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MCAS Welcomes New Teachers

Michigan City Area Schools welcomed more than 40 new teachers and other certified staff this school year. We asked them to share a bit about their background and asked them to answer the question, “Why did you become an educator?” Their answers are below!

Alyssa Aaron
Alyssa Aaron
Lake Hills Elementary, Student Support Services (grades 3-6)
Experience: Life Skills Teacher, Kankakee Valley Schools
Education: Manchester University, Purdue Northwest
“I want to be a voice for those who don’t have one.”

Virginia Braggs
Knapp Elementary,  4th Grade
Experience: 15 years elementary teaching in Austin, TX
Education: Indiana University, Purdue University, University of Texas at Austin
“My family members are educators, administrators, and coaches in LaPorte County and I have always known that teaching is my calling in life! I had wonderful examples and role models of educators in my family and as a student in my own learning experiences. I am thrilled to be teaching in Michigan City and carry on the tradition of teaching in this area.”

Jasmin Davison
Jasmin Davison
Joy Elementary, 5th Grade
Experience: 24 years’ experience, Gary Schools and 21st Century Charter
Education: Purdue University (undergraduate), Indiana Wesleyan (Master’s)
“I enjoy working with children and sharing. I was fortunate to have an amazing first-year teacher, Mrs. Matavina (Deevers) who figured out I was unique. She created engaging activities and was proactive in giving me the flexibility to be me. I strive each year to continue in her tradition.”

Angela Finney
Michigan City Virtual Academy

Melissa Flack
Melissa Flack

Michigan City Virtual Academy, Grades K and 1
Experience: I am starting my 34th year of teaching Kindergarten and First Grade
Education: Purdue University and Indiana University
“As a child, I loved going to school and learning.  I knew early on that I wanted to inspire others to feel the same way.”

Michael Forgey
Michael Forgey
A.K. Smith Career Center, Fire Science
Experience: 20-year firefighter, 26-year CBRN Officer (CPT Ret.) 
Education: Pennsylvania State University with a BA in political science
“I have been an instructor of response personnel for years. I look forward to teaching the next  generation of emergency responders.”

Debra Frederick
Debra Frederick
Joy Elementary, Student Support Services
Experience: I have taught special education for almost 30 years
Education: Indiana University (Master’s in Special Education)
“Special Education teaching is a calling and I have always wanted to be a teacher. I am looking forward to going back to Joy and teaching special education.”

 Jack Grennes

Jack Grennes
A.K. Smith Career Center, Criminal Justice
Experience: Police Officer (Retired), Hobart; Criminal Justice Instructor (Hobart High School, Gary Area Career Center)
Education: Indiana Law Enforcement Academy
“I enjoy teaching. I became D.A.R.E. officer in 1999 for the School City of Hobart and an Indiana Workplace Specialist in 2005 for Hobart High, teaching Criminal Justice.”

Melissa Halfmann
Knapp Elementary, 5th Grade
Experience: 5 years teaching in MCAS, 4 years teaching in Las Vegas
Education: Purdue University
“I became an educator to help children reach their full potential, even when they do not yet see their potential! Kids are so much more capable than they may realize.”

Tarra Heckman
Tarra Heckman
Pine Elementary, 6th grade
Experience: First-year teacher
Education: Purdue Northwest
“I started off as a teacher assistant in Laporte and there was nothing more heartwarming than watching the light bulb go off when I was working with a student. Knowing I was making a difference in a child’s life was the inspiration to further my education and become an educator.”

Genie Hernandez
Lake Hills Elementary, Physical Education
Experience: Substituting, grades K-8 since 2018
Education: Purdue Northwest, Elementary Education with a minor in Spanish 
“I love helping people and working with children. As a teacher, I get to do both, by helping children grow and learn new skills. Confucius believed, if you ‘Choose a job you love ... you will never have to work a day in your life.’”

Jessica Hickle
Pine Elementary, 5th Grade
Experience: Elementary teacher in Houston, TX for four years. 
Education: Ball State University
“I became an educator to grow and inspire future generations. I want to teach my students that they are capable, strong leaders and that they are loved.”

Lisa Homer
A.K. Smith, SCALE Educator
Experience: 16 years, high school math teacher
Education: Purdue University, Bachelor’s and Certification in Mathematics; Nova Southeastern University, Master’s in Education
“I have a passion for teaching mathematics, and I want to make a difference in students’ lives.”

