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BVSD new hires share bits about themselves
By By Jill Meier
Challenger editor

August 22. 2013 9:49AM
More than 40 new employees have joined the staff of the Brandon Valley School District. It’s the largest number of new hires in district history, according to BVSD administration. Over the next few issues, the Brandon Valley Challenger will introduce you to many of the new people who will be educating your kids. Please welcome them all!

• Kindergarten-1st grade music at Brandon Elementary; kindergarten, 2nd and 4th grade music at Valley Springs Elementary
Jodi Ackerman is now working in the community she grew up in. A 1988 Brandon Valley High School grad, Ackerman, who now resides in Beaver Creek, Minn., with husband, Lonny, and children, Tanya, 21, Anthony, 15, Shelby, 8, and Tara, 6. Her hobbies include golf, singing and “playing in the garden,” she said. She also enjoys learning about health and wellness.
A 1997 graduate of the University of South Dakota, Ackerman’s last teaching assignment was with the Hills-Beaver Creek (Minn.) School District. She taught K-12 vocal music there from 1999 to 2013. Prior to that, she taught vocal music two years (1997-99) at Ellsworth (Minn.) Public School.
• District-wide instructional technology integrationist
Morgan Bobzien’s very familiar with the Brandon Valley School District. She graduated from here in 2001 and her husband, Adam, teaches here. And now, she’s joined the staff, too, as a district-wide instructional technology integrationist. The new position was created as the district introduces laptop computers to the classroom staff this year, and students in the years to follow.
Bobzien said she looks forward to the challenges of her new position. “Staff and students will see how excited I am to help promote the use of technology in the classroom,” she said. “There are many technological tools that they can use to make their lives easier and enhance their students’ learning.”
Bobzien received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a technology endorsement in 2005 from Dakota State University and went on to earn her master’s in technology for education and training in 2012 from the University of South Dakota.
Her prior employment in the education industry includes an eight-year stint (2005-13) with the Tri-Valley School District. She first taught K-12 computer classes and then moved into the classroom as a first grade teacher the last five years.
The Bobziens are parents to two, Cade and Madilyn, and are expecting their third child in early October. In her spare time, she enjoys being with family and friends, watching the Minnesota Twins and football.
• Elementary special education
Liz Gruis and her family moved to Brandon from Manhattan, Kan., where she taught third grade (7 years) and special education (1 year) at Marlatt Elementary School.
The Claflin, Kan., native graduated from Claflin Jr.-Sr. High School in 1999 and then obtained a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 2004 from Kansas State University. She completed her master’s in elementary special education in 2009, also from KSU.
Gruis said she tries to get to know her students through a personal teaching style. “I enjoy incorporating the students’ out-of-school interests into their school day,” she said.
She and her husband, Tim, are parents to two, Mayci, 4, and Drake, 2. She enjoys reading and walking in her leisure time.
• Kindergarten at Robert Bennis Elementary
Paula Huber and her husband, Tim, are well-traveled baseball fans. The newlyweds both enjoy playing and watching sports, especially baseball. And that fits with her husband’s work as the head baseball coach at Augustana College.
“My husband and I both love baseball. We keep track of the baseball stadiums we have attended and we enjoy taking trips to a different baseball stadium each year,” she said.
Her husband’s new job is what brought them to the area last fall. Since that time, she substitute taught at area schools. Her previous teaching experience includes St. John’s School in Jordan, Minn., where she taught kindergarten and first grade from (2003-12) and The Learning Station in New Prague, Minn., where she taught preschool (2001-03).
After graduating from Jordan High School in 1995, she attended Minnesota State University-Mankato, earning dual bachelor degrees in early childhood education and family life/child development-parenting education. She went on to earn her master’s in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in reading from St. Thomas University in St. Paul.
Huber admits to having an ongoing love for learning. “My students will see my enthusiasm and excitement for school through my teaching,” she said. “I have a very hands-on approach, and love to use music in my room, (as) I enjoy finding different ways to make learning fun.”
• First grade at Brandon Elementary
Fun and humor will be evident in Kayla Jensen’s first grade classroom at Brandon Elementary this school year. The Larchwood, Iowa, resident begins her first full-time teaching job with the BVSD after having taught summer school at Prairie Elementary in Worthington, Minn., in 2011 and 2012. She also worked in a three-day-a-week after school program, EDGE, at Prairie Elementary 2011 to 2013.
The 2006 Worthington Senior High School graduate received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Southwest Minnesota State University in 2011.
