MFL MarMac welcomes new staff members

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New staff members joining the MFL MarMac School District this year are (front, left to right) Stacie Cooper (guidance support), Jillian Burke (elementary special education); (back) Casey Evanson (paraprofessional), Brock Sorensen (industrial tech student teacher at high school), Tiffany Torkelson (paraprofessional), Monica Schwartzhoff (seventh grade ELA), Amber Hendricks (middle school special education) and Sara Kelly (nurse). (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

Aug. 23 didn’t just mark the first day of school at MFL MarMac for some students. For several staff members, it was also their first official day of classes with the district. Joining MFL MarMac this year are teachers Jillian Burke, Amber Hendricks and Monica Schwartzhoff; nurse Sara Kelly; guidance support staff member Stacie Cooper; paraprofessionals Casey Evanson and Tiffany Torkelson; and student teacher Brock Sorensen, who will work with high school industrial technology teacher Joe Milewsky. Information on some of the new staff members is included below.

Jillian Burke

Jillian Burke will teach special education at the elementary school. A 2015 MFL MarMac graduate, she later attended the University of Northern Iowa, receiving a degree in elementary education, with a minor in special education, in May. 

“I love working with children,” said Burke, who first gained experience in the field as a teacher’s assistant in high school and a substitute paraprofessional in college. She was also a respite care provider for 4.5 years.

“My favorite quote, by Magic Johnson, sums up my feelings about teaching,” she shared. “‘All kids need is a little help, a little hope, and someone who believes in them.’”

Burke is happy her first position will come at MFL MarMac, where her husband, Brandon, is also a teacher, but at the middle school level.

“My husband and I grew up in the MFL MarMac District and, after going to college, we had a deep appreciation for our community and we knew we wanted to come back here to live and teach,” Burke said. “I feel thankful this position was available right when I needed it to be.”

“I’m looking forward to helping my students find success and build confidence in themselves so they will leave next May shining a little brighter than they do when they walk into my classroom at the end of August,” she added.

Amber Hendricks

Amber Hendricks will be at the McGregor Center this year, teaching fourth- and fifth-grade special education. Also an MFL MarMac graduate, Hendricks went to college at the University of Northern Iowa for elementary education. She’s spent the past six years teaching at Valley Elementary.

Hendricks said she’s been interested in the profession since high school, when she taught swimming lessons at the local pool and at the YMCA in Waterloo during college.

“I enjoyed seeing the excitement in the kid’s eyes when they mastered a new skill and enjoyed seeing a smile on their faces when they could show their parents the new skills they could do,” she remarked.

Now living in Monona with her husband Steve, 2.5-year-old daughter Ava and their dog Cy, Hendricks is excited to teach in her home district and at the school her daughter will one day attend. Being on the same schedule will be nice, she noted.

Hendricks is also ready to work with her fellow staff members and get to know the students.

“I am very excited to learn new things and bring new ideas to the Bulldog staff,” she said. 

Monica Schwartzhoff

Calmar native Monica Schwartzhoff will join the middle school staff as the seventh grade English and language arts teacher. After graduating from South Winneshiek in 2015, she attended Loras College, majoring in elementary education with endorsements in reading and math. She also has a minor in business administration. This will mark her first teaching position.

“I love working with children and making a difference in their lives,” shared Schwartzhoff, who said she feels lucky to start her career at MFL MarMac. “I love the northeast Iowa communities and I have always wanted to teach middle school.”

“I am most looking forward to getting to know my students and their families,” she added.

Sara Kelly

Sara Kelly will serve as the district’s new nurse. Kelly graduated from Northeast Iowa Community College in Calmar in 1990 with an associate degree in nursing. She started her career at St. Luke’s, in Cedar Rapids, as a floor nurse for two years before returning to her roots in Clayton County. For the past 27 years, Kelly has been a home care nurse for the county. She currently lives in St. Olaf with her husband, Frank; they have four sons and one grandchild and farm on the edge of town.

Kelly said her inspiration to become a nurse stems from her freshman year in high school, taking general science and learning how the human body functions.

The job at MFL MarMac was attractive because it allows her to achieve a better work-life balance.

“My family is growing, and with grandchildren now in the picture, I want to enjoy them,” Kelly stated. “MFL MarMac is where my first son started out at with his education, so I am a bit familiar with the district. Being able to remain in Clayton County and serve the area without having to uproot my family is great.”

Kelly is looking forward to serving the students in the MFL MarMac School District, getting to know all the families and staff and continuing the great care previous nurse Jennelle Schroeder instilled in the district.

“I have a very big shoe to fit what she has established within this district,” Kelly said, “and it will be a challenge with a different type of nursing than I am used to, but I am up for this challenge. With a background in public health, I feel this will help.”

Stacie Cooper

Stacie Cooper will provide guidance support at MFL MarMac, working with the professional school counselors to help meet the needs of students. A Waukon native, Cooper still lives near the community with her family, which includes four children ages 10 to 17 who are very active in school activities. She attended Central College for elementary education and Spanish, and is currently attending Buena Vista University for a master’s in school counseling. 

“This is my first position in this particular field, however, I have previously taught at St. Patrick’s in Waukon and Kee High School,” Cooper noted.

Cooper said she’s always had a desire to serve others.

“I worked for a social services agency with families and survivors of domestic violence. This led me into counseling,” she explained. “I have always enjoyed working with young people, so to be able work in this position is going to be busy, but rewarding.”

Cooper is familiar with the staff at MFL MarMac, including the individual who previously held her new position. She said it was appealing to have the opportunity to work with people who care so much about students and their success.

“It will be great getting to know the students, staff and families in the community this year,” she said. “I look forward to the opportunity to work with the students of the MFL MarMac schools.”

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