New teachers

Superintendent Gillian Chapman removes her mask to welcome new teachers last week morning during a socially-distanced breakfast at Jackson Hole High School. Sixteen new teachers joined the district, which approved a hybrid instructional plan that will have a mix of in-person and virtual instruction for students starting Sept. 1.

It’s a strange time to start a new job, especially in education.

Though schools around the world are navigating the fraught reality of reopening in different ways, one fact is constant: They need new teachers. Educators retire or move (especially around here, given the cost of living), and when that happens they need to be replaced.

This year, Teton County School District No. 1 welcomes 16 newbies into its teaching ranks. That’s about half the number that came into the district each of the past two years, but Superintendent Gillian Chapman isn’t blaming COVID-19. At least not entirely.

“We did have a small retirement class,” she said. “And then, you know, I think with the pandemic and everyone being somewhat isolated, it would be a difficult time to be job searching.”

Teaching jobs are usually posted in March or April, which, if you have somehow forgotten, was when life basically shut down. Even so, 16 men and women either took new positions or moved here to start with the district.

Some, like Roan Eastman, have lived in the valley for nearly three decades. Others, like Joseph Weakland, have been here just a few weeks.

Many bring a wealth of experience, much of it in the classroom, but also from settings like outdoor education. Tying their disparate backgrounds into one cohort usually happens over a few days of in-person training, but the coronavirus has upended the normal orientation procedure.

Some parts of the process looked the same, such as the welcome breakfast, but even that had to be altered. The breakfast is usually an all-staff affair, with principals from most of the district’s schools speaking. But this year’s was muted, with fewer people and much less socializing.

Obviously, missