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New teachers’ second week

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Last month, the News introduced 10 of 13 new Yellow Springs Schools teachers and aides. This week, as students finish their second week of classes, we profile the final three school staff members who are new to the village this year. These pieces, based on interviews conducted just before school opened, reflect new staff members’ hopes and intentions on the cusp of the 2015–16 school year.

Brian Knostman
In the week before school started, Knostman was gearing up for the coming year by shifting down — two grades, that is. “I’m moving from teaching sixth grade to fourth grade,” he explained. He’s excited about the change, believing that “the joy of learning” is still strong among younger students. “I’m hoping to keep that light alive,” he said.

Knostman taught for 10 years at the National Heritage Academies in Dayton, a free public charter school. He enjoyed the position, but confessed he “always wanted to live and teach in Yellow Springs.”

While he and his family haven’t moved to the village, he’s realizing the second part of that wish this year. He came into contact with Yellow Springs schools through several classes he took at Wright State, and had “great interactions” with teachers at Mills Lawn.

Now that he’s one of them, he’s “looking forward to meeting the kids.” He hopes to shift up their sense of what education means in their lives. “I want to inspire them be lifelong learners,” he said.

Kristin McNeely
McNeely is not just a veteran teacher — she’s a veteran Mills Lawn teacher. “I taught third grade here for eight years,” she said. But then she took a couple of years off, and became involved in the school’s Reading Center as a tutor. “I really fell in love with the Reading Center, especially working one-on-one with kids,” she said.

So she went back to school to get her reading endorsement through an online program, as well as an master’s degree in educational leadership from Antioch Midwest. She comes from a family of educators.
“I always knew teaching was my passion,” she said.

And now she’s back at Mills Lawn, as the Title I reading teacher, working with academically at-risk students in grades 1–3. The Reading Center is now her classroom. She’ll be teaching around 40 students this year, six to eight at a time, targeting whichever reading fundamentals need more practice. (She’s also teaching math, but reading is her focus, as well as her passion.) “We’re geared to meeting the individual needs of each student — that’s what guides us,” she said.

Reading is so critical to success in life, she noted. “It’s incredibly rewarding to help students improve their literacy,” she said. “If you catch problems early, reading doesn’t have to be a lifelong issue.”

Jackie Pohl
Pohl is a born reader, and she’s determined to bring that passion to her fourth-grade students at Mills Lawn.

“At heart, I’m a lover of books,” she said. “I want to bring to students who don’t yet”—here she paused, carefully stressing the word—“have a love for reading all the learning, excitement and joy I feel over words.”

She’s been teaching for 20 years, 10 in the classroom and 10 as a reading specialist. She was born in Ohio, but moved around quite a bit during her career, returning to the Dayton area just two years ago. Prior to being hired as a fourth-grade teacher, she worked as a long-term substitute at Mills Lawn.

“I got to know the community,” she said. “I really like how everyone is connected, how people take care of each other’s children. And I like how parents communicate with you about their child.”

She grew up in a small-school setting, and that’s where she feels most comfortable. “This is sort of a homecoming,” she said.

Before applying for the job, she read up on PBL. “I think a lot of good things come out of it,” she said. “Working together and taking responsibility is a very effective way for kids to learn.” PBL also implies changes in the way teachers teach, she noted. “The teacher’s role is more to guide, to be someone who leads them but gets out of their way.”


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