New Teachers on the Block

Brandon Schnurr, Web Editor

algebra teacher edited
Sarah Thomas, the new Algebra II teacher, gives instructions to her class. She uses teaching techniques learned from her time teaching in Tanzania, Africa to assist in learning. Photo Credit / Zach Liddle

It’s been a nice, long summer, but the time has come to return to school. Time to wake up and get to the bus at 6:00 a.m., come home to a beautiful bed, and then return to your usual school year routines. But most importantly, it’s time to meet the teachers you’ll spend the next 180 days of your life with. If you’re attending Loy Norrix, there is an abundance of  new staff members to meet.
Loy Norrix is in the middle of huge changes, everything from new rules to a $5.5 million school renovation. Including one of the biggest changes of all, brand new staff. Loy Norrix has hired a total of 23 new staff members (excluding security guards) for multiple jobs around the school. These jobs include, but are not limited to, teachers, assistant principals, special education personnel and even a new head coach for the football team.
Of course, with new teachers coming in, there are other teachers that had to step down. Several teachers decided to retire or move to different areas over the summer, leaving plenty of open positions.
“All the teachers’ positions, with the exception of a couple … were filling vacancies,” said Dean of Students, Christopher Aguinaga. “All the teachers had to be hired. It really wasn’t a choice because there were vacancies, either retirements or people moved to other places.”
To fill these vacancies, the staff went through, what Dean Aguinaga described as, a “community process.”
“They [the applicant] all start with a group of administrators, maybe someone from the Human Resources department, and in some cases we include teachers in this process,” said Aguinaga.
During the process, staff went through a series of questions and demo lessons, either here at Loy Norrix, or at a summer school program. Then the candidates were graded on a numerical scale by different staff members to decide how qualified they were for the position. This ensured that the best of the best were chosen for the open vacancies.
When asked whether or not he believes the new teachers will live up to their expectations, Dean Aguinaga simply replied, “I think they will,” quickly adding, “In fact, I think they might even exceed them.”
Despite being new to Loy Norrix, many of these staff members are experienced in their fields. Only several teachers are brand new to teaching. Many of the teachers are local or have been here for some extent of time, but a few are from far out of Kalamazoo.
Sarah Thomas, the new Algebra II teacher, talked about her previous teaching position in Tanzania, Africa, where she worked for 2 ½ years. She was not only teaching the children there, the children taught her as well.
“It’s been a lot different. My students there all had English as their second or third language, so they really taught me to speak slow and explain,” said Sarah Thomas.
According to sophomore Drake Olson, “She [Sarah Thomas] is a very good teacher. She’s new, so she doesn’t have all of her things [lesson plans] set how she wants it yet, so it’s a new experience each time we come into class,” Olson continued, “Everyone’s really into what she’s talking about and everyone participates in class.”
Jeffrey Pickell, the new 9th grade English Language Arts teacher who replaced John Kreider, also had previous teaching experiences. Pickell taught college freshman Writing Composition, a college sophomore level class, a college senior level creative writing class, and a college sophomore level American Literature survey. He mentioned the work here at Loy Norrix as plentiful, but refreshing and always keeping you ready.
Jeffrey Pickell works on papers during his lunch break. Pickell is the new 9th Grade ELA teacher replacing John Kreider. Photo Credit / Brandon Schnurr

“You’re always encountering new problems. You’re always finding new solutions. You’re always solving problems. There’s always something that’s on your plate,” said Pickell.
“The staff here at Loy Norrix is populated by the most compassionate, the most generous, the most talented, the most capable and, I think, the best morally all-around people I’ve ever encountered. I keep getting surprised very day by the generosity of the staff,” said Pickell.
Thomas has also had a great start to her time at Loy Norrix. Like Pickell, she has found the staff extremely supportive.
“It’s a very supportive school, there’s a lot of supportive staff members. It seems like there’s a lot going on at this school,” Thomas continued, “Another Algebra II teacher is Mr. Greeley, so I’ve been able to get some help from him with the curriculum and get a better idea from him. The teachers in the hallway have also been very helpful, especially Ms. Young. She’s my mentor teacher, so she’s been really helpful in understanding how this school works.”
Students and staff have taken their new teachers into consideration and have decided that helping and supporting them is a good first step. If this behavior continues, Loy Norrix will show how open it is to new ideas and people.
Pickell puts full focus into his thoughts, ending with a beautiful and important message.
“I think the most important thing to do for each other is to love each other. I think that we need to be good people to each other,” Picknell continued, “We need to raise each other up. We need to realize that we are of many different makes and models, that we come from many different backgrounds, but that we’re all part of the same family. We’re all part of the same community, we’re all brother and all sisters, and we need to reach out and love each other like brothers and sisters.”
List of New Staff (Excluding Security Guards)
April Alexopoulos          Secretary
Carol Bouabdellaoui     ESL Bilingual
Chad Brady                      Assistant Principal Grades 9-10
Melanie Burke                ELA-Reading
Eric Davis                         Biology Freshmen Academy
Christie DeHaan             Dean’s Secretary
Tamara Elliott                 Special Education  
Terry Farmer                  Physical Education
Trisha Fires                    Special Education
Cheryl Knight                 Principal’s Secretary  
Andrew Loy                    Special Education
Aaron Mirakovits          Band
Jeffrey Pickell                 ELA Freshmen Academy
Zachary Rickli                Attendance Interventionist
Samantha Simpson      Special Education  
Beth Soisson                  Business Education
Jonathan Sollinger        Special Education  
Li Sun                               Chinese
Sarah Thomas                Math  
Chaoying Wang             Chinese
Donald Webster            District Security Chief
Alexandria Williams    Physics