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Q&A: Battle High School teachers bring variety of experiences to new school

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:27 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 22, 2013

COLUMBIA — Teachers hired as of May 17 were included in these interviews and the list at the end.

Social Studies Department

Denise Winslow

What do you want people to be saying about Battle after its first year?

I want people to say that BHS is a place that students and teachers want to go everyday and invest in each other in order to build trust. I would like to think that the faculty's excitement will spread to our students.

We recently found out Battle will be giving each student an iPad Mini. Do you have any plans for how to use it in the classroom?

I will be teaching AP (Advanced Placement) Psychology where the online resources will be invaluable for study skills. There are many opportunities to use technology in the classroom, such as interactive maps in World History or flash cards for studying. I am looking forward to learning more about technology and experimenting with apps. BHS is a place that encourages out of the box thinking.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

I have always been drawn to a field that helps people. I think it is ingrained in my family to be educators, so after I realized that social work was not a viable career for me due to the emotional roller coaster, I decided to help kids through a different avenue, and education is my true niche. I can't imagine doing anything else.

What are your goals for your time at Battle?

I want to help build the BHS family that I feel we have started. I want our kids to feel and know that they are a part of Columbia history and realize they have some awesome opportunities at BHS if they just embrace them. We are all here to help kids succeed, and if kids are willing to take risks and push themselves, we are there to support them.

Jill Villasana

What school are you coming from?

I have been teaching at Jefferson Junior for 12 years, and I was a student here (at Jeff Junior) for three years.

Why did you want to teach at Battle High School?

I’m looking forward to teaching government, which I have been teaching for 12 years. And I am excited about the challenge of teaching an AP (Advanced Placement) Human Geography course for the first time. It is the concept that environment influences culture. It is offered to ninth-graders and 11th-graders.

What kind of environment do you want to create in your classroom?

I hope to create a welcoming and challenging environment where students want to be challenged and learn about the world around them.

What do you want to do with your program?

The reason I wanted to go to high school was so I can see what students do after they leave our school. I’m excited to see how they evolve to high school graduates. You get to see the rest of the story. When you leave high school, you will know what you will do with the rest of your life.

We’re going to do a lot of case studies in government and human geography — how to spatially process what we see in various locations around the world.

What elements will your students cover? What do you think is so important about social studies?

I think social studies is the application of the core content areas that helps develop students’ opinions on citizenship in the world. I hope that students are successful citizens. I hope they participate actively in the world around them. I want them to be voters, call congressmen and petition for change they believe in. I need them to understand how our government works to help make our society better.

Michael Fernandez

What do you teach now and what will you teach at Battle?

I teach ninth-grade government and coach eighth-grade boys basketball at Oakland (Junior High School), and I’ll be teaching government and sociology at Battle.

What did you do before you were a teacher?

I spent almost 10 years as a federal customs agent in places like Chicago and Atlanta.

Why did you choose to be a teacher?

I really enjoy watching the person grow from the first day to the last; it’s really a unique and rewarding experience. Also, I wasn’t a glamorous, straight-A student in high school, so I understand that aspect for the students.

Why did you decide to teach at Battle?

I have a good relationship with a lot of the students that go to Oakland and are going to go to Battle. The idea of working with them again was really intriguing. I live in the Battle area; my kids are going to be Battle kids. What better way is there to have a great school than to be a part of building it?

How do you plan to integrate technology into your classroom?

Government class is a good place to bring technology into the classroom. The more electronics we have for research the better. A lot of the students are good with technology, so it lets them show what they know.

What do you want people to be saying about Battle after the first year?

I want people to say that it’s a school that is academically and socially successful. That’s really what it’s all about. People should say, "This is a great place, and I want my child to attend school here."

Steve Spence

Why did you decide to move to Battle?

A majority of our kids (at Oakland Junior High School) are going to Battle, so I wanted to continue with them. I also thought it would be exciting to get to open a new high school. It’s not something a lot of people can say they’ve done.

What do you want people to be saying about Battle after its first year?

I want people to be able to look back and reflect on how successful of a year it was. Hopefully, the transition was a smooth one, and we were able to begin some new and exciting traditions at Battle High School. More than anything, I want the students to feel a great sense of pride that they attend Battle High.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

I chose to teach because I was able to have a great experience with my own schooling and education. I really liked my teachers, especially in high school, and that gave me the final nudge to want to teach. I’m hoping to provide my students with that same experience that I was able to have.

What are your goals for your time at Battle?

I’d like to help students make a smooth transition from whatever school they are coming from. I’d like to become involved in some of the clubs in addition to coaching football. I’d like to help begin some new traditions at Battle.

How do you plan on integrating technology into the classroom?

Hopefully more day-to-day activities will be web-based, where students can pace their own learning and submit their work into a digital drop box, kind of like college courses.

Russell Crane

What school are you coming from? How long were you there?

I've been teaching about 18 years. I've been at Jeff Junior High since 2000, teaching American History and Government.

Why did you want to come to Battle?

The name. Naming the school after Muriel Battle says a lot about the expectations of the school. Most of my role models for teaching have come from the University of Missouri and Jeff Junior. Their guidance has helped groom me into the teacher I am. I know Muriel stood for excellence, and I want to follow that same path.

What are you excited about in teaching at a new school?

As an American History teacher, I'm excited to be able to be a part of history. Bringing the students in and establishing our own culture is an invaluable experience.

What do you hope the community will be saying about Battle a year from when it opens?

I hope at the end of the first year everyone is saying how happy and successful Battle students are. It's going to be a lot of fun.

Math Department

Michael Bostwick

What school are you coming from?

I currently teach at West Junior High School, and this is my third year here.

Why did you want to teach at Battle High School?

I chose Battle for three reasons. First, BHS offers the unique opportunity for teachers to collaborate without the pressures and constraints of traditions. I look forward to developing traditions from the ground up at Battle.

Second, it is a beautiful school with up-to-date systems and technology. It is easy to see why better technology can improve performance, but I think we underestimate the impact of beautiful architecture and design on productivity and work enjoyment.

Third, among the teachers with whom I've spoken, Kim Presko has a startlingly good reputation as an administrator. I look forward to working for her.

