Lead Strong: 2015-2016 New Teachers

This year, Affton School District welcomes 11 new teachers and counselors to our staff. This week, they are attending New Teacher Orientation where they learn the essentials of the district and are paired with buddy or mentor teachers. The buddy and mentor teachers will work with our new staff throughout the school year, both as a resource and a guide.

Name: Ellen Birkedal
Position: Orchestra Teacher
School: Affton High School, Rogers Middle & Gotsch Intermediate

Welcome to Affton! Tell us about your new job. What will you be doing? 
I will be teaching Orchestra at Affton High School and Rogers Middle School, and I will be the Orchestra Club Sponsor/After School Orchestra Teacher at Gotsch Intermediate.

Where did you come from? What background are you bringing to our schools?
I am originally from St. Louis. I grew up in Affton and attended Lutheran South. I went to college in Nebraska, and have taught in Houston, Texas, and more recently Perryville, Missouri. I am bringing a background in PK-8 music (general, vocal, band and strings).

What are you most looking forward to this school year?
I am excited to be a part of the great Affton School District! I’m looking forward to meeting students and parents, making a difference, and having fun in class!

Tell us about your family. Who supports you?
I am the youngest of three children, and grew up in Affton (woop woop!). My husband is from Norway and we just celebrated our first anniversary in July. My parents are awesome, and also live in St. Louis. We have a miniature golden retriever named Allie.

What’s the #1 item on your bucket list?
To visit all the baseball parks in the country. I have currently been to games at 8 of 30.

Name: Julie Cervenka
Position: Counseler
School: Affton High School

Welcome to Affton! Tell us about your new job. What will you be doing?
I am the Guidance Counselor for students with last names O-Z. I will be working with my students in a variety of ways, including scheduling classes, grade improvements, as well as personal issues to name a few. 🙂

Where did you come from? What background are you bringing to our schools?
I was a history teacher for two years and a counselor for nine years, mostly at Kirkwood High School. I stayed home with my two boys for seven years and am thrilled to be back.

What are you most looking forward to this school year?
I am most looking forward to meeting my students and families.

Tell us about your family. Who supports you?
I have two boys, Caden is 7 and is in second grade; Levi is 4 and has one more year of preschool before kindergarten.

What’s the #1 item on your bucket list?
Take a beach vacation with my boys and all of my friends and their families.

Name: Kathleen Garrett
Position: Second Grade Teacher
School: Mesnier Primary School

Welcome to Affton! Tell us about your new job. What will you be doing?
I will be getting to hang out with 7 and 8 year olds, getting them excited about learning!

Where did you come from? What background are you bringing to our schools?
I’m from South St. Louis County. I received my bachelors from Missouri State and received my certification and masters from Missouri Baptist. Last year, I was a building TA and this is my first classroom position.

What are you most looking forward to this school year?
Meeting and getting to know my students! I look forward very much to building a relationship with them, as well as the Mesnier community.

Tell us about your family. Who supports you?
I come from a lot of teachers – both grandmothers, father, aunts and uncles, and my sister. My mother, father, sister, boyfriend, and friends are my great support.

What’s the #1 item on your bucket list?
Visit all 50 states

Name: Amanda (Mandy) Hogan
Position: First Grade Teacher
School: Mesnier Primary School

Welcome to Affton! Tell us about your new job. What will you be doing?
I will be teaching first grade at Mesnier Primary.

Where did you come from? What background are you bringing to our schools?
I graduated from Illinois State University in 2011 with a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education. I began my teaching career in Decatur, Illinois, where I was born and raised. My first teaching position was with Decatur Public Schools as a third grade teacher, where I taught for three years. After getting married in 2014, I moved to St. Louis. Last year, I taught second grade at St. Louis Public Schools.

What are you most looking forward to this school year?
I’m most looking forward to building meaningful and mutually respectful relationships with my students while creating a safe, supporting, and engaging classroom community where they can grow socially and academically.

Tell us about your family. Who supports you?
My family is extremely important to me. I was recently married and my husband is my biggest support system. I come from a family of five with an older brother and sister. I also have two beautiful nephews and one niece with another on the way. 🙂

What’s the #1 item on your bucket list?
I want to go ziplining!

Name: Carmen Holahan
Position: Health Teacher
School: Rogers Middle School

Welcome to Affton! Tell us about your new job. What will you be doing?
I will be teaching health to 8th graders at Rogers. I will make each lesson as relatable to real life as possible. I will also make lessons hands-on.

Where did you come from? What background are you bringing to our schools?
I have taught two years at St. Louis Public Schools, teaching physical education and health to students PreK to 6th grade. I feel I am bringing a very diverse and resourceful background to our schools.

What are you most looking forward to this school year?
I am looking forward to meeting my new students and seeing them grow and learn during the school year.

Tell us about your family. Who supports you?
I am a St. Louis native who comes from a family of five. My parents have always encouraged and supported me in my passion for education. My brother and sister are going to Truman State University and will be graduating this year. #GoBulldogs!