RJ Howard
A.K. Smith, Culinary Arts
Experience: Culinary Arts instructor at Indiana State Prison. Owned restaurants for eight years.
Education: Ball State University
“I have a strong desire to make a difference.”

Diamond Howell
Edgewood Elementary School, Student Support Services
Experience: Special Education Teacher (Vigo County Schools), Varsity Cheer Coach
Education: Indiana State University
“I was inspired by my 4th- and 5th-grade teacher, Mrs. Peggy Thomas. She is the perfect role model and a successful educator. She always pushed me to my full potential.”

Dedra Hurt

Knapp Elementary, School Nurse
Experience: 31 years in nursing (IMCU, dialysis, obstetrics, surgery, geriatrics)
Education: Purdue University
“I enjoy helping and teaching people.”

Trevon James

Krueger Middle School, Student Support Services
Experience: Choir Director, South Bend Community Schools; Director of Athletic Bands, New Prairie (current)
Education: Ivy Tech, Bethel University
“The support I received from many Michigan City teachers made this goal happen, including George Olson, Thomas LaFrance, Dan Mc Nabb, Quincy Ford, and Frank Haughee. Mr. Ford and Mr. McNabb helped me explore my ventures into Drum Corps, and Mr. Ford gave me the opportunity to work with the Wolf Pack Marching Band. Mr. Haughee looked over my college papers, giving me encouragement. So many great educators had an impact on my journey and I’m grateful to be home at MCAS.”

Charles George Krueger II 
Barker Middle School, 7th and 8th Grade Science
Experience: First-year teacher (student taught at South Central High School) 
Education: Purdue Northwest (and a proud 2014 graduate of Michigan City High School)
“I became an educator because I was inspired by the great teachers in my life. They have changed my perspective and they have been the most selfless people I have ever encountered. I thank my father, Charles Krueger, and my mother, Robin Krueger, for always supporting my dreams and my passions." 

Jordan Lewis
Michigan City High School, Business
Head Coach, Boys’ Soccer
Experience: Ancilla College adjunct instructor, Business Law; Lowell Senior High/Ivy Tech Dual Credit Instructor
Education: (MBA) Loyola University, Chicago; Valparaiso University; Saint Joseph’s College
“I became an educator to help students accomplish their dreams and to provide them with the ability and opportunity to become successful.”

Heather Martin
Knapp and Joy Elementary, Student Support Services
Experience: Career readiness trainer for a nonprofit, paraprofessional at A.K. Smith
Education: Purdue Northwest (undergraduate), Spertus Institute of Chicago (Master’s degree)
“I want to be one more person in our students’ lives who is cheering them on, supporting them, inspiring them, and making a difference that I hope will go far beyond classroom knowledge.”

Karen Maudlin
Joy Elementary, Art
Experience: Elementary teacher at Springfield and John Glenn School Corp; Art Teacher in John Glenn.
Education: Ball State University
“I’ve wanted to be a teacher from a very early age. I come from a family of educators.”

Colin McCullough
Michigan City High School, Business
Assistant Varsity Football Coach
Experience: Business teacher and Head Football Coach at West Side High School
Education: Earlham College (undergrad degree in Business Management), Northwestern University (graduate degree in Communications) 
“I love kids. I love coaching. I love having summers off!”

Ms. Mitchell
Barker Middle School, Student Support Services
Education: Ball State University
“I became an educator to help guide students to unlock their potential and to give a voice to others. I want to encourage my students to think outside the expected and explore, learn, experience, apply, repeat.”

Joyce L. Murphy
Barker Middle School, 8th Grade Science
Experience: I was with MCAS for five years; the past four years I have been with Chesterton Middle School.
Education: Grand Canyon University
“My kids' first-grade teachers inspired me. Their passion for teaching and unique ability to guide students make me strive to bring the same fairness and innovative ways to reach out to students in my own classroom.”

Ruthie Olson
Pine Elementary School, Nurse

Rachel Pauer

Michigan City High School, Biology
Experience: Teacher, Lawrence Central High School
Education: Purdue Northwest
“I want to help kids succeed both personally and academically.”

Sarah Pessmeg

PATHWAYS, School Counselor
Experience: New Prairie School Corp. and LaPorte Community Schools
Education: Valparaiso University
“I became an educator and professional school counselor because kids need an active listener, to feel validated, and a shoulder to lean on. I believe I am this person!”

