the first time and seeing them with that sense of accomplishment is honestly the best thing ever!
“Working with the prep orchestra in Salina is when I found my love for teaching, it is amazing how fast they can pick it up and improve,” she said.
For fun Lane enjoys scrapbooking, singing and playing the violin and she notes that she sang in all of the operas when at KWU and was in the select choir.
Daniel Leech has been hired to teach geography at GBHS. He is a graduate of Bethany College and received his masters in science education administration in 2014 from ESU.
For seven years he taught sixth through 12th grades at Saint John’s Military School in Salina.  years. He also coached football, soccer and golf.
His wife, Darcy, is the new technology coach at GBMS. They have a 4-year-old son, Eli, and are expecting their daughter, Hannah, at the end of October. Reza, a 2-year-old standard poodle, completes their family.
“I became an educator to provide support to students with needs and potential to grow,” Leech said. “I am a servant for students, parents and our community. I want to have a positive impact in Great Bend.”
Mary Lytle has accepted a position to teach English at GBHS. She is a graduate of Central Michigan University with degrees in English, history and secondary education. In her spare time she likes to read, write, travel volunteer and spend time with her family and friends.
“I am in education because teaching is what I am meant to do,” Lytle said. “It is my purpose.
“I come from a long line of teachers,” she said. “I have always known that I wanted to be a teacher ever since I used to play teacher. My love of books and of stories has led me to become an English and a history teacher!
“My family and friends mean more than anything else to me,” Lytle continued. “I would not be who I am today without them. I am very excited to be moving to Kansas and I feel blessed that Great Bend is where I get to start the new chapter of my life!”
GBHS has a new assistant principal. Daryl Moore was the Beloit High School principal for the past six years and also was principal at Republic County High School and Clifton/Clyde High School. He was a social studies teacher and coach at Clifton/Clyde for 16 years. He started his career in education as a social studies teacher and coach after graduating from Kansas State University with a BS in history. His MS degree from K-State is in school administration.
Moore’s wife, Kathy, will teach Spanish and art at Macksville High School. Their son, Preston, is a pharmacist in Great Bend and their daughter, Ashley Vonada, is a physician’s assistant at Great Bend Regional Hospital urgent care center. They also have one granddaughter.
“Both my wife and I are excited to be in the same town as our children and granddaughter,” Moore said.
“I enjoy both playing and watching sports,” he said. “My wife and I enjoy hiking and canoeing.”
He also likes hunting, working on woodworking projects and classic cars. He cheers for KSU in all contests and admits to owning and wearing several ugly purple sweatshirts.
Donna Nett is returning to the area as a special education teacher at GBHS. She comes here from Kingman with her husband Dwight. They have two children, Dayona and Dayton. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her family, shopping reading and traveling.
“I grew up with a mentally handicapped child living near me,” Nett said. “In high school I volunteered as a camp counselor with special-needs kids.
“I knew I wanted to teach these students,” she said. “I want to be an advocate for students who cannot advocate for themselves. These students deserve the chance to grow and become successful adults.”
Laura Schlessinger is returning to GBHS as a math teacher after a five-year break to stay at home with her children, Charlee, 6, Jake, 4, and Jonah, 3. She and her husband, John, live in Claflin. She has her BS and MS degrees in math from Pittsburg State University and has also taught at Pittsburg High School, Holy Savior Catholic Academy, Quivira Heights High School and Hoisington High School.
In her spare time she likes reading mystery novels, exercising and doing puzzles.
“I am excited to be back,” Schlessiger said. “I enjoy the challenge of helping others understand the world around them through mathematics. It is rewarding helping others discover their potential.”
Michael Specht is looking forward to his new job as a special education teacher at Great Bend High School so he can help students “be prepared for the next grade and for their life responsibilities.” He is a graduate of Mankato State University in elementary and special education and had a graduate degree in reading and learning disabilities.
Specht and his wife, Carole, who is a paraprofessional in Larned, have four children. Alex is a science teacher in McPherson, Alex is a computer technician in Hutchinson, Michelle is a United States district attorney in Wichita, and Dawn is a client at Rosewood Services. Dawn won three medals at the Special Olympics World Games in Ireland and he is equally proud of his grandchildren, who are all athletes.
His hobbies include riding bikes and motorcycles, hunting, shooting, reading and gardening.
