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Q and A with the school’s newest teachers

Lauren Urschel, Online Editor

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 Q: What made you decide to be a teacher? 

A: A lot of things, but I decided that the Division I level wasn’t for me at this time for a lot of reasons. Basically when I graduated college, I got my masters, my bachelors, and my teaching credentials so I could teach any level. This summer, we found ourselves without a job, so I reevaluated what I was coaching for. The thing is I want to impact more kids; I felt like I could do that more at the high school level, so I went back to California and got my California credentials reinstated so that I could coach and teach here. 

Q: What made you decide to come to Southwest? 

A: The area. For my family, for the school, for the tradition that they have in baseball. There were too many reasons not to try and come here. 

Q: If you could sum up your teaching style in one sentence, what would it be? 

A: Player and student first. It’s all about their health and welfare, making sure they develop habits for lifelong fitness and lifelong health and lifelong — basically — ability. 

Q: What do you like to do outside of school? 

A: Play with my kids. I have a boy who’s 6, and the girl is 5. 

Q: What are three interesting facts you want people at Southwest to know about you? 

A: (1) I’m a huge Star Wars fan. I am a Star Wars nerd, a little bit. (2) I’ve coached over, probably, 50 major leaguers, and (3) I was cut in high school; it can happen. 

TYLER KINCAID 

Physical Education 

Q: What subject do you teach? 

A: I am a resource teacher, so I help students with IEPs in all of their classes, but I co-teach Algebra I twice a day. 

Q: What made you decide to be a teacher? 

A: I loved my job at the Access House — they call it the 18 to 21 program now — and my undergrad is not in education, so I decided to go back and get my masters and teach just because I loved it. 

Q: What made you decide to come to Southwest? 

A: OK, I hope nobody else reads this besides people at Southwest, but this school is known as being the best place to work so I’m sure it’s the best place to go to school. Everyone here is really supportive, I really like it; it’s the newest school. 

Q: If you could sum up your teaching style in one sentence, what would it be? 

A: I am here for the kids. 

Q: What do you like to do outside of school? 

A: I have a four-year-old son, Jamison, so we like to hunt down new railroad tracks around town. Anything with him going outdoors — Deanna Rose, swimming. 

Q: What are three interesting facts you want people at Southwest to know about you? 

A: (1) I’m originally from Illinois, (2) I went to school to be a lawyer and (3) I am the youngest of three girls.

RACHEL BINDER 

Resource Teacher

 Q: What made you decide to be a teacher? 

A: It was actually my teachers growing up that really changed my perspective on teaching. They weren’t just teachers to me; they were mentors and therapists and idols, and I really hope I can do that with my students. 

Q: What made you decide to come to Southwest? 

A: My best friend was [in] the opening freshman class at Southwest and she loved it so that really inspired me to come here. 

Q: If you could sum up your teaching style in one sentence, what would it be? 

A: I am silly, yet stern. 

Q: What do you like to do outside of school? 

A: I love going to see live music. I love going to concerts and I love that atmosphere. I also love being outside during the summer at the lake; that’s my thing. 

Q: What are three interesting facts you want people at Southwest to know about you? 

A: (1) I have played in the Kauffman Center more than I have seen performances there; I have played eight times in the Kauffman Center. (2) I’ve also eaten pizza with the lead singer of Walk the Moon. (3) A third interesting fact is I’m a huge Star Wars nerd; like, giant Star Wars nerd. 

 LAUREN MARTENS

 Assistant Orchestra Director 

 Q: What made you decide to be a teacher? 

A: It’s fun to be with kids. 

Q: What made you decide to come to Southwest? 

A: It’s just like, there is opportunity, then I just come. There’s nothing like, ‘You have to go there,’ but it’s just like an option … you just want to explore. 

Q: If you could sum up your teaching style in one sentence, what would it be? 

A: Try out different things. 

Q: What do you like to do outside of school? 

A: Travel, watch movies and go shopping. 

Q: What are three interesting facts you want people at Southwest to know about you? 

A: (1) My parents are living in Poland, even though I’m from China. My brother is studying in University of Indiana-Bloomington, so my family is like, around everywhere and spread out. (2) I like Japanese sushi. That’s my favorite thing. I like Japanese food. (3) I was always recognized as a student when I was in the school.

 JUN WAO

 Chinese 

 

 Q: What made you decide to be a teacher? 

A: I have wanted to teach ever since I was little. I liked helping others, and I really liked helping students get that moment where they didn’t really like learning and then they saw something that was interesting to them and they like learning it. 

Q: What made you decide to come to Southwest? 

A: I wanted to explore high school, even though I love middle school. 

Q: If you could sum up your teaching style in one sentence, what would it be? 

A: I will make you participate. 

Q: What do you like to do outside of school? 

A: I love to spend time with my fiance — my fiancee is Gabe Thompson, who coaches for Blue Valley — and hang out with our pets, and go to cafes and spend time outside when it’s nice out. 

Q: What are three interesting facts you want people at Southwest to know about you? 

A: (1) I’m getting married Oct. 6, and will become Madame Thompson. (2) I think everybody should take a foreign language. (3) I love teaching like a middle school teacher. 

 ANNE-MARIE KNECHT

 French 

 Q: What made you decide to be a teacher? 

A: Honestly, it was something that I’ve always wanted to be. When I was a little girl I always played like I was a teacher. My dad was a teacher, so I’m sure that had something to do with it. It was just a career I always wanted. 

Q: What made you decide to come to Southwest? 

A: My husband unexpectedly got a job offer from Garmin back in the spring and at the time I was a stay-at-home mom and had planned to go back to work and get a library job in the school setting. Mrs. [Liz] Chopp is awesome and I really, really enjoyed her when I was interviewing and here I am. 