What kind of environment do you want to create in your classroom?

In a conversation earlier this year, our math department considered this very question. We agreed that as a department, we would demand rigor and demand engagement. In other words, the math is challenging and relevant and no students are allowed to hide or slip by unnoticed. Every student will emerge an active and effective problem solver from such a classroom.

To create an environment with those qualities, I have to build relationships with students that are supportive and individualized. I have to expect a great deal out of students and then offer the support, encouragement and instruction necessary for each student to succeed.

What are you passionate about in the field of education?

I object to the word "passionate." To be passionate means that one is subject to one's whims, i.e. passive regarding one's motivating emotions. To be passionate is to be petulant. I think educators must be active, volitional and intentional. At Battle, we have to create the culture, traditions and legacies that future students will experience. This requires more conscientious thought than passion would allow.

What do you want the community to be saying about Battle a year after it opens?

I hope the community has the same sorts of comments we currently hear about RBHS (Rock Bridge High School) and HHS (Hickman High School), including both praise and criticism. We won't get it all right in the first year, but I know we will do many things well.

As a teacher at a new school, you have an opportunity to set precedents that will affect students far down the line. What kind of precedents are you looking to establish?

In "Good to Great," Jim Collins writes that the most successful companies have a hedgehog concept — an organizing premise for the entire company around which every other decision revolves. At Battle, I hope our pre-eminent consideration is the personal and intellectual development of our students and that every decision we make supports their growth.

I think too often we get caught up in the requirements for monitoring student performance or the necessities of managing student populations. At Battle, I hope standardized testing and bureaucratic requirements remain tangential considerations that help us to challenge students to become better versions of themselves.

Michael Collins

What school are you coming from?

I'm joining Battle from Oakland Junior High School, where I've taught for the past six years.

Why did you want to teach at Battle High School?

It was a very difficult decision to leave Oakland. It sounds trite, but we truly have a strong family at OJHS. For the most part, we have a dedicated faculty and the students are endearing. Battle presented, however, such a unique opportunity on which I could not pass.

The challenge of starting a new school and being involved with the genesis of its culture and tradition is a once-in-a-career opportunity, if one is lucky. We, as teachers, are presented with this chance to be a part of something progressive and innovative at Battle High School.

What kind of environment do you want to create in your classroom?

It's time for the traditional vision of what a high school classroom looks like to be challenged and for education to evolve. I want to create an environment that promotes creative thinking and dynamic problem solving while honoring the natural innovation and creativity of this generation.

What do you want to do with your program?

I began my teaching career in a senior high school, but I'm grateful for teaching in a junior high for the past six years. The most valuable thing I've learned is the amazing and powerful thinking students can do on their own if I present them with the right opportunity and then get out of their way.

My program is going to be centered around the students and their thinking, as they are the most important people in my classroom.

What are you passionate about in the field of education?

Technology and its use in the classroom. To paraphrase Michio Kaku, the advent of technology demands an evolution of education. We are in a position where technologies and devices are cheap enough to be proliferate and have a student body who are digital natives. It's the prime time to integrate technology not as a novelty but as a vital part of the learning.

What do you want the community to be saying about Battle a year after it opens?

I want the community to look at Battle and say, "Wow, Battle just changed the whole game."

As a teacher at a new school, you have an opportunity to set precedents that will affect students far down the line. What kind of precedents are you looking to establish?

From the teacher perspective, innovation in teaching and instruction. From the student side, a pride in their school and a sense that this was a place where they were given every opportunity to learn, their way.

Dana Sleeth

What school are you coming from? How long were you there?

I have taught for 20 years. The past 16 years I have been at Oakland Junior High School. Before that, I was at Moberly High School and Lebanon High School.

Why did you want to teach at Battle High School?

I have taught ninth-graders for the majority of my teaching years. I really like this age group, so I knew I wanted to be at a high school. I have worked with Dr. Presko in the past, plus I thought it would be an exciting experience to help open a new school.

What kind of environment do you want to create in your classroom?

I always strive to have a classroom where the kids are actively engaged in learning and where they feel comfortable to ask questions. I will create this by establishing norms and building relationships with the students.

What do you want to do with your program?

It will certainly be different from what I have done in the past for several reasons. We will fully be implementing the Common Core objectives, and we will most likely be a one-to-one school with technology.

In addition, I will be teaching a block schedule, which I have never done. I am still developing ideas for what my class will look like due to these changes. I am excited for the challenge, though, and I look forward to next year.

What are you passionate about in the field of education?

I am most passionate about my relationships with the students. They are the main reason I love my job.

What do you want the community to be saying about Battle a year after it opens?

I hope the community thinks that Battle is an amazing school that kids are excited to attend.

As a teacher at a new school, you have an opportunity to set precedents that will affect students far down the line. What kind of precedents are you looking to establish?

I hope to create a precedent of celebrating success so that students are comfortable feeling pride in themselves as learners, athletes, etc.

Language Arts Department

Melissa Smith

How long have you been teaching English? Where else have you taught? How will that experience help you at Battle?

This is my second year at West teaching English 9, including on-level and Honors sections. 

Prior to that, I taught World Literature to sophomores at North Callaway High School in Kingdom City. I have been fortunate throughout my career to work with creative, collaborative professionals who truly have a passion for teaching.

Additionally, I have been privileged to guide many amazing students through their educational journeys. The collective impact of my experiences with both subject matter and students will be the cornerstone of creating new experiences at Battle.

Why do you want to teach at Battle High School?

The opportunity to open a new school is an exciting challenge. Honestly, I look forward to school whenever and wherever kids are always uniquely important and no matter the school, there are more constants than not.

But our brand-new school has the lure of fabulous facilities, innovative technology, an incredible staff and a new population of students and their families to invest in. More than anything, I relish the chance to start from square one to set a precedent of success, respect and enthusiasm for learning.

My biggest fear is getting lost in the labyrinthine practical and fine arts side of the building; to hunt down the theater, never to return.

What kind of environment do you want to create in your classroom? How will you communicate this goal to your students?