Eric Steiner will teach special education at Great Bend High School and also coach football at the middle school. Originally from Hoisington, he is a graduate of Bethany College. He and his wife, Monica, have one son, Isaac. He enjoys hunting, golf and spending time with his family.
His goal as a teacher is to “help kids develop into successful adults.”
Lori Tennis has been hired to teach math at GBMS having been recruited from Central Michigan University. She made the cross-country move with her best friend, Danielle Carrasco, who will teach special education at Lincoln School in Hoisington. She loves baseball season and is a big Detroit Tigers fan. She also likes to play softball and being outdoors.
“As a K-12 student, I enjoyed helping my friends and classmates study for their classes,” Tennis said. “I knew at a young age that I wanted to be a teacher because it always felt good to help others. I look forward to starting this amazing profession and becoming a role model for my students.”
Lacy Wolters has been hired to fill a new position at GBHS – ACT/career coordinator. She has accounting and finance degrees from FHSU and is in the transition to teaching program. Previously, she taught business at Oakley High School. She and her husband, Sergio Ramirez, GBHS art teacher, have a 6-month-old daughter, Maria Faye. She likes to spend time with her family and friends, travel and try new restaurants.
Prior to teaching, I was a practicing certified financial planner working in both Minneapolis, Minn., and Kansas City,” she said. “I realized a passion for education while training and mentoring new financial planners.
“The transition-to-teaching program allowed me to begin teaching in the classroom where I was able to share my rea-world business experience with my students,” Wolters said. “My favorite part of teaching is seeing my students learn, mature and develop into incredible young adults.”
Ryan Zink is pulling double duty at GBHS as a sports medicine teacher and the head athletic trainer. He is a graduate of Barton Community College, Wichita State University and Louisiana Tech University. His experience is at the college level, having worked at BCC, Pratt Community College and Fort Scott Community College. He and his wife, Teressa, who works at Fuller Industries, have two dogs, Samantha and Emily. In his spare time he like to disc golf and travel. He also enjoys studying World War II and participating in historical reenactments.
Zink is involved in education because he wants to give students more college opportunities and career ideas in the health-care field.
Special Services
First-year teacher Danielle Carrasco comes to Great Bend from Central Michigan University to teach special education at Lincoln School in Hoisington. She moved here with her best friend, Lori Tennis, who will teach at Great Bend Middle School, and her dog, Rozzy.
“I chose education because, ultimately, I want to make a difference in the lives of my students,” Carrasco said. “I decided to specialize in special education because of a young boy who I watched throughout high school. Watching him grow as an individual and knowing that I had a part in that made me want to be a part of others’ lives as well.”
Hannah (Seiwert) Degenhardt is a Great Bend native who has returned home with her husband, Devon, to be the speech-language pathologist at Eisenhower and Holy Family schools. She previously worked for the Geary County school district after graduating from K-State.
She enjoys playing volleyball, riding bikes and spending time with her family. She chose her career because she likes working with children.
Melissa Lutt is joining the staff at Helping Hands Preschool as a special education teacher. She and her husband Jeff, GBHS PE teacher, have an eighth-grade son, Barrett and a fourth-grade daughter, Ellie, and a dog named Nala.
She is a graduate of FHSU and enjoys reading and cake decorating.
“I went into education because I wanted to have a career that was meaningful and education allows for that,” Lutt said. “Teaching allows me to have a positive impact on the lives of the children I interact with daily.”
Clarissa McCormick will join the staff at Helping Hands Preschool as a speech-language pathologist. For the past 10 years she worked for the Fort Larned school district. A graduate of FHSU, she and her husband, Luke, have three children, Haley, 10, Kylie, 9, and Levi, 5. They also have dogs, cats, bucket calves and a rabbit. She enjoys reading, spending time with her family and being active with her church choirs and community bands.
“From the time I was little, I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” McCormick said. “I always felt a calling to be a part of special education.
“Being a speech-language pathologist allows me to help children and show them that they have a voice and that they are very special and gifted in their own unique ways,” she said.
Lauren Turner is returning to teaching as a gifted facilitator at GBHS, having previously taught first grade at Lincoln School. She has degrees from Colby Community College and ESU. She has one master’s degree as a reading specialist and is completing her second master’s degree in special education. She has an 11-year-old daughter and a 2 ½-year-old son. For hobbies she enjoys going places with her children and repurposing old furniture with chalk paint.
“I have always loved the learning process,” Turner said.