Nineteen new teachers enter Free State’s doors


Kyra Haas

New math teachers learn the ropes from Department Chairs Kathy Wagner and Laura O’Neil

A geometry and consumer math teacher who student taught at Free State last semester and graduated from the University of Kansas in May.

An associate choir director with a masters degree in choral conducting who has worked with a number of choirs and performed in a variety of ensembles in the Kansas City area.

The breadth of Free State’s new teachers’ backgrounds is immense. While the 19 new teachers come from all over the experience spectrum, the new staff members, despite their differences, share a common sense of excitement and anticipation for the upcoming school year.

“I’m pumped!” debate and forensics coach Patty Newkirk said. “I’m so excited to be here and have my own squad again.”

After teaching for 14 years, Newkirk took a two year break to take care of her elderly mother about seven years ago. After her mother passed away, Newkirk tried to find a new teaching job. Unfortunately, the economy had gone “berrrrrp,” so she took a long term substitute teaching position in Olathe. Mostly substituting in debate or forensics classrooms, Newkirk waited for a debate coaching opportunity to present itself for five long years.

“I kind of feel like I’ve been rehearsing for a play for the last five years,” Newkirk said, “and now I finally get to be on stage.”

Geometry and consumer math teacher Shannon Hodges is also excited for the school year and to begin her first teaching job.

“I had a great experience last year when I was student teaching,” Hodges said, “and I thought [Free State High School] would be a great place to start.”

Hodges graduated from the University of Kansas in May and was Math Department Chair Samantha Newlin’s student teacher. She is ready to get into her classroom and meet her students.

Associate Choir Director Jake Narverud decided to transition from working with the Kansas City Allegro Children’s choir to working alongside Hilary Morton in the choir program.

“I have known about the choir program here for a long time,” Narverud said, “and it has been really strong for a long time, so I wanted to be a part of that.”

Morton is looking forward to working with Narverud.

“He is a composer, an arranger, a conductor and a singer,” she said. “He kinda conquers all areas of the music field.”

Narverud’s high school teachers, especially his choir director, inspired him to go into education.

“I love to make music,” Narverud said,  “and I want to be around others who also love to make music and want to be challenged … I was inspired by my teachers, and so I want to pass on the torch of music making to my students.”

Sixteen other individuals joined the Free State teaching staff this year, and all of them bring something slightly different to the table.

Other new teachers:

Andrea York – She teaches Survey of US History and AP US History. She taught social studies for 6 years at Junction City High School. Fellow social studies teacher Matt Frost is her brother-in-law.

Dana Whetter – She teaches geometry and advanced algebra II. She graduated from KU in May, specializing in math and science secondary education. She student taught at Washington High School in Kansas City, Kansas.This is her first full time teaching job.

Kristin Harris – She teaches geometry and analysis. She graduated from KU in December. She student taught in Eudora and was a long term substitute teacher at Blue Valley Northwest.

Alison Jech – She teaches Algebra 1 and Pre Calculus. She has taught six years, five of which were in the Dallas area.

Matt Baker – He teaches Algebra II and senior consumer math. He taught for eight years in Junction City.

Julie McCormack- She teaches biology and advanced biology. She graduated from KU in December with a degree in Biology. She student taught last fall at Shawnee Mission East and was a long term substitute teacher at Shawnee Mission East from Jan. to May.

Stephanie Harris – She teaches AP Biology, Biology and AVID. She has taught for 18 years. She moved recently from Texas.

Jennifer Culbertson – She teaches ninth grade resource. She taught 12 years in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She also taught at Washburn Rural.

Alan Barman – He teaches ninth grade resource. He was a paraprofessional for two years. This is his first full time teaching position.