My classroom is a place where students actively take part in their learning and everyone’s voice is heard and respected. We work hard, we learn much and we have fun doing it.

In their scholarly pursuit of becoming better communicators, I try to stretch my students to the pinnacle of their abilities. I set the bar ridiculously high and then prop them up every step of the way until they reach it. I will do whatever it takes to help my students succeed.

A solid foundation of knowledge is built, and then students are encouraged to “Wow Me!” — to incorporate their talents and interests into their work to make it meaningful and extraordinary, to try new things, to help one another and to connect what they’re learning in class to what’s important to them and relevant to their world view.

I have found the best way to communicate this is to tell them: to continually, clearly, specifically define my expectations in a variety of ways. And I bribe them with lots and lots of candy.

As a teacher at a new school, you have an opportunity to set precedents that will affect students far down the line. What kind of precedents are you looking are you looking to establish?

In all of our planning sessions, it has been overwhelmingly unanimous that we will strive for an atmosphere of pride, respect and innovation. I want our students to walk in the doors, understand and appreciate the enormous privilege of being the first Battle students, and to respond in kind with a commitment to make it great, to put their stamp on it; to make this lovely building into their school

There is such a swirl of positive energy surrounding Battle’s opening. I want to see the kids run with it and to help them make Battle a place they are excited to come to every day. It is also important that we establish a proactive approach to giving back to our community and "paying it forward."

What do you want the community to be saying about Battle a year after it open?

"I am so proud that my kids go to Battle."

"They are making strides in innovation at Battle."

"I hear the teachers at Battle are amazing."

"Those Battle teams are a force to be reckoned with."

"Honey, I want our kids to go to Battle."

Amanda Reddish

What is your previous experience in education?

I've been at Oakland Junior High for two years, and have taught ninth-grade English.

Why were you interested in going to Battle?

I was interested in the opportunity to open a new school. It's a good way to help influence students in a positive way.

What are you excited about?

I'm excited to see how students react to the new school. I'm hoping students will be excited and looking forward to all of the great things they will have there. Students will get to start their own clubs and create things the way they want to be. That will be fun to watch.

What kind of environment are you wanting to create in your classroom?

I'm wanting to focus on group work and cooperative learning. I want students to use each other to get knowledge instead of asking me questions. We'll have large projects throughout the year, where students will have to work together and interact with one another. I want my room to be a really positive place, where students are focused on what other people are saying and not just their own beliefs of the world.

What do you want the community to be saying about Battle a year from when it opens?

That it's a really great place to be with a lot of different opportunities. I hope we'll be able to bring in the community and leaders across and people will feel it's an open place. It does take a village to help kids grow.

Fine Arts Department

Bob Thalhuber, band director, instrumental music

What school are you coming from?

I’m coming from Rock Bridge High School and have been there for, I believe, seven years. I have always taught music.

Why did you want to teach at Battle High School?

It’s exciting creating a program from scratch. Every band director that I talked to who had opened a school before said it’s the coolest thing one would ever professionally do. They also said I'll never want to do it again. It’s a lot of work. The most frustrating part of the process is waiting for other important decisions to be made.

What kind of environment do you want to create in your classroom?

I feel creating an empathetic classroom is my biggest goal. Although difficult to teach, fostering empathy in students solves a multitude of problems before they happen. Modeling is imperative.

What do you want to do with your program?

A lot of how we structure the band programs in the Columbia Public Schools is standardized at the district level.  Student placements in all high school concert bands and jazz bands are based on ability level. The number of performing ensembles at each school varies due to enrollment and instrumentation.

We also have marching band, which is a competitive outlet.

What do you think is so important about music?

There’s a lot. I see a lot of students each day who struggle to adequately communicate with others. With technology, students tend to rely on using nonpersonal ways of communicating. I think it's important to give students the tools to communicate in different and meaningful ways.

Jazz Rucker, choral director, vocal music

What school are you coming from?

I am coming from Lange Middle School, and this is my second year. I only taught six months before coming to Lange. I have always taught music.

Why did you want to teach at Battle High School?

I’ve been looking at Battle since I was a junior in college at Mizzou. From a director’s perspective, there are not many opportunities to start a new school and create your own program. I wanted to take advantage of that.

What kind of environment do you want to create in your classroom?

I want to create an environment of musical excellence that is welcoming and supportive of each individual’s needs. I will do this by setting high expectations for each individual's work and sharing high passion and inspiration for our craft each day.

What do you want to do with your program?

For the first year, it’s based upon the auditions. Ideally, I’d like to provide as many opportunities as possible. I hope to look into a cappella work and a show choir. I want to make sure what we are learning in our class isn’t stagnant or nontransferable.

What do you think is important about music?

Everything. Music is worth being taught for its own worth. So many things. It reaches the whole person. When sight reading, more spots light up in your brain than when engaged in any other activity. Music is worth studying because it is music.

Sheri Parker, visual arts

What school are you coming from?

This school year, I am teaching ninth-grade Art Foundations at West Junior High School. This was my first school year at West Junior and my third year of teaching.

During the 2011 to 2012 school year, I taught Elementary Art at West (Boulevard) Elementary. The year before, I traveled to Two Mile Prairie, Mill Creek, Derby Ridge and Alpha Hart Lewis.

I am proud that I have gotten to experience teaching at the different CPS schools, and I am very excited I can call Battle High School my home next year.

Why did you want to teach at Battle High School?

When I took art in high school, I was allowed to be creative and to explore different media and fibers, and because of my past experiences, I have always wanted to be able to provide the same opportunity for the high school students of today.

What kind of environment do you want to create in your classroom?

I want to create a classroom environment where all students feel successful with their art projects, grow confidence and begin to critically think about their artwork and their creative decisions.

I plan on achieving this type of environment by working with the students a lot one on one, by being engaged in their art-making process and artistic decisions and by teaching them the basic, fundamental art skills needed to produce aesthetically pleasing and well-crafted artwork.

What elements will your students cover? What do you think is important about art?

Next year, I will be teaching Art Foundations, Art Studio and 3-D Art. The students in Art Foundations will learn about topics such as the elements and principles of art, how to draw objects from real life and how to draw a self-portrait, and they will learn basic drawing skills that will help them advance if they continue in art.

