First day of school for teachers

New teachers speak of their hopes for the new school year

Sept. 5, 2018 — A whopping 21 new teachers will be readying their classrooms, syllabi and leadership skills as they prepare to step in front of their classrooms this week as yet another school year begins for both Mapleton and Siuslaw school districts.

Siuslaw Elementary School has seven new teachers, including three new kindergarten teachers.

Natalie Timm has seven years of elementary school teaching under her belt, but this will be her first time taking over a kindergarten class.

“I just want to have a great time with the kids and get them to feel comfortable with school, going into the rest of their elementary time,” she said.

Chelsea Anttila is brand new to teaching, just graduating with her master’s degree from Oregon State University (OSU). The kindergarten teacher wants her students “to learn from me as much as I learn from them.”

Monica Butler is also new to teaching, though she’s worked for the school district for a number of years. The new kindergarten teacher is just hoping to have fun with the kids and “watch each and every one grow into lifelong learners.”

Hailing from Nashville, Tenn., Amanda Smith came to Oregon two years ago to get her master’s in music at the University of Oregon (UO). She loved the state so much, she stayed.

“I hope that all 612 students learn that they can express themselves through music, and that all of them are musicians,” she said.

Jesse Siewell just graduated from OSU, and this will be his first time teaching by himself. An Oregon native, born and raised in Albany, the new fifth-grade teacher is looking forward to making new connections with the students.

“There’s nothing better than teaching a very difficult topic, and suddenly you see a light click in your students’ eyes,” he said. “That’s the best feeling in the world.”

Sarah Whisler is starting her second year as a teacher, though this will be the first time she’s teaching physical education (PE). She’s originally from Florence but moved away for 20 years and is now excited to finally be back home.

“I am hoping to instill a love of movement, so students can believe they can move their bodies and stay active and fit for the rest of their lives,” she said.

Adam Decker is also new to teaching PE, though he’s been a teacher going on 15 years now. He’s spent several years in Oregon, splitting his time between Portland and Medford, and is looking forward to getting to know the students better and promoting physical activity.


Siuslaw Middle School sees five new teachers this year, with topics ranging from arts, science and special education.

Tammy Stanek has seven years of experience as a teacher, coming to Florence to teach Special Education and Life Skills.

“I hope that the students help me rebuild the life skills program,” she said. “I just hope that we can be successful and get them set up to move forward.”

Amy Tregoning is teaching seventh grade science “and stuff,” she said, including the Siuslaw Stream Team Project for seventh grade. She’s been working for the school district for three years in Behavior Support, but this is her first-time teaching.

“I want to get the students engaged and excited to learn science,” she said.

Lauren Suveges is all about the art — teaching visual arts, digital citizenship and ceramics. It’s her first-year teaching, but she’s been in the business for 15 years running after-school, summer and community arts programs.

Hailing from Eugene, Suveges hopes that “the addition of the arts program back to the school brings kids the potential to be more creative in their lives and see the world around them differently.”

Sean Grundon has been teaching math for five years, and he’s noticed a trend: “They come in with this ‘I hate math’ mindset,” he said. “We have to make math fun and relevant for them. I just hope that kids get to appreciate and like math as much as I do.”

Written on his t-shirt were the words, “Come to the math-side; we have π.”

Kendall Mack is the new eighth-grade language arts teacher, along with a philosophy elective. Mack just graduated from UO, and is “totally new to all of it, never worked in a school.”

She is excited to get her students reading, discussing and thinking about thinking.


Siuslaw High School finds six new teachers this year, some of whom are helping to kickstart new programs.

Clint Tatum is a part of the new Career Technical Education program at the district, focusing on construction and woodworking. He’s never taught before but has 25 years experience in the industry and is looking forward to getting “kids ready to start a career right out of school.”

Teri Straley is the new Alternative English Teacher, working with the Ingenuity GED online program. She’ll also be working with teaching college prep for the seniors. Originally from Bandon and Corvallis, Straley is looking to work with the students to “make these new classes work.”

Alicia Hernandez is coming in from the Bay Area of California to teach Spanish I and II. The 14-year teaching veteran hopes to that her students become more and more biliterate over time and carry that skill throughout their entire lives.

Erika Wagner has been living in Florence for three years, but this is her first stint as a teacher. The California native will be teaching science for the high school, and is interested in urban ecology, forestry and wildlife. She hopes to get people in the community with those skills involved with her students to build strong relationships pass on their knowledge.

Terri Mason is the new special education teacher at the high school. Originally from Florence, Mason hopes that she can use her skills as a 14-year veteran of teaching to build strong relationships with students, teachers and parents throughout the system.

Chad Smith has been teaching PE for six years, most recently in Seattle, though he’s an Oregon native.

“It’s good to be back home,” he said. “I hope to get more of the community and make a positive difference in the students’ lives.”


Up the river, Mapleton School District will be welcoming four new staff members to its area, the first being Dawn Chambers, who will be teaching middle and high school math.

“Algebra, geometry, a math-lab tutoring class and advanced mathematics, I got ‘em all,” she said.

This is Chamber’s first classroom after student teaching in Oregon for a number of years.

“I hope I can change some of their minds about math,” she said. “It isn’t a horrible, tedious thing you’re never going to use. It’s something you see every day, whether you know it or not.”

Melissa Duffy is the new language arts and history teacher, along with journalism and yearbook. She’s lived all over Oregon, last working in a school district on the border with Idaho. She plans on looking to improve test scores for students and have a great time with those she teaches.

“Kids are hilarious,” she said.

Jeron Ricks is the district’s new business manager, handling accounts payable and human resources. He said he came here to settle down and streamline the district’s reporting.

Finally, Louis Burruss will be teaching science in Mapleton, but locals may know him as a 10-year math teaching veteran from Siuslaw School District.

“The two things I care most about are that kids work hard and that they’re curious,” he said. “If you have those two things, you can go anywhere.”

Burruss, whose wife was a graduate of Mapleton High School, had one piece of advice for new teachers: “No matter what you do, remember Christmas break will come.”


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