New building, new teachers
September 27, 2017
Dale DeJong teaches world studies. He grew up in Orange City, Iowa, and went to college at Northwestern, where he played basketball for four years. He is currently getting his master’s degree. What attracts him most to teaching is being able to be a part of and impact kids lives, the thing he likes about high school is developing students and getting them ready for college.
DeJong has been teaching for eight years. He taught in Columbia for two years at an international school, and in Japan for two years as well. He taught Topics of History last year at the middle school. DeJong loves seeing his old students here at the high school, and looks forward to their futures and seeing what they’re going to accomplish.
“It’ll be a very special kind of year when this tenth grade class graduates, because I had them first as freshmen and that first class is always kind of a special class,” DeJong said.
Last year, DeJong coached eighth grade football and track. This is his second year coaching high school basketball. He also was part of the coaching team in Columbia, and he was the head basketball coach at the school he taught at in Hiroshima, Japan.
DeJong’s father was also a teacher. The biggest impact he had on DeJong was helping him see that there are a lot of things going on in kids’ lives. This gave him a bigger appreciation for his father and his father’s job. He also learned to value his students’ intelligence. He chose to teach history because of his appreciation for humanity’s development over time.
“History is looking at how human beings interacted within their environment and there’s a theme: continuity and change,” DeJong said. “Human nature predominantly stays the same at the same time it changes depending on the environment they’re in and the circumstances they’re in, and seeing that change is really fascinating.”
One of DeJong’s beliefs is that history can be used to help society progress.
“One thing I tell all my classes is as we go, move forward into a more multicultural world, understanding differences, different cultures, cooperating within the own multicultural set up of the United States as we’re becoming more diverse, even more diverse here at Johnston,” he said. “The history matters what has happened in their past has impacted them and how they view different things, so we can use history to live in a more harmonious society.”
DeJong has enjoyed the new building so far.
“All the stuff here is just nice and seeing the kids walk in with smiles, it’s just fun,” he said. “Beginning of the year, as a teacher I love summer, but the first couple of days of school seeing all the kids seeing all the positive energy really gets me motivated and energized and realize why I have a passion for teaching.”
Tyler Miklo grew up in Fort Dodge, Iowa. This is his 12th year teaching, he spent four years teaching in Fort Dodge, and the last seven years teaching in Fairfield. He has taught almost everything in social studies from government and economics to ancient world history and AP government.
Miklo enjoys the environment that the high school provides. “Obviously the building is fantastic and the people are great.” Miklo said. “When I got here they got a pretty high reputation of excellence and so far that’s really held to form, so I wake up every day looking forward to work,”
Being a new teacher at a brand new building opens up a lot of possibilities, Miklo is looking forward to helping out with the football and basketball teams, building relationships with the students, and getting more involved in the community and the school.
When he’s not at school, Miklo likes to spend time with his wife and son. Even though Miklo struggles to find free time, he enjoys his busy lifestyle. “For the most part [my time consists of] school, and sports, and family which I’m pretty happy with.” Miklo spends the few days he has to himself golfing.
Over the years, Miklo has noticed the benefits of coming to class with a will to try new things. “I get too many kids that say ‘You know I just don’t like this or I don’t get it’. Miklo said. “I think the more of an open mind you can come to school with everyday the better your day will be, the more you’ll enjoy school, and the more you’ll get out of it,”
Lisa Horsch is the new biology teacher. She grew up all over the Midwest and got her bachelor’s degree in Biology from Wichita State, and her masters’ from the University of Iowa. She has been teaching for 29 years. She spent 12 years teaching at a middle school in Des Moines and six years teaching eighth grade math and science and ninth grade biology at the middle school. She thought it would be more interesting to teach kids, rather than work in a lab.
Ever since she was a child, she has always been fascinated by science. Her parents reinforced her curiosity through trips through both nature and museums.
“I’ve been to science museums in every area I’ve been in and I continue to do that as an adult,” she said. “It’s kind of a geeky thing as an adult to walk in without any kids but I don’t care, I love science museums,”
Her frequent visits led her on the path to becoming a science major.
Having moved up to the high school from teaching at the middle school, Horsch is now enjoying seeing her old students and familiar faces.
“The best part about being here is to have you guys walk down the hall and say ‘hi’, because I never got that at the middle school since I was always teaching the oldest kids and I didn’t know the grade below,” Horsch said. “I didn’t know you as an eighth grader, and then once I had you, you left me.”
When she’s not in school, Horsch loves to go hiking, biking, kayaking, camping and gardening. She also loves to read. She started her own book club with teachers from both the high school and the middle school.
Sarah Hottle is the new government and economics teacher. She grew up in Britt, Iowa, and graduated from Wartburg College. This is her second year teaching. Last year she taught freshmen and juniors, while this year she only teaches seniors.
“I think that freshmen are more excited about school, and like me more, because they’re looking for that role model so I felt like I made more of a difference at the freshmen level,” she said. “But I also didn’t have seniors last year. I think I can still definitely be a role model and make a difference in the lives of the seniors that I have and since most of them I’m going to have all year long, I think makes it easier to just build relationships.”
Hottle felt it was her calling to be a teacher when she was in college, but went away from it for a couple of years because she didn’t think she’d be interested in it. She didn’t know what she wanted to teach and thought it would be too easy. She then decided to major in psychology and physical therapy. “I would tell myself, ‘I should be a teacher, that’s what I’m good at, that’s where my skills are at,'” she said.