The Art Studio classes will explore different art genres such as Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism. I am planning for the students to do projects that span from creating a collaged pop art self-portrait, to creating a non-objective painting and discussing color theory, to looking at hidden meaning within still life paintings and creating a personal still life drawing.

In 3-D, the students will explore different materials such as wood, clay and paper. The 3-D II students will learn how to use the pottery wheel and work more independently on their own body of artwork.

Jody Spriggs, visual arts

Where are you coming from?

I’m coming from Oakland Junior High, and I’ve been at Oakland for five years. I taught at Lee Elementary for two years in kindergarten art. At Oakland, I taught eighth- and ninth-grade art.

Why did you choose to teach at Battle High School?

I think the most significant reason is the curriculum because there will no longer be any junior highs. I either had to move down to sixth, seventh and eighth or move to high school. I stuck with the ninth-grade high school curriculum. Plus, the student populous I have now will be similar to Battle.

I was also influenced by the appointment of Dr. Presko. She leads a very productive and supportive administration. It’s a brand-new opportunity. It’s a critical time for Battle to establish itself, and I wanted to be a part of that work.

What kind of environment do you want to create in your classroom?

With high school courses, all teachers will have an introduction class as well as advanced classes. These are art production studios. It needs to be a very collaborative environment. The art classrooms are shared environments. Students will be taking a lot of ownership and responsibility. I want to create a challenging environment.

When in a classroom setting, the only way to foster improvement is by developing creative confidence. After having students work through that challenge, they have a higher sense of accomplishment. Obviously with a studio environment, structure would be established in the procedures in the classroom.

At the high school level, we have critiques from teachers and peers. All those critiques establish collaborative effort and raise that level of rigor because they feel challenged by their peers. It is a sense of motivation and a sense of competition to create work to the best of their ability.

What do you want to do with your program?

I want to establish a program to prepare students for post-secondary needs through the visual arts. Our program should be able to serve the different needs for different students. For some, that's just fostering the expressive outlet of art, whether as a hobby or to become art appreciators in the community.

I want to develop artistic skills that students will use in other facets of their life. We need to foster creative problem-solving, spatial and visual thinking. It’s about getting students to be able to think about the subtleties of their choices and realizing there are many solutions to challenges.

What elements will your students cover? What do you think is important about the visual arts?

All students must take the foundations course called Art 1: Foundations. All the teachers will teach some sections of this introductory class to develop the program up to our advanced courses. In addition to Foundations, I will be teaching AP (Advanced Placement) Studio Art courses and also photography. The only course the department will not offer in the first year at Battle will be Art Basics because it’s primarily for seniors.

Art provides a personal experience and voice for all that the students are going through in their development. But more than that, it helps students develop problem-solving skills and helps train them to be more critical thinkers.

For some of them, it will develop the technical skills they need in their careers. There are more and more aspects of our world that are becoming technological, so students need to be thinking about visual and spatial thinking.

I always hope there is fun and enjoyment in education, too. For a lot of students, the visual arts is where they find it.

Science Department

Rachel Tinsley

Why did you choose or want to come to Battle?

I’ve been teaching at Hickman High School for 16 years now and I love it. I love the people here, but I always told them that if I ever left it would be for the challenge of a new school, and this is the challenge of a new school. It’s an opportunity to start something from the ground up, have some say so about the traditions and how it’s run. Also, my kids, my own biological kids, are going to go to this school, so I want it to be the best.

What kind of environment do you hope to create in your classroom?

We are really going for the motto of CHARGE, (which stands for challenge, honor, advocate, respect, give and engage). We want it to be a challenging, rigorous classroom, but we want to give them the support necessary. We made the schedule so we would be able to do that. We’ve got resources they can use. But we don’t want them to just be good scholars; we want them to follow in the tradition of Muriel Battle.

We want to provide opportunities to get them outside their comfort zone, to try things they haven’t tried before. We want to also focus on citizenship and giving back. How can we give back to the community with the kind of things we do in the classroom?

What do you hope to see from your department?

Our department right now, I’ve met six of them, and our department chair jokingly and lovingly calls us the three "P’s". We are positive, proactive problem-solvers. We like working together; we see things as a challenge instead of a road block. We all work together very well.

For example, we have curricular night where we try to get the students to see what classes they can take, and our science department went above and beyond. We had all kinds of exciting things out there to get the kids interested in taking the classes. I think the science department is going to be a team, and I think that our science department is going to try to get kids interested in all types of science.

What are you passionate about in education?

When I go to other countries, not everybody’s allowed to go to high school, or high school is very elitist. I am very passionate about the idea that here in this country we all have the right to an education, and that we give you an education that goes above and beyond and prepares you for the future.

Benjamin Fortel

Why did you choose to come to Battle?

I’m really excited about getting to start a new school. This is actually my first year teaching in the district. I moved here from Pennsylvania. I’m originally from Columbia.

There were a lot of considerations — moving back to my family, getting a warmer climate. But when I found out about this opportunity, it was sort of the clincher for me.

I think that the ability to shape the environment and the culture in a positive, really nurturing place for students to learn is a big draw for me. I’m a physics teacher, so I’m also very excited about the Physics First program we have in the district, which is across the board, but will also continue at Battle.

What specifically do you want to do in the science department and with Physics First?

The concepts and laws of physics underlie and underpin all the other sciences, and so presenting it to students as a more formative part of their high school career, as opposed to the traditional curriculum where it’s presented kind of at the end, makes a lot of sense. Just for that reason it’s a positive.

The real hands-on, experience-based learning is huge as far as encouraging multiple different types of learners. To see and feel and do the science behind physics is a great method of teaching it, and I think really engenders excitement about physics and sparks excitement and all of those things that teachers love to see in their students. That intellectual interest is really important and I think this is a great opportunity to do that.

What kind of an environment do you want to develop?

My approach is really inquiry-based where student questioning and curiosity is really encouraged. We try very hard to get away from a traditional lecture-note-practice-test scenario. We do tons and tons and tons of labs and activities where they are actually figuring things out on their own; rather than just telling them things, they are actually discovering them.