What’s the #1 item on your bucket list?
To hike a mountain in North America and watch a meteor shower.

Name: Michelle Kersting
Position: Art Teacher
School: Affton High School

Welcome to Affton! Tell us about your new job. What will you be doing?
I will be the part-time art teacher at Affton High School.

Where did you come from? What background are you bringing to our schools?
For the past five years, I was the art teacher at Kennedy High School. I have also worked with COCA as a set and costume designer and a teaching artist for 10 years. I have a BA in Studio Art and Education from Webster University, and am working on an MA at Fontbonne.

What are you most looking forward to this school year?
I am so excited to meet the students, try out some fun new projects and make some great art!

Tell us about your family. Who supports you?
I have an awesome support system of artists and educators. My mother is a teacher, my father and brother are photographers, and my fiance is a photographer and film professor.

What’s the #1 item on your bucket list?
Travel! My next travel goal is to do a road trip of the West Coast.

Name: Brandi McKenney
Position: Math Teacher
School: Affton High School

Welcome to Affton! Tell us about your new job. What will you be doing?
Teaching Geometry at Affton High School.

Where did you come from? What background are you bringing to our schools?
I taught at Riverview Gardens for one year, and at Mehlville High School for three years. I stayed home with my children for five years, before coming in as a long-term sub at Affton High School last year in mid-September.

What are you most looking forward to this school year?
Another great year at Affton High School!

Tell us about your family. Who supports you?
My husband, Dr. Brian McKenney, is the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources at Lindbergh Schools. We have two children, Brooke, who is 9 and going into 4th grade; and Briley, 6, going into 1st grade.

What’s the #1 item on your bucket list?
Move to Florida when I retire.

Name: Kristen Morris
Position: First Grade Teacher
School: Mesnier Primary School

Welcome to Affton! Tell us about your new job. What will you be doing?
Teacher, Assessor, Learning Facilitator, Classroom Designer, Artist, Story Teller and many other roles!

Where did you come from? What background are you bringing to our schools?
I came from Ross Elementary School in Parkway, where I taught first grade. Prior to that, I was a Special Ed teacher assistant with Special School District.

What are you most looking forward to this school year?
Growing as a teacher through professional development, staff learning partnerships, and goal setting. Most of all, I’m looking forward to working with a new set of kids!

Tell us about your family. Who supports you?
My husband, Kevin, supports me everyday! I have loving parents, a brother, and a sister. I am the proud aunt to six nieces and nephews.

What’s the #1 item on your bucket list?
Travel! (Where? All over!)

Name: Greta Pitcher
Position: PreK Teacher
School: Affton Early Childhood

Welcome to Affton! Tell us about your new job. What will you be doing?
I am teaching in a Pre-K classroom.

Where did you come from? What background are you bringing to our schools?
I’m a graduate of Affton. I graduated from the University of Central Missouri with my undergraduate degree and then with my masters in administration. I’ve taught in the Kansas City, Missouri, area, and in northwestern Tennessee. I am super excited to be back in the area I grew up! Go Cougars!

What are you most looking forward to this school year?
Being a part of an excellent school district that is innovative.

Tell us about your family. Who supports you?
My husband, Tim, is my biggest fan.

What’s the #1 item on your bucket list?
Travel to Australia

Name: Erin Sparrow
Position: Counselor
School: Mesnier Primary School

Welcome to Affton! Tell us about your new job. What will you be doing?
I’m excited to start working with students on understanding their feelings and learning how to manage them in useful ways.

Where did you come from? What background are you bringing to our schools?
My background is in Communication Studies; I worked for three years in advertising before moving to St. Louis. While earning my master’s, I worked in Alumni and Development at Washington University.

What are you most looking forward to this school year?
I am most looking forward to beginning my new career in such a welcoming district and working with the students in new and exciting ways.

Tell us about your family. Who supports you?
My husband, Chris, is my favorite cheerleader. He encouraged me to go back to school and supported me through those challenges. My parents and two younger siblings are also part of my support system.

What’s the #1 item on your bucket list?
Visiting the Grand Canyon!

Name: Noelle Trueman
Position: Kindergarten Teacher
School: Mesnier Primary School

Welcome to Affton! Tell us about your new job. What will you be doing?
I will be teaching kindergarten students.

Where did you come from? What background are you bringing to our schools?
I am from St. Louis, and live in Affton. I have taught for a variety of schools in the St. Louis area, teaching a variety of grade levels from kindergarten through 8th grade. I have four children, and decided to stay home with I was expecting #3 and #4. After awhile, I missed the classroom and began subbing in Affton School District. After 1 1/2 years, I was hired as a new kindergarten teacher. I am super excited to be here!

What are you most looking forward to this school year?
Being part of such a wonderful community and learning from the kids, parents and staff.

Tell us about your family. Who supports you?
I am married to my amazing husband, Michael! We have four children: James, 10; John, 9; Allison, 3; and Christopher, 2. We also have two dogs, Ginger and Hunter.

What’s the #1 item on your bucket list?
I love traveling and want to kayak with whales.