New teachers get ready for start of school year

Published 9:21 am Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Several new faces will greet students when they return to school next week in the Brandywine, Buchanan and Niles school districts.

Amanda Janke, of Niles, is one of three new teacher hires at Brandywine. The 2007 Niles High School graduate will be leading a second grade classroom at Merritt Elementary School when class starts Sept. 6.

Janke, who obtained her teaching degree from Western Michigan University last spring, said she has wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember.

“Girls would play Barbie, but I would play school with my sister,” said Janke during Brandywine’s new teacher orientation day Monday. “They (my family) always strived for me to do my best in school. … Being a student myself I understand how doing well in school will help you in your future.”

This will be the first teaching job for Janke, who said she wanted to find a job in Niles in order to be close to family and friends. Her mother works as a paraprofessional at Howard-Ellis Elementary in Niles.

“I am looking forward to being able to give back to the community I grew up in,” Janke said. “It was important for me to find a job close to Niles and I lucked out being able to find this position.”

Joining Janke as Brandywine’s new hires is Taylor Dickerson and Amy Tripp.

Like Janke, Dickerson is starting her first teaching job. She graduated from Marshall High School in 2010 and Central Michigan University in December of 2015.

She will be teaching first grade at Merritt Elementary.

“I had a fourth grade teacher that was awesome and that really inspired me to write,” Dickerson said. “I always thought of her when I was going through college and all of the tough classes. I really wanted to be that teacher that could make a difference and make learning fun and school fun.”

Tripp, a 1994 graduated of Forest Hills Northern High School in Grand Rapids, comes to Merritt Elementary from Eaton RESA in Charlotte, Michigan, where she worked as a speech pathologist.

She obtained her undergraduate degree from Andrews University in 1998 and her master’s degree in speech language pathology from Michigan State University in 2000.

Tripp, who will serve as a speech pathologist at Merritt, said the most rewarding part of being an educator is watching students grow.

“I primarily work with students who are not doing well in general ed, giving them support and helping them,” she said. “It is very rewarding when you can say, ‘Here is where they were, here is what they needed and here is what I gave them and now they are all done.’

“I’ve given them support and now they are flourishing in general education.”

Buchanan Community Schools also had its new teacher orientation Monday, while Niles Community Schools had its orientation last week.

Buchanan’s new teacher hires are: Shelley Lietz, a speech language pathologist; and Maggie Petnoudes, a speech language pathologist.

Niles’ new teacher hires are: Jan Bosko, Northside; Bruce Kelly, speech language pathologist; Tirza Cool, Ellis Elementary; Nicole Foley, social worker; Carrie George, high school agriculture science; Carlee Holt, first grade; Kathleen Hucks, Northside; Kyle Kaufman, Oak Manor Sixth Grade Center; Katherine Knopp, Howard Elementary; Dawn Leppek, Ring Lardner Middle School; Angien Mann, high school Allied Health; Melissa McNeely, Ballard second grade; Robert Randall, Ring Lardner science; Joe Sassano, high school physical education; Jerry Schultz, Oak Manor; David Smith, high school; Phillip Spencer, Ring Lardner math; Christopher Van Kampen, New Tech math; Jacob Verschueren, New Tech science; and Kelly Westgate, Ballard.