As far as concepts, how things relate to one another using their prior experiences to build on new concepts that we’re currently doing. And I want to continue to do that in my new classroom at Battle, and I know that desire is shared among my colleagues.

What are you passionate about in education?

This is my ninth year teaching, and I wouldn’t be continuing to do it if I didn’t love it. The challenges and sometimes frustration that comes with being a teacher are far outweighed for me by all of the joys of observing student learning.

For me seeing kids have that "aha" moment where they kind of really own the concepts that we're learning and getting excited about it, that’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced as a human. I’m certainly passionate about encouraging that lifelong commitment to education in my students.

I’m passionate about developing relationships with my students as well, so I know them on a personal level and I can relate. This is easier in physics, I think, than some other classes because it’s all around you. Everything you experience in life has some tie-in to physics. So knowing them on a personal level and actually making those connections to real life is exciting for me.

Practical Arts Departments

Jonathan Dinter, industrial technology and football

What school are you coming from?

Currently, I teach at Lange Middle School. I’ve been here for seven years. I taught five as a social studies teacher and two as a tech ed. teacher.

Why did you want to teach at Battle High School?

There are many reasons. The idea of being a part of something new, which doesn’t happen very often in Columbia Public Schools, is very appealing. My initial certification was in secondary education with the idea of working at a high school, and I’ve never gotten the opportunity to do that.

I work as a carpenter when I’m not teaching, so getting to have more legitimate conversations with students who already have some knowledge of the subject matter is appealing.

I’m also a football coach, so coaching at the high school level is important to me.

What kind of environment do you want to create in your classroom?

Obviously, safety is the most important thing to be considered; anything else would be overlooking a major factor in classroom management. But beyond that, I want all of my students to work in an environment that gives them a feeling of success and comfort.

Creating this environment involves a lot of factors. The first and most important has nothing to do with actual curriculum. Students need to feel supported and respected, and the only way to really accomplish that idea is to build really strong and positive relationships: attend their extracurricular activities, talk to them about things that interest them, listen to the things that are going on in their life, respect them and their opinions.

One of the biggest learning experiences in my life has been teaching at a middle school. Students here come with a lot of issues that they aren’t really able to deal with as a result of their inexperience. Learning to see things through their eyes has helped me immensely.

Having a relationship with as many students as possible allows me to know how each student will react to different scenarios, both with their peers and with me. Had I taught high school, I’m not sure if I would have the same approach.

What do you want to do with your program?

The level of intensity is much higher at the high school level. In middle school, our primary purpose is to create interest in the subject matter. Encouraging kids to pursue practical arts in high school is a priority. Because of this, the types of projects we do focus on very basic fundamentals and cover a range of possible pathways for students when they get to high school.

What elements will your students cover? What do you think is important about the practical arts?

The elements all depend on the class. I will likely be teaching some combination of the following: woodworking, consumer car care, home improvement, intro to architecture or stage theater technology.

The trades are a really awarding concept, both as a hobby and as a professional. I feel like a part of my job is to communicate the idea that college may not be for everyone.

Certainly, all students should have all of the opportunity to take their education to any level they chose and a secondary education is paramount to success in all industries today. But the idea that all students need a college education to be successful would be ignorant of reality.

Becky Baugh, family and consumer science

What school are you coming from?

I'm currently the family and consumer science teacher at Oakland Junior High School. I worked as a teacher’s assistant, substitute teacher and room parent and as a PTA member. I will teach family and consumer science at Battle.

Why did you want to come to Battle?

I was very excited about doing something new, challenging myself and going up to high school, being in on the ground level. It’s your opportunity to start a school and set your schedule and awards and being in on all that decision-making of what’s going to go on and the excitement behind it.

These are my kids going over from Oakland to Battle, so these are my kids I’m going to have for five years. My eighth-graders I’m going to have all the way until they graduate. I’ll get to see them grow up and graduate and mature and be fabulous young adults, so I’m excited about that, too.

What kind of environment do you want to establish in your classroom?

I learn best being hands on. My philosophy is that this is my home in here, and we’re going to act like this is my home and everybody is welcome, but there’s rules and everybody is treated with respect.

It’s got to be a learning environment, too. All the kids have to work together, but if they’re distracting learning, there’s a consequence.

Are there differences between your current job and future job at Battle?

I’ve done this for 12 years. I’ve done this for so long, it’s like I know what I’m doing every day. This is going to wake me up a little bit and challenge me. I’m very excited. I’m looking at things I want to do next year and to start in the FACS department. We’ve been having meetings, and I’ve been seeing what the other two high schools are doing.

I don’t want to stray too far, but you can always change it up as long as you keep with your curriculum. If I’m in the foods lab, I want them to videotape themselves and do video demos for next year that they can show to the class.

I’m very excited about the child development lab. The child development lab is right next to the Title I preschool. We have little windows that they can look through. We’ll be teaching, and then we can say, "These are the developmental tasks of children and I want you to look for those tasks." They can look through the windows for those behaviors.

The practical part is you learn the skills to take care of yourself when you move out. With both of your parents working, they might not have the time to show you those practical skills they might have if you had one parent at home.

What do you want the community to say about Battle a year after it’s opened?

We’ve had time to plan to do the best we can the first year. Will it be perfect? No. There will still be a learning curve. We’re going to make mistakes, but we’ll learn from that. I want them to be excited, and it’s a big thing. They helped pay for it, so I want them to come out and have ownership and see what we’re doing.

I know that it’s going to be great things. But don’t beat us up when we mess up. We’re coming from different schools, and we’re trying to make it a family and going out there and getting started. We'll all work together and be on the same page and try really hard to make Columbia proud of us.

What precedents do you hope to set?

That we have high standards in academics and that everybody deserves a chance at a great education. All the kids that walk in the door deserve the opportunities available to them. It’s about the kids; we’re there for the kids. If we didn’t have kids, we wouldn’t have a school.

How do you hope to develop the family and consumer science program at Battle?

My plan is to get the kids involved — plan lessons that get them excited to come in and teach them the aspects of what we have to teach.

I have a food competition now where they have to make a main dish and a side dish and a dessert, and I have like the staff come in and judge it. They love that competition.

