Sept. 4, 2021 — Four new faces will join the Mapleton School District for the 2021-22 school year. Though COVID-19 has hidden those faces behind masks, they’re all smiles about their new opportunity.
Superintendent Jodi O’Mara couldn’t be happier with the crew joining the Mapleton staff.
“I’m excited about the new school year. I’m excited to get kids back on campus in a ‘normal’ situation where they can learn and socialize. I’m excited for the new staff,” she said. “Though we’ve lost some wonderful people, change is always good in my opinion. There will be challenges, both COVID and instructional, but were going to roll with it, because that’s what we do.”
Coming to work with students in a small town like Mapleton can be different, if not more difficult, than a larger school, but can also be extremely rewarding.
“One of the biggest challenges new staff face in Mapleton is that everyone knows everyone,” said O’Mara. “This is actually a good thing, but learning to navigate it can be difficult initially. The small class sizes are also great but getting used to them can be different if the staff is used to larger schools.”
This year, four new people will become part of the team at Mapleton School District.
One new teacher that is used to larger schools is new middle school and high school language arts, social studies and College Credit Western Civilizations teacher Sean O’Mara. Of the 30 years under his belt in education, 25 of those were spent teaching in the Siuslaw School District.
Sean had retired at the end of last school year, but the chance to teach one of his favorite subjects was too much to resist.
“I’m always excited to teach Western Civilization. That was the selling point that got me out of retirement,” he said. “It’s a college credit class through Lane Community College. Students can earn up to 12 college credits and not a dime charged by LCC.”
To be able to focus more time on fewer students was also big in Sean’s decision.
“Mapleton is a very tight-knit community. There’s more ‘everyone knowing everyone’ than you see in bigger school districts,” he said. “I’m excited for the smaller class size and the ability to build better relationships than you could in a bigger district. I’m also excited about a fresh start with a new school.”
While small class size doesn’t necessarily mean less work for teachers, it could mean a little extra time for hobbies.
“I’m an avid dry fly fisherman. I tend to spend my summers looking for water I can put my flies on. I’m also a major comic book collector and have a quite a collection,” Sean said.
New K-12 special education and third-grade math teacher Susan Fenton last taught in the San Francisco Bay area, so she, too, will have some adjustment. However, she said the people of Mapleton have made her feel at home.
“Resources can be limited in a small town. If I have a student that needs a specialist, often they will have to travel to a larger town. It is nice to be in a place where people are so welcoming. I’m excited for the fresh start with a new community, especially in a place as beautiful as this,” Fenton said.
She has spent 27 years teaching special education to all ages, 3 years to 21, but not many know about her hidden talent.
“One interesting thing my students probably wouldn’t know about me is that I can ice fish,” she said. “I learned on the Kuskokwim River in western Alaska, near Bethel.”
Next, after substituting in the district last year, Mapleton High graduate Tucker Ford is now the full time K-12 physical education teacher.
Ford graduated from Oregon State University in 2020 with a BA in education and history. Before that, he attended Siuslaw until seventh grade and then completed high school as a Sailor.
He said he is “proud to claim Mapleton and glad to give back to a community that gave me so much.”
Ford is excited to get in and get to work with the students and doesn’t see a small school like Mapleton as a challenge. In fact, he sees that it is the other way around.
“Class sizes are smaller, interactions are more genuine and the small-town feeling keeps us at ease,” he said.
While they say the fastest way to a person’s heart is through their stomach, Crystal Massie, the new food service coordinator, knows the same applies to children.
Though Massie also recognizes the remoteness of the Mapleton area makes some supplies harder to come by, that hasn’t dampened her resolve to get creative.
“I look forward to feeding the community. I especially look forward to getting the kids to try things they’ve never tried before,” Massie said. “I want to try to go more towards homemade/from scratch recipes as opposed to precooked foods like the students are used to.”
Prior to coming to work for the Mapleton School District, Massie worked for the post office and was in retail management before that. She also loves the outdoors.
“My kids and I love hiking, going to the beach and especially camping. I have a 13- and 17-year-old,” she said.
With the Mapleton area’s abundance of trails and water ways, Massie’s family will have plenty of opportunity to explore.
“I’m excited to get the school year going and get some normalcy in life,” she added.
It’s a sentiment new and old staff in the Mapleton School District seem to agree on.
For more information about the school district, visit www.mapleton.k12.or.us.