After seeing her father, who was also a teacher, leave a lasting impact on his students, she decided she wanted to leave the same impact on the next generation.
“I know how much of a transformation high school is, especially going from high school to college, because I went through it,” Hottle said. “I feel like I could really help out kids in those situations, I really just wanted to challenge kids and make sure that they could be on their own when they went to college and just teach them life skills.”
The new high school appeals to Hottle, although she finds the size of the school and the classes intimidating. She feels that she has a lot of support as a teacher and can really grow.
“The people I teach with are amazing teachers already, some coming in the second year will really help me grow in my career,” Hottle said.
Hottle’s free time during the week is mostly spent on planning lessons, but on the weekends she likes to spend time with her husband and her two dogs. She also likes running, walking, and biking and in the winter, skiing and snowboarding.
Emma Heitritter is the new integrated language arts teacher. She grew up on a farm right outside of Boyden, Iowa, and attended Simpson College. This is her third year teaching. Heitritter previously taught eighth grade language arts at a school in Saudi Arabia.
Growing up, her mother was a college professor and would always bring Heitritter to read to her students. Heitritter always enjoyed doing that and decided to become a teacher when she grew up. Her love of reading led her to teaching language arts, and she wants her students to love to read just as much as she does.
Heitritter has enjoyed her first few weeks.
“I find new things every day and I think, ‘This is amazing, how are we so lucky?’” she said. “The kids are nice, the teachers are really great, and the principal and vice principal are very supportive.”
She’s looking forward to getting her feet under her this school year and feeling at home. In her spare time, she likes to read, run, do CrossFit and yoga, and hang out with her friends. She advises her students to be themselves.
“Just be genuine,” she said. “I always think that if someone called me genuine that’s the best compliment they could give me, just be genuine, whoever you are just be that.”
Lexi Shafer is the new financial literacy and web design teacher. She attended Northwest Missouri State University and received her bachelor’s degree in financial computing. She also has a bachelor’s degree in business education and a master’s degree in business administration. This is her seventh year teaching, as she previously taught eighth grade Tech, ninth grade Intro to Business, Money Management, and Computer Apps at the middle school for six years. She now teaches part-time here, and part-time at the community education building as a Communications Coordinator.
She initially thought she was going to go into accounting because her high school had a great business department and fell in love with it, although she decided it was not for her. Her teachers in high school had a big impact on her as a person, and she wanted to have that on her students. She likes the changing nature of business and the entrepreneurial aspect.
“I love the fact that this is the world we live in,” Shafer said. “We’re surrounded by business, and our classes are very applicable to students’ lives.”
Financial literacy teaches students how to manage their finances not only as adults, but as teenagers as well.
“Teaching teenagers is great because then I don’t get the question, ‘When am I ever going to use this?’ Because I have an answer to it every single time, especially financial literacy,” Shafer said. “The importance of budgeting, looking for the right debit and credit cards, and keeping your financial information secure, that’s what kids need right now, to make sure they can live financially smart.”
It is common for Shafer to see her old students from the middle school during her days now.
“One of the things that I love the most is some of these kids I haven’t had since eighth grade and now they’re seniors,” Shafer said. “It’s just really cool to see how much they’ve matured in four or five years.”
Shafer enjoys her two new jobs.
“I get to go to school for five days, be with kids, and teach what I’m passionate about, then I get to go to the office for a few hours and be creative,” Shafer said. “It’s really cool to be able to apply what I’m doing in the business world to what I’m teaching in my web design class.”
When she’s not at school, Shafer likes to spend time with her kids and get involved as much as she can within Johnston. She loves to go to her students games, and used to coach cheer for four years. Shafer is involved with her church, and leads the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) at the high school with her husband.
“It starts in high school and if you have a hard time getting things done now, you’re going to have a hard time getting things done after high school too,” she said. “So just do your best as much as you can, still have fun, stay involved, and when you’re doing it but make sure you keep your priorities straight.”
Andrew McCormick is the new art teacher. He grew up in Atlantic, Iowa, and received his degree at the University of Northern Iowa and has been teaching for 13 years. He has taught at Cedar Falls and Webster City, but this is not his first year in the district. He taught art at the middle school last year. When he’s not teaching, Mr. McCormick likes to garden, run, watch T.V. and go camping with his kids.
McCormick enjoyed his transition from the middle school to the high school.
“When I’m dealing with a senior or a junior, you’re dealing with people who are the adults that they are going to become soon,” McCormick said. “I’m their last K-12 art teacher and it’s cool to think about the power and duty I have to send them off before they’re on their own.”
McCormick knew he wanted to be an art teacher when he was in ninth grade, but he did not like his own art teacher. McCormick believes that because she was such a bad teacher, it made him want to be a better teacher himself, and he feels that in some ways, he owes her.
His own passion for teaching could not be more different than that of his former art teacher. “When I’m not teaching, I’m a very pessimistic, down on my luck type of person, but I know that you can’t be that as a teacher,” McCormick said. “You’ll hate your job, you’ll hate your life and your students will eat you alive because they can smell that you don’t like what you’re doing.”
McCormick finds this pessimistic attitude turns into a wholesome outlook at work.
“Teaching brings out the best parts of me,” McCormick said. “I feel very lucky that I found the one thing that not only do I love doing, but I think I’m really good at.”
McCormick takes his role in students’ lives very seriously.
“One of the things I love is working with students who don’t believe in their full potential. There is no greater feeling than when a kid actually realizes their full potential because of you,” McCormick said.