On that one big competition, they have to budget their menu, plan their menu, do time planning and use kitchen terms. It’s my end-of-the-year assessment, so I’m hoping to have lessons like that. Lessons that are challenging but fun, that connects and are useful.

Deb Schumacher, family and consumer science

What school are you coming from?

I currently teach ninth-grade health science at West Junior High and have been teaching for 23 years. I will teach health and family and consumer science at Battle.

Why are you excited to teach at Battle?

I knew Muriel Battle. I think it’s a great honor. She was a woman that was very well respected. She helped me at a time of need. I just think that it would be a privilege to be able to teach at a school that was named after her.

What kind of classroom environment do you want to establish?

I want a safe, family-type environment where kids can come, learn to solve problems and think about the future.

I believe in having a variety of activities. There’s a lot of team building, working together and giving students options to help each other.

Are there differences between your current job and future job at Battle?

Right now, ninth-graders are considered to be high school students, even though they’re in a junior high building. I’m interested to see how their attitudes will change once they are in a high school environment and able to participate in different high school activities.

I’ve always thought it would be exciting to teach at a high school. I’ve tried seventh, eighth and ninth, so I’m ready to venture out into the high school setting.

What do you want the community to say about Battle a year after opening?

That Battle will be the place they want to send their kids. It has an atmosphere that is inviting, safe and energetic; the attitude that everyone has the opportunity to learn, think outside the box and be more futuristic.

What precedents do you want to set?

I treat my class as if we’re all family. Create activities with a variety of learning skills and get to know each student as an individual. I want the students to be responsible and respect others and their differences. I want them to be ready to move on to bigger and better things when they graduate from high school.

Health and Physical Education

Nicki Victor, health and physical education, softball

What is your previous experience in education?

This is my eighth year teaching, and my fifth year in the district. At Jefferson Junior High, I taught social studies,health and publications. Before I came to Jeff, I taught elementary P.E. at six of the elementary schools in the district.

Why do you want to teach at Battle?

I want to be a part of a faculty that is able to open up a new building. It is an exciting experience that not everyone has the chance to do. It is also a unique opportunity because you get to help figure out the logistics of what the school is going to be like, what the traditions are, etc.

What are you excited about in helping to start the new high school?

I'm excited about the new facilities and all the unique opportunities the kids will have such as starting traditions, new clubs, activities, etc. Being the assistant softball coach, I am excited to be a part of a brand-new program and the first softball team at Battle.

I'm also excited about the weight room. It's a really cool facility. Being able to teach in that room will be a great experience.

How do you want to help facilitate leadership at Battle?

I want to help facilitate leadership at Battle by getting the students excited about being at Battle and the opportunities they will have when they are there. Once the kids get there and they see the building, those kids are going to take those leadership roles and the culture is going to build itself. Once they're excited, it will fall into place.

World Language Department

Suzanne Yonke, French

What school are you coming from?

I am currently a French teacher at Oakland Junior High and the World Languages coordinator for the district. I have been with the district for 14 years. At Battle, I will teach French and continue as the World Languages coordinator.

Why Battle?

I’ve taught my entire career in Columbia Public Schools over at Oakland, and I just really enjoy the camaraderie among the teachers. Several teachers from Oakland are going to Battle, and I knew Kim Presko would create that same culture at a high school level, and what an exciting adventure to open a new high school.

What kind of classroom environment do you hope to establish?

You have to create a safe environment where the students want to take risks and make mistakes in order to be understood.

Speaking a language is a lot of trial and error that ultimately ends in communication in some form or another. The thing that I like about language is it’s never a finite thing, it’s always changing and growing and becoming something new.

What do you want the community to say about Battle after one year?

"What a fabulous place!"

"Students are happy, students are learning, they’re becoming prepared for their lives beyond Battle and beyond Columbia."

"Why didn’t we do this sooner?"

What do you look forward to in the new facility?

I’ve got a whole lot of windows and there’s a lot of light in Battle, so it’s enlightening, I guess you could say.

I’m looking forward to the collaboration with my colleagues, like when you have that extra minute between classes and you can ask them a quick question. Some of those are growing moments.

And seeing the kids in the hallways. Right now, they’re running outside to my trailer, so it’s an opportunity to see more kids than just come into the classroom.

Rachel Bennett, Spanish

How long have you been teaching in Columbia Public Schools?

I have been involved in some capacity with Columbia Public schools for 14 years. I have been at Oakland (Junior High School) for the past 11 years and Lange the past two years. Many of the students I have worked with will be attending Battle. The rich diversity and the uniqueness of each student will help to build a wonderful environment at Battle, and I am excited to be a part of it.

Why do you want to teach at Battle High School? What are you looking forward to? What are you apprehensive of?

Opening a new school and being a part of the beginning of starting new traditions as well as establishing a strong environment of academic excellence where each student is provided the tools and skills to be successful is a such a powerful opportunity.

I am excited to help with that and to really impact lives and help each student find their passion and drive. I can’t wait until the first day when the halls are filled with students.

What kind of environment do you want to create in your classroom?

I want my classroom to be a safe and exciting place for all students where they own both their academic struggles and achievements. The environment is one of mutual respect. A community is built upon and within the needs of each student. Academic excellence is the expectation, and I commit to doing whatever is necessary to help every student succeed.

How do you want to shape the future of Battle High School?

I am excited to be the principal for summer school and give each student and staff member a taste of the greatness of this school and its mission. The AVID program is encouraging as we help students find success in school and help them realize their full potential.

My goal is to build into each life I come into contact with and to build and continue the legacy of Dr. Battle by helping every student learn to embrace diversity, serve others and exceed in all they do.

Tamara Lambson, Spanish

How long have you been teaching Spanish at Oakland Junior High? How will that experience help you at Battle?

This is my eighth year. I have taught in a few other schools in the district as well, as well as in another state. I have learned from many colleagues, have had many opportunities for leadership and have been very fortunate to collaborate with some of the best teachers in the nation. I will take the best things I've learned with me to Battle High and keep trying to improve both myself, my students and my colleagues.

Why do you want to teach at Battle High School?

There are many reasons I want to teach at Battle High. The administration is awesome. They are very supportive and have the attitude of doing whatever it takes, and doing what is best for students 100 percent of the time. I have that same philosophy, so it works great as a collaborative team.

I am looking forward to meeting the new staff and creating the best learning environment in Missouri. I am looking forward to new learning opportunities for students and for myself as well.

What kind of environment do you want to create in your classroom?

I want to create an environment that is fun, collaborative, safe, encouraging, supportive and goal-oriented. I plan to collaborate with others, challenge my students, be open to new ideas and build positive relationships with students and my colleagues.

What committees are you on for Battle? How do you want to shape the future of Battle High School?

I am on the scheduling committee. We have put together what we believe is a schedule that allows students to receive both enrichment and intervention within the school day. We are looking forward to supporting students as best we can, and I am very excited to see how the school will grow in time.

We will have some of best technology in the state, and we will learn how to integrate it into our regular classroom as well as prepare students for their futures. I am so excited to be a part of this change in our community.

Denise Turner, Latin

How long have you been teaching in Columbia Public Schools?

I have been teaching for CPS for 17 years.

Where have you taught?

My first year I taught at Helias (High School in Jefferson City) and every other year after at Hickman High.

Why do you want to teach at Battle High School?

I want to be part of something new, exciting, but something steeped in the tradition of the Battles.

What kind of precedents are you looking to establish?

Our motto is "Battle Ready." We want to send young adults out into the world who are goal-oriented, ready to accomplish goals and who have the tools to be successful in many environments.

Special Education Department

Jamie Chiarottino

What is your previous experience in special education?

I've been an aid in the school district for three years. This is my second year working in special education at Jefferson Junior High.

Why Battle?

First of all, I'm excited to be at a new school where we get to create the culture. I wanted to work with older students, who are thinking about goals outside of high school. I think it's a great thing to be a part of that.

What kind of culture do you want to create at Battle?

A high school experience with the necessary support for students. I want us to feel elated and good about what we're doing. 

What do you want the community to be saying about Battle a year from when it opens?

I want them to talk about how well we're serving the student population. I want the students to feel positive and look forward to being there. We've got an awesome staff with similar goals. We'll get there.

Tamara Bodenschatz  

What is your previous experience in special education?

This is my fourth year teaching special education at Jefferson Junior High. I also worked several years for Columbia Public Schools with two programs, teaching at the Juvenile Justice Center and the After School Program. The After School Program was a part-time program for at-risk kids.

Why Battle?

I wanted the opportunity to work with different kids. It's also an amazing opportunity to be a part of building something new.

What kind of culture do you want to establish at Battle?

A culture of success for our kids. In special education, relationships are key. I want to really get to know our students, and show them a culture that tells them they can do anything.

What do you want the community to be saying about Battle a year from when it opens?

I would love for everyone to say that our kids are proud to be at our school. That's when we know we've really succeeded, when the kids are proud.

Media Specialist

Jayme Pingrey

What school are you coming from?

I was an English teacher at Oakland Junior High School for six years. I was the media specialist there last year, and now I am the media specialist at Battle.

Why did you want to come to Battle?

When the position became open, I was really excited about starting a new school from the ground up, being involved in creating traditions and expectations and really building something brand new.

What will your role be at Battle?

I'm the library media specialist, so my job is what you would consider a traditional librarian in our school's collection of books and databases. Another part of my job is also with the technology in the school and helping students use technology and teachers integrate technology into their classes.

How long have you been at Battle? What have you been working on before the school year starts?

I was hired in January of 2012. My job has been to do everything from choosing books and databases to researching technology and devices to picking out furniture. It's been quite a range of things to do.

What kind of environment do you hope to create in the library and classrooms?

The vision for our library media program is to be one that is really open and welcoming for students. One where they feel they can come in and get help from teachers, from the librarians, and have access to the things that they need for school and outside of school.

How will Battle incorporate technology into the classrooms and with the teachers?

I've been doing a lot of research on this over the past year and looking at other one-to-one initiatives across the country, and I think our hope is that we can have technology in the hands of all of our students. Not only finding out how to procure those devices but also how to effectively incorporate them into the classroom has been the job of the media specialist and administration.

What do you hope to do with your program?

Coming from the junior high level it's a little different. Students will probably need a little less guidance than at the junior high school, but they will also have a little more freedom. Giving them that freedom and expecting them to make good decisions so they can come and go as they need to and access the things that they need is the way we'd like approach our program.

What do you want the community to be saying about Battle a year from when it opens?

I hope that people look at Battle and really look up to it as a model for high schools. I hope they see the students and teachers as people who love to be where they are and who really put learning how to be productive citizens first in their lives. That's my hope at least.

Gifted Education Department

Matt Leuchtmann

Where are you coming from?

I’ve been a gifted education specialist at Oakland and West Junior High for the past two years. I have been teaching since 2002 and was the Gifted Education coordinator for Gasconade County before that.

Why Battle?

I would say the idea of being able to establish the culture of an educational community that has no real preconceived notions of its identity is the greatest deciding factor. I believe that in education it’s all about the students. If you can create a culture and a climate that reaches for excellence and strives to sustain that, that’s what it's really all about.

What kind of environment do you want to establish in your classroom?

Putting students first is really what my mantra is. I believe that in order to move forward with students, regardless of income or circumstance, you have to establish a relationship. We do a lot of creative thinking and problem-solving in my class, and it’s not a very familiar exercise for most students. I want to create an environment where they feel safe to take risks, and they feel like they can rise to the challenge I set forth with my high expectations.

What kind of programs will you teach?

I focus very much on creative problem solving. We anchor that to a program that’s called Future Problem Solving Program International, a program that brings together thousands of students from around the world, and we focus on some of the most pressing issues that are facing humanity right now. And we try to develop innovative solutions and then turn them into action plans that could be applied in the real world.

In addition to electives, we offer a resource room for students. In that resource room, I can serve as a guide through all the college applications and scholarships. And if we have students who are particularly interested in highly selective schools, we can start them on that process as early as their sophomore year of high school. We’re there to help facilitate not only academic and social growth but also that college plan.

