Peabody-Burns welcomes five new teachers, Centre six

First Row: Bruce, Coleman, Herrel
Second Row: Jones, Thorburn
Third Row: Brakenhoff, Keating, Mueller
Fourth Row: Nickel, Steiner, Stuchlik

Together, the Peabody-Burns and Centre school districts will be welcoming 11 new teaching faculty this fall.

At Peabody-Burns, Krystal Bruce will teach physical science, chemistry and physics.

“I try to do a lot of labs and give students opportunities to design their labs,” Bruce said.

A graduate from Bethany College in Lindsborg, Bruce just finished a year of teaching in Lyndon. Her family lives in Salina and her fiance, Michael Hague, resides in Peabody.

Also joining the faculty is Jack Coleman, who will be teaching vocal and instrumental music in the middle and high schools.

Coleman has seven years teaching experience in the Mulvane and Belleville areas. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas and his master’s degree from Wichita State University.

“I love music and I love kids,” Coleman said. “I’m looking forward to doing music with the kids and encouraging them in everything.”

Taking on math classes for Peabody-Burns Middle School is Kurt Herrel. He will cover seventh and eighth grade math and pre-algebra and algebra for ninth graders and coach middle-school girls’ volleyball.

Herrel brings five years of teaching experience, having middle-school level in a private school at Marshfield, Wis.

“I’m looking forward to getting to know the students,” said Herrel, who earned his undergraduate degree at Martin Luther College in New Olm, Minn.

He and his wife, who teaches psychology at Tabor College, have four children and live in rural Hillsboro.

Patrice Jones, who plans to commute to Peabody from Wichita, will teach Spanish I and II in the high school and Title I in the elementary school.

“I’m going to be working with kindergartners and first-graders, tutoring them and giving them extra opportunities to read,” Jones said about her morning schedules. In the afternoons, she will teach the high school classes.

“I’m in the transition-to-teaching program,” Jones said. “I’ve got substitute teaching experience, but I’m working with a restrictive license right now.”

Prior to teaching, she was also working at WSU at the intensive English center, working with non-native English speakers. She earned two undergraduate degrees-one in music and one in Spanish, both from WSU.

Jones is taking classes at WSU to complete the certification.

“I feel strongly that (Spanish is) a very important language to learn,” she said. “The rest of the world knows at least two or three languages and we’re lagging behind.”

Steve Thorburn comes to Kansas from Michigan, where he grew up. He will be teaching vocational education classes, including horticulture I and II, agri-science, animal science and two introductory agriculture classes for seventh and eighth grade.

Thorburn earned his bachelor’s degree from University of Tennessee at Martin, which emphasizes agriculture. He has also completed his certification for teaching biology and social studies from Olivet College in Michigan.

“The community was real warm and welcoming when I came for my interview,” Thorburn said about his decision to teach in Peabody. “The personality and people around people and nice school and nice facilities sold me on coming here.”


Six new teachers will be joining the Centre teaching faculty this fall.

Ben Brakenhoff will be a mathematics teacher for grades eight through 12, and perhaps a seventh-grade class as well.

The Alta Vista native graduated from Council Grove High School before earning his teaching degree in 2003 from Concordia University in Seward, Neb.

After college, Brakenhoff worked as a camp director for two years before accepting his assignment at Centre. He came in part because of Superintendent Robert Kiblinger, who had been a principal at Council Grove.

“I’ve heard really good things about him,” Brakenhoff said about conversations he had with some of his former teachers there.

“I’m looking forward to working with the kids, of course, but I guess what I want to accomplish is to have them learn more about math and their problem-solving skills all around,” he said.

John Keating will teach high school social studies as well as being athletic director and an assistant coach for football and track.

A native of Junction City, Keating graduated from Kansas State University with a history degree in 1988, then finished a degree in education in 1992.

He taught at Junction City and Valley Falls before he and wife Kaylin accepted teaching jobs in Cunningham, where they’ve worked the past eight years. Kaylin is teaching at Ogden this school year.

Keating said they accepted their new assignments in part to be closer to family. In addition to extended family, the Keatings have one grown daughter and a younger daughter who is attending KSU.

“I heard a lot of good things about Centre,” Keating said about his decision. “I always have been impressed with the school district.”

As for his classroom goals, Keating said, “I always want to make sure (students) come out of my class with a good knowledge of the material. But also I hope they can go out and make a contribution to society in that particular area.”

Ashley Mueller, who will be teaching first-graders, grew up in Assaria, but also has extended family living within the Centre district. In fact, she’ll be living with her grandmother as the new school year begins.

A 2006 graduate of K-State, Mueller said she chose Centre because she believes it shares key values with her home school district, Southeast of Saline.

“They try to to do more than just educate a child,” she said. “They really bring in a family atmosphere and help mentor children to become responsible citizens and good people. In doing that, they help build a lifelong love of learning.

“That’s something I really want to instill in my children-that I still love going to school and getting ready for school,” she added. “I want them to have that same desire and love.”

Karen Nickel will be teaching the class for 4-year-old at-risk children in the morning and then working as an aide during the afternoon session.

Nickel, who graduated from Tabor College in December 2002, lives near Tampa with husband Kacey and their three children. She is working on a master’s degree in early childhood education at Emporia State University.

“I’m looking forward to enjoying time with the kids and learning and having those experiences with them,” Mueller said about her new assignment.

“I think 4-year-olds are the fun age because they’re eager to learn, and I’m just as eager to go around with them and show them the interesting things that are out there.”

Kelly Steiner is returning to his home school district as an English teacher for grades seven through 12 as well as being the yearbook sponsor and the head coach for high school football and girls’ basketball.

After graduating from CHS, he earned his degree at McPherson College and was a standout running back on the football team. Since completing college in 2001, he has been teaching English and sponsoring the yearbook at Hope High School.

He and wife Heather had their first child, a daughter, in November.

“I’m looking forward to being back in the district and doing the best I can to help all the kids,” Steiner said.

Megan Stuchlik, hired to teach second grade, also is a Centre product. In fact, she will be succeeding her own second-grade teacher, Shirley Gutsch, who retired this spring.

“I’m excited to be back in my home community,” said Stuchlik, who leaves near Tampa with husband Ross. “I’ve always wanted to teach here and the opportunity came.”

After graduating from Emporia State in 2005, she taught for one year at Herington.

“I just love working with kids,” she said. “If I can get every single student to feel like they’ve accomplished something in my classroom-no matter how big or small it is-I feel like I’ve been successful that year.”

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