Lead Strong: 2016-2017 New Teachers

This year, Affton School District welcomes eight new teachers 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: Christopher DiDonato
Position: Social Studies Teacher
School: Rogers Middle School

Welcome to Affton! Tell us about your new job. What will you be doing? 
I am starting teaching here at Rogers Middle School in Seventh Grade Social Studies, teaching U.S. History, Civics and Mock Trials. I hope to have an engaging 21st Century classroom to bring history to life.

Where did you come from? What background are you bringing to our schools?
I am originally from Houston. I went to college at the University of North Texas, just outside of Dallas and stayed in that area for 11 years. I lived and taught in Austin for three years and helped introduce 1:1 technology at our school. I was a manager at Enterprise Rent-A-Car for seven years before I began teaching.

What are you most looking forward to this school year?
Getting to know my students and our community better. I’m very much looking forward to new things I will learn from my students, as well as my coworkers.

Tell us about your family. Who supports you?
My family at large is spread all over the United States from East Coast to West Coast. I was just married in June, and we chose St. Louis to be close to all of my wife’s family. Our household consists of myself, my spouse, three dogs and a cat.

If you could be an Olympic athlete, in what sport would you compete, and why?
Swimming. I was always great at it in middle school, and was swimming at Olympic qualifying times back in 1996.

Name: Mackenzie Ely
Position: Fourth Grade Teacher
School: Gotsch Intermediate School

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

Where did you come from? What background are you bringing to our schools?
I student taught in fifth grade in the Lindbergh School District. I also was employed as a substitute in their Early Childhood Center for almost two years. I completed my Masters Degree in Teaching at Lindenwood University in May 2016.

What are you most looking forward to this school year?
This year I am looking forward to incorporating technology into my classroom as much as possible. I am also looking forward to connecting with my students and developing strong character traits for life.

Tell us about your family. Who supports you?
I am originally from Columbia, Missouri. I attended Hickman High School, and then Mizzou for undergrad. Both of my parents still live there. My fiance, Bryan, and I live in Fenton with our one-year-old dog, Stanley. My older sister is in Orlando, Florida, and my younger brother is in Madison, Wisconsin.

If you could be an Olympic athlete, in what sport would you compete, and why?
I would compete in gymnastics. I was a gymnast through fifth grade, when I was deemed too tall. I am 5′ 7 1/2″ and transitioned to volleyball and cheerleading, however I was always envious that I was unable to continue gymnastics.

Name: Stephanie Matteson
Position: Science Teacher
School: Affton High School

Welcome to Affton! Tell us about your new job. What will you be doing?
I will be teaching Biology, Chemistry and Topics in Physics.

Where did you come from? What background are you bringing to our schools?
I did my undergrad and graduate studies at SIUE in biology and environmental biology. After teaching at a community college, I realized my home was in the classroom. I recently finished my student teaching and teacher education program through UMSL.

What are you most looking forward to this school year?
Meeting the students and cool science stuff.

Tell us about your family. Who supports you?
My husband and I have been married for seven years; we were college sweethearts. We have a busy 11 month old son and a cat.

If you could be an Olympic athlete, in what sport would you compete, and why?
Kayaking — those athletes look so cool! 🙂

Name: Nicole Perkins
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 lived in Oakville and commuted two hours per day to Farmington R-7 to teach kindergarten for five years. I piloted an iPad class for the last two years and helped build a communications team for social media. I have a Masters in EdTech from Mizzou.

What are you most looking forward to this school year?
Being closer to home! I am an Affton graduate, so I have had some great memories here already. It’s time to see the school from the teacher side!

Tell us about your family. Who supports you?
My husband of seven years, Nathan, is an elementary guidance counselor at Mehlville, and we have a five month old daughter, Hazel.

If you could be an Olympic athlete, in what sport would you compete, and why?
Gymnastics. I was a dancer all the way through high school and have been a substitute ballet/tap teacher recently. I enjoy getting my groove on and the gymnastics floor routine is the closest to dance!

Name: Tonya Potter
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 teaching second grade.

Where did you come from? What background are you bringing to our schools?
I taught fourth-grade summer school, was an aide for two years, and a substitute teacher for six years at Fox and Mehlville.

What are you most looking forward to this school year?
I am looking forward to working with the awesome second grade team at Mesnier while inspiring my students to be independent learners.

Tell us about your family. Who supports you?
I have been married to my husband, Mike, for 21 years. We have two boys, Cory, 19, who is a junior at SEMO; and Caleb, 17, who is a senior at Seckman High School.

If you could be an Olympic athlete, in what sport would you compete, and why?
Gymnastics. I was in gymnastics when I was younger, and I think it is a very graceful, beautiful sport.

Name: Renee Sinning
Position: Math Teacher
School: Affton High School

Welcome to Affton! Tell us about your new job. What will you be doing?
I will be teaching Geometry and Algebra 2 at Affton High School.

Where did you come from? What background are you bringing to our schools?
I have 14 years experience teaching high school math; 11 of those were in Florida.

What are you most looking forward to this school year?
I’m excited to be back in the classroom after two years off. I look forward to getting to know the students, and helping them achieve success, both in the classroom and in life!

Tell us about your family. Who supports you?
I have three kids, two dogs and one husband. They all support me!

If you could be an Olympic athlete, in what sport would you compete, and why?
Swimming. I used to swim, my kids swim (or have swam in the past), and we all love the water. It’s relaxing and smells good (the chlorine!).

Name: Courtney Thomas
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 teaching second grade at Mesnier Primary

Where did you come from? What background are you bringing to our schools?
I taught at Gerald Elementary for seven years. I taught first, second and third grades while teaching there. I was also on the Autism Team, and Student Learning Objective Team.

What are you most looking forward to this school year?
I am looking forward to meeting all my new students this year. I am also looking forward to meeting the staff I will be working with this year. 🙂

Tell us about your family. Who supports you?
I have a wonderful husband and a cute, little sassy three year old. They are both my entire world.

If you could be an Olympic athlete, in what sport would you compete, and why?
I would compete in swimming. I have always been a swimmer and I have always enjoyed it.

Name: Nicole Zastrow
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 graders to love learning!

Where did you come from? What background are you bringing to our schools?
I was raised in Arnold, Missouri. I went through public schools and began working at my alma mater, Fox, within their Auditorium, summer schools, and care programs. I have been deeply immersed in education my whole life.

What are you most looking forward to this school year?
I cannot wait to begin teaching and learning from my students! One thing I loved during student teaching was learning all about my kiddos and then using that to get them involved in learning.

Tell us about your family. Who supports you?
I come from a blended-large family. I am the youngest of five between my parents. My siblings have given me 13 nieces and nephews. I LOVE being an aunt and spending time with all of them. I am also an ultimate Daddy’s Girl. He has been my rock in all of this.

If you could be an Olympic athlete, in what sport would you compete, and why?
I would compete in basketball! I have played for most of my life and coached for a portion as well. I would also hope to meet Coach K from Duke!