What do you want to do with your program?

I have really lofty goals. The ideal is that we would create people who are producers, more than consumers, of information. So people who are innovative, futuristic-thinking problem solvers who are ready to take on whatever challenges may come their way.

Are there any differences between your current job and future position at Battle?

It’ll be a little bit different. I taught a three-12 program in Owensville schools, which is the Gasconade County schools. So I have worked with high school students in that gifted capacity before, but it’ll look different from what we do in the junior high right now. Definitely.

What are your passions in the field of education?

I think I’m most passionate about being an educator who’s there for my students. Being there in multiple capacities. I did not have a very good educational experience in my high school program, and that’s kind of what inspired me to become an educator. So that I could stand in the gap and make sure that no one falls through the cracks.

Why gifted education?

My specialty was cross-categorical K-12 special education, so we saw a lot of students who needed a boost. Gifted education is the exact same, but it’s a different end of the spectrum. We have a lot of students who are really high-potential, low-achieving students and that’s exactly what I was growing up. I saw myself being able to relate and help those students rise above their situation to really excel.

Counseling

Jacob Biener

What is your previous experience?

This is actually my first professional job as a counselor. I've been a University of Missouri student and just graduated from graduate school to be a counselor. I've done both my undergrad and graduate schooling here at MU to be a counselor, so this is my first professional opportunity.

Why were you interested in coming to the new high school?

I've always wanted to be a high school counselor. I thought, first off, that Battle was amazing just from being there and seeing it, but I also thought that it was a once in a career opportunity to open a new school. When I was in undergrad, I did some student teaching at Lange Middle School, and I did my practicum as a counseling intern Smithton Middle School and a lot of those kids are now going to Battle. It's good coming in as a new counselor but also knowing a lot of students and families already.

Also, you rarely ever get to start at a brand new school, so you have an opportunity to build the school how you want it. You're not going into a school where they already know how to run everything and everything set, but you get to shape it yourself. You're not a piece of a puzzle that already exists, you get to make your own puzzle.

What apprehensions do you have for the first year? What are you excited about?

Since it's my first job I'm nervous about that, but I'm also excited. Everyone's new in this school, so going through you have to determine the attitude that kids have. You want everyone to be excited and start off on the right foot.

That being said, I've been giving tours to junior high and high school kids that are transferring to Battle, and every time I show them the building they get so excited. You can hear them say "wow, this is my school," and you can hear them gasp when they're on the bus and they pull up to the school. For us it's this brand new school and it's exciting, but what matters is how the kids feel. I'm most excited that they're excited to come here.

What goals do you have for the first year?

I want to come into the school and just develop it into a solid base program. There aren't any seniors so we don't have to worry about kids graduating yet, so I want to work on developing some after-school clubs, which Principal Kim Presko has already worked on. We're already setting up groups with parents and students and making sure kids feel at home at Battle.

What do you want the community to be saying about Battle High School a year from when it opens?

I'm not from Columbia and seeing how bitter the rivalry is between Rock Bridge and Hickman, I want Battle to be as much a part of this community as those two schools are. I know students at both schools and coached track and field at Hickman, and a lot of kids between the schools are bitter with one another. I gave a tour to a family, and they said how beautiful the new building is, but it would be hard for him to see his daughter not to go to Hickman. I hope people will be impressed and embrace the school as a part of the community, hopefully see some Battle T-shirts like I see Rock Bridge or Hickman shirts all over town. I want the community to be a big part of the school.

Amelia Fagiolo

What is your previous experience?

I am currently a guidance counselor at Rock Bridge High School. Prior to working here I was a guidance counselor at the Columbia Area Career Center and before that I provided substance abuse counseling to adolescents and families in the community.

Why were you interested in coming to the new Battle High School?

The opportunity to be a part of opening a brand new school is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The energy and excitement of all of the staff who are a part of this process has made it an awesome experience. I am eager to help make a name for Battle and create an awesome school culture. The most exciting thing that no one can say is, "this is how we've always done it" or "in the past, we've done this..." because there is no past. We have the unique opportunity to create your own legacy and tradition.

What apprehensions do you have for the first year? What are you excited about?

Like most people, change is hard. The unknown of what next year will be like is exciting and unnerving, but change is good. I just hope we have everything ready to go on day one. I am sure there will be things we forget about, but I have learned that life moves forward and we just have to go with the flow. I'm excited about creating a culture of pride at Battle with the students and faculty. Like I said above, the energy of the staff who are going is contagious, so I know we will have an awesome year.

What goals do you have for the first year?

My primary goal as a counselor is to establish positive relationships with all of my students. That's the basis for any kind of help I could ever provide.

What do you want the community to be saying about Battle High School a year from when it opens?

I want the community to have the same pride in Battle that Hickman families and Rock Bridge families have had for years.

Teachers hired but not featured:

Social Studies: Josh Johnson, Alison Schupp 

Mathematics: Ryan Pingrey, Justin Burns, Cheryl Lightner, Lindsay Zeiter, Brian Hancock, Tyler McSparin

Science: Anne Hoylman, Phillip Popham, Rebecca Wilmes, Hannah Philiph, Casi Hererra, Jamie McSparin

Language Arts: Danny Gammon, Melissa Smith, Andy Materer, Kate Eady, Ellen Wilson, Kristie Harms, Jordan Smith, Anne Borgmeyer

Special Education: Errin Hagen, Candice Malveaux-Andrews, Rania Bass, Lorisa McFarland, Tina Woods, Misty Brawner, Cheri Guelbert, Dean Ray, Tracy Grant

Practical Arts: Melanie Leary 

Fine Arts: Erin Lafond, Bill Strozier

World Language: Karina Galve, Myles Freborg, Heike Johnston 

Guidance: Dru Nash, Dana Harris, Kathy Lewis

Other: Carolyn Chipley, media specialist; Peggy White, English language learners teacher

Support staff: Sherry Colwell, Shelley Herman, Katrina Tapp, Jabarbara Jennings, Tammi Cook, Megan Wilson

Custodial staff: Kevin Pace, Don Debrodie, Justin Nichols 


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