Clarinda had several new staff members waiting to greet students Friday, Aug. 23, as classes resumed in the school district.
The new teachers joining the district this year are Brandon Baggett, Kenzie Beery, Darla Brooke, Jennifer Cole, Daniel Happe, Jennifer Hardee, Shana Iles, Jackson Kelley, Amanda Vardaman and Lena Westra. Jen Wyman has also been hired as the new secretary at Clarinda Middle School.
Baggett joins the staff at Clarinda Middle School as a seventh and eighth English and language arts teacher. He previously served in the Exira-Elkhorn Kimballton Community School District at the middle school and high school levels.
Baggett attended the University of South Florida, where he earned a B.A. in communications. He has also completed 24 additional credits in literature. In addition, Baggett is completing a two-year teacher intern program at Morningside College.
He and his wife have two children – a son, 11, and a daughter, 9.
“I am looking forward to growing the young minds of our community and helping our students achieve their goals through collaborative, inquiry based learning,” Baggett said.
A third grade teacher, Beery taught at Stanton for three years before joining the staff at Garfield Elementary School. She received her AA in education from Iowa Western Community College.
Beery then attended Northwest Missouri State University. She earned a Bachelor’s in elementary education as well as a K-8 reading endorsement.
“I am very excited to have the opportunity to teach at the same school I attended. I am looking forward to getting to know the Clarinda staff and students this year,” Beery said.
Like Beery, Brooke is also returning to Clarinda this year. She is married to Lee Brooke, who farms in the Bethesda area. They have three children who graduated from the Clarinda Community School District.
“During this school year I will be teaching in Stanton and Clarinda. I have previously taught at South Page and Clarinda Middle School,” Brooke said.
Brooke will serve as a Family and Consumer Science teacher at Clarinda High School. She graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a Bachelor’s degree and then earned a Master’s degree at Iowa State University.
Cole will serve as a high school social studies teacher and middle school exploratory teacher this year. Her husband, Dennis, serves as the Director of IT at Lisle Corporation. They couple has four children.
“I have been a stay at home mom the past two years, so I’m excited to return to teaching” Cole said.
She earned a BS in secondary education from Drake University and is currently attending Northwest Missouri State University to obtain a graduate degree in educational leadership.
After serving as a substitute teacher at Southeast Polk High School, Happe comes to Clarinda as an eleventh and twelfth grade English teacher. He holds a BA in English from Iowa State University.
“I can’t wait to get to know my students and colleagues. Everyone I’ve met so far has been welcoming and kind,” Happe said. “My favorite pastime is reading, so I’m always open to book recommendations.”
Hardee brings 12 years of teaching experience to Clarinda. She will teach fifth grade reading, language arts and social studies.
Hardee holds a Bachelor of Science from Western Illinois University. Her teaching career has included three years as a fifth grade teacher in the Geneseo Community School District in Geneseo, Illinois; two years as a third grade teacher in Riverside Community School District in Oakland; and one year as a fourth grade teacher before moving to third grade for six years in the Essex Community School District.
She and her husband, James, have two children – a daughter, Chloe, 5, and son, Collin, nine months.
“I am looking forward to teaching in the same district my daughter will attend. I want to focus on reading and social studies and making connections to the world around us,” Hardee said.
Iles will serve as a special education teacher at Clarinda High School. She has taught special education for the past 15years in a middle school setting.
Iles spent eight years as a teacher at Clarinda Academy and taught for seven years at Red Oak Middle School. She holds a Master’s degree in curriculum and instruction.
“I am looking forward to meeting the students and teaching at the high school level,” Iles said.
Originally from Mount Pleasant, Kelley will be starting his career in education as a sixth grade math and science teacher at Clarinda Middle School. He graduated from Simpson College in May with degrees in elementary education and liberal arts studies.
“I love the Clarinda community thus far and am looking forward to being called a Clarinda Cardinal,” Kelley said.
Kelley said the most rewarding aspect of being a teacher is interacting with students every day and having a chance to be a part of their lives.
“As a teacher, your interactions with certain students could help mold who they grow up to be. I feel this is such an important thing and I cannot wait to be able to contribute to the lives of countless students,” Kelley said.
A graduate of Clarinda High School, Vardaman is now returning to the school district as a first grade teacher.
“I’m looking forward to teaching first grade and working with a great group of teachers at Garfield Elementary,” Vardaman said.
Vardaman graduated from Simpson College and then earned a Master’s in Quality Schools from Graceland University. Her prior teaching experience includes serving as a preschool, special education and sixth grade teacher at Fremont-Mills; a middle school teacher at Bedford; and serving as a teacher and director of Clarinda Community Preschool.
Vardaman and her husband, Ben, have three children – sons Dylan and Colyn, and daughter Evalyn.
Westra joins the staff at Clarinda Middle School as a fifth grade math and science teacher. Originally from Indianola, she graduated from Simpson College with a Bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and elementary education. She also holds endorsements in reading, language arts and English.
“I am very excited to start this new chapter of my life in Clarinda. I am looking forward to getting involved in a new community,” Westra said.
Wyman previously served as a teacher at Clarinda Community Preschool.
“I want to learn as much as I can to help make the office run smoothly. I also want to help create an environment where students and staff feel welcomed and cared for,” Wyman said.