Alayna Pol

Pine Elementary, 3rd Grade
Experience: School City of East Chicago (4th grade teacher) and Indianapolis Public School (ESL instructor)
Education: Indiana University Bloomington (B.S. in Elementary Education and English as a New Language); Indiana University Indianapolis (M.S. in Language Education)
“It is natural for me to help others, and being a teacher allows me to do this every day with my students. I value helping young learners find success in their own learning and assisting them develop positive relationships with their classmates. I strive to create a classroom culture that promotes tolerance, risk-taking, and caring interactions.”

Nathan Quinlan

Michigan City High School, German
Experience: After receiving my bachelor’s degree I taught English in Germany through the Fulbright program. I also taught German at Indiana University as
an Associate Instructor.
Education: Purdue University (Bachelor’s degree), Indiana University (Master’s degree)
“One of my biggest inspirations has been the previous MCHS German Teacher, Herr (Dan) Ruth. His was my favorite class during my time as a student and the German American Partnership exchange program I participated in during my junior year solidified this. Teaching allows me to combine my passions for German and working with students.”

Matthew Raney

Coolspring, Art
Experience: Art teacher for 18 years
Education: University of Iowa
“I became an educator to teach what I love, and I love Art!”

Paige Roadruck

Joy Elementary, 4th Grade
Experience: This is my first year!
Education: Purdue University
“I have never considered another career path. I wanted to become a teacher in order to be a support system for each and every student.”

Liz Saeed

Lake Hills Elementary, 5th Grade
Experience: Special Education teacher in Valparaiso, Elementary Teacher in Portage
Education: Indiana University Northwest
“Seeing students learn, grow, and getting excited about learning is the reason I became an educator.”


Charles Salary

Barker Middle School, PE and Health
Middle School Football Coach
Education: Marian University
“I became an educator to impact youth and help them succeed.”


Leanna Smith

Edgewood Elementary, Kindergarten
Education: Purdue Northwest
“I love working with kids and want to make a good impact on this community.”

Mary Smoker

A.K. Smith Career Center, Health Careers II
Experience: Nurse (long-term care, hospice, and substitute nurse for MCAS); kindergarten instructional assistant for Coolspring Elementary
Education: Ivy Tech and Western Governors University
“I want to be part of inspiring our future healthcare heroes. I hope to instill the importance of compassion and empathy for others, as well as to spark a passion in students that they will carry throughout their careers in their chosen fields.”

Parker Stahl

Springfield Elementary, Physical Education 
Experience: Teacher at Bloomington North High School, Monroe County Community School Corporation
Education: Indiana University, Earlham School of Religion 
“I became an educator because it is a great platform for generating positive change and reform in our society.”

Katie Stayback
Joy Elementary, 5th Grade
Experience: First-year teacher
Education:  Purdue Northwest
“I became an educator to help students grow -- and to be the someone to guide them.”

Kayla Sullivan

Pine Elementary, 6th Grade
Experience: First-year teacher
Education: Purdue Northwest
“Watching my step-brother, who has autism, grow up hating school and not receiving the educational experience he deserved made me want to change that for other kids like him.” 

Tammy Tiede
Pine Elementary, 6th grade
Experience: I have been teaching for 18 years (preschool, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and high ability)
Education: Purdue University (Master’s Degree); gifted license from Ball State.
“I have always wanted to be a teacher. When I was just 6-7 years old, I would gather the younger neighborhood kids and play school with them. I even took them on a field trip to a vacant lot at the end of my street. Of course, their parents had to sign a permission slip for them to go.”

Rebecca Wright

Marsh Elementary, 6th Grade ELA
Experience: 17 years at Merrillville Intermediate School
Education: Purdue Calumet
“I became an educator because I’ve always had a passion for helping people.”

Alicia Young
Alicia Young

A.K. Smith Career Center, Health Careers I
Experience: Physical Therapy Assistant for 33 years, worked in MCAS Physical Therapy department from 1995-2014. First Steps Provider with Jacob’s Ladder in Laporte County for the past 6 years. 
Education: Vincennes University, Southern New Hampshire University
“I learned of the opening at A.K. Smith and decided that it would be a good fit to put my newly acquired degree to work. I have loved working in many settings of healthcare throughout my career and would like to share this love and knowledge with my students.”