She and her husband, Brandon, are expecting their first child in early October. The Spanish-speaking Jensen also enjoys spending time with her husband, family and being outdoors.
• Second grade at Robert Bennis Elementary
Brandon Valley is the fifth school district Jesse Johnson has taught in. The Parker native began his career with a two-year stint (2005-07) teaching fourth grade at Central Elementary in Okeechobee, Fla. He returned to South Dakota in 2007 to teach third grade and serve as the head boys basketball coach at Crazy Horse School in Wanblee until 2010, at which time he moved to Salem to teach fourth grade and be the assistant football coach at McCook Central. From 2011-13, he taught middle school science, coached girls basketball and middle school football at Crow Creek Tribal School. Johnson earned his bachelor’s degree in 2004 from Dakota State University.
The Parker High School graduate said he tries to make learning fun by incorporating activities in the classroom to the real world.
In his off time, the married Johnson (Tara, wife) enjoys sports, movies and spending time with their families.
• Librarian at Robert Bennis, Fred Assam and Brandon elementary schools
Pam Klenner is moving from the classroom to the library. The Lennox native, who previously taught middle and high school English, will be working in the libraries at three BVSD elementary school libraries.
And that should be a good fit for Klenner, who enjoys reading and spending time outdoors with friends and family, including husband, Ryan.
After graduating from Lennox High School, Klenner went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and English from Augustana College. She furthered her education by pursuing two master’s degrees: one in literacy education from Concordia University, the other in instructional technology with a library endorsement from the University of Nebraska-Kearney.
• Title I tutor
Jody Lambert is moving from a substitute teaching position in the BVSD (2007-13) to a Title I tutor this school year.
The 1988 BVHS graduate has a bachelor’s degree in education from Minnesota State University-Moorhead (1994). She and her husband, Jeff, have two sons, Garret and Grant. In her spare time, Lambert enjoys reading, quilting and taking long walks.
• First grade at Robert Bennis Elementary
Expect the unexpected in Cody Linneweber’s classroom this year, as the Garretson native says his students may be surprised by his “diverse” teaching style.
“I like to switch things up and try to not fall into a boring routine,” he said. “Students will find that one day could be completely different than the other, (as) I like to be moving and out of our desks to make learning fun.”
This is the first teaching assignment for the 2008 Garretson High grad, who went on to obtain his bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Dakota State University in 2013.
Hunting, fishing, golf and coaching baseball are among his outside interests. Linneweber’s parents are Paul and Jodi Linneweber, and is a brother to sisters, Betsy Howe and Rebecca Linneweber.
• BVHS counselor
Sonja Merrigan said she likes to play games and use activities to enhance learning.
That should come in helpful in her new position as one of three guidance counselors now on staff at the high school.
“I am fun and like to help kids learn new things,” is how Merrigan, a 2004 Vermillion High School grad, summed up her teaching style.
Merrigan received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of South Dakota; the first in 2004, the latter in 2012. Last school year she was a counselor at Sibley-Ocheyedan (Iowa) Middle School.
Merrigan and her husband Brett are parents to two, Connor, 3, and Brenna Smith, 2. Besides a passion for snow sports, she enjoys spending time outdoors, shopping, watching sports and “playing with the kiddos.”
• Elementary special education
To make learning appealing and connections to real life, elementary special education teacher Mary Mudder said she likes to add manipulatives and technology to her classroom lessons.
It’s a style she’s used at her prior teaching assignments, which include two years (2011-13) at Dell Rapids Elementary (elementary computer); one year (2010-11) at SWWC Service Cooperative as an RTI coordinator; one year 2009-10) in elementary special education at Pipestone (Minn.) Area School; and 10 years as a special education teacher for Hills-Beaver Creek (Minn.) School District.
After graduating from Wagner School in 1987, she went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in elementary education/special education in 1994 from Northern State University. She furthered her education with two master’s degrees: curriculum and instruction (2007) and elementary administration (2012).
The Garretson woman and her husband, Dave, are parents to three children, Brady, Brianna and Brennan. In her spare time, she enjoys scrapbooking and camping.
• 8th grade math, middle school wrestling coach
Jack Mueller has a huge passion for mathematics, and he’ll bring that enthusiasm to his eighth grade math classes at Brandon Valley Middle School.
The Paynesville, Minn., native graduated from high school there in 2005. He graduated from South Dakota State University in 2010, and taught middle and high school math the next three years (2010-13) at Ennis Schools in Ennis, Mont. He also coached track, football and wrestling there.
In addition to being an avid sports fan, Mueller enjoys running, hunting and fishing

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