Q: If you could sum up your teaching style in one sentence, what would it be? 

A: I guess I would say I’m flexible, laid-back, energetic and I like to have fun. 

Q: What do you like to do outside of school? 

A: I love to read, obviously, but I also am married with two young kids so we like to go out and do family things. I love to cook when I have a moment to do that. I really enjoy binge-watching TV shows. 

Q: What are three interesting facts you want people at Southwest to know about you? 

A: (1) I am a huge Harry Potter nerd, so I’m obsessed. (2) I graduated and taught at Kickapoo in Springfield which is the high school Brad Pitt graduated from. (3) Mr. [Michael] Watson, the new English teacher, and I actually graduated from Kickapoo. We had no idea that we were working together until the new teacher orientation. 

KRISTAN BOWLIN 

Library Media Specialist 

Q: What made you decide to be a teacher? 

A: I actually fell in love with Spanish first, and I was so passionate about it that I wanted to have the opportunity to share that with others. That’s what brought me to teaching. 

Q: What made you decide to come to Southwest? 

A: I was really impressed with the program here, and the way that everything was set up. 

Q: If you could sum up your teaching style in one sentence, what would it be? 

A: Students, comfort and happiness come first. 

Q: What do you like to do outside of school? 

A: I don’t have a lot of free time to be honest, but when I do I like to read, I like to do anything that’s creative and I like to exercise, especially running and yoga. 

Q: What are three interesting facts you want people at Southwest to know about you? 

A: (1) I have a daughter in 6th grade who goes to Aubry Bend. (2) I live in Weston, which is a little over an hour away, so I’m commuting. (3)I have traveled and lived out of a backpack, so I’ve paid my dues in travelling, I guess. 

NATASHA VERNON 

Spanish 

Q: What made you decide to be a teacher? 

A: I did English tutoring for foreign students when I was an undergrad. Specifically, family members of doctoral candidates, and I really enjoyed it. I was also a French tutor — that was one of my jobs at university — and I really enjoyed that too, so I continued to pursue it. 

Q: What made you decide to come to Southwest? 

A: I’d heard really good things about this school. Everyone I knew who worked here really loved it. Madame Grant who was the French teacher before me, she told me great things about it. 

Q: If you could sum up your teaching style in one sentence, what would it be? 

A: Energetic. 

Q: What do you like to do outside of school? 

A: I really love kickboxing. Painting — I’m not very good at it but I enjoy it. Cooking, eating. I’m a huge cinephile. Hanging out with friends, hanging out with family. 

Q: What are three interesting facts you want people at Southwest to know about you? 

A: (1) I’m a huge geek, that’s probably the most obvious fact. (2) I love dark chocolate, in case anyone wants to bribe me. (3) I love books. 

GRETCHEN MEYER 

French

 Q: What subject do you teach?

A: I teach intensive resource, special education. I, this year, teach reading and writing and math and then I also co-teach a Field Biology class. We also do Connections.

Q: What made you decide to be a teacher?

A: I actually volunteered in eighth grade in Special Olympics and I just thought it was a really neat experience, so that sent me down the path of special education, but when I was little I always wanted to be a teacher.

Q: What made you decide to come to Southwest?

A: I had been in middle school for 11 years and I just really wanted a change.

Q: If you could sum up your teaching style in one sentence, what would it be?

A: Very relationship driven.

Q: What do you like to do outside of school?

A: I have three children, so a lot of family things. We go to the park, we exercise, we go to Worlds of Fun, Oceans of Fun. We like to travel.

Q: What are three interesting facts you want people at Southwest to know about you?

A: (1) I grew up in a town that the population is smaller than the school. (2) I’m kind of a health nut. (3) I’d say my family is fairly diverse.

 MELISSIA GO

Resource Teacher

 Q: What made you decide to be a teacher?

A: I think, probably, the influences that I had from other teachers growing up when I was in elementary school and high school. 

Q: What made you decide to come to Southwest?

A: You know, I’ve admired it from afar for a while. I think the Blue Valley School District is the best district in the state. I like their values, their vision.

Q: If you could sum up your teaching style in one sentence, what would it be?

A: I think I try to create an environment that’s safe, so that students have a place they can learn in an environment that is conducive to their experiences and hopefully they’re getting a little bit of physical education in as well.

Q: What do you like to do outside of school?

A: I like to spend time with my kids. I have two kids; a 5- and a 3-year-old. Just kind of spend time away with them and my wife and just like to fish, things like that.

Q: What are three interesting facts you want people at Southwest to know about you?

A: (1) I’m a huge college football fan. (2) I enjoy musicals and plays. (3) I have 10 nieces and nephews.

 ERIK JONES

 Physical Education and Health

 Q: What made you decide to be a teacher?

A: I liked helping kids learn and get the skills that debate provides.

Q: What made you decide to come to Southwest?

A: The work ethic of the students, the parental and administrative support.

Q: If you could sum up your teaching style in one sentence, what would it be?

A: Pretty laid-back.

Q: What do you like to do outside of school?

A: I don’t really have time to do stuff outside of school. I am still a student and I do a lot of debate stuff outside of school hours, so I don’t know, hang out with my dog, Achilles.

Q: What are three interesting facts you want people at Southwest to know about you?

A: (1) I’m originally from Hutchinson, Kansas. (2) I have a big shoe collection. (3) I graduated from Wichita State University

 RYAN MCFARLAND

 Debate

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The Mass Communications Site of Blue Valley Southwest
Q and A with the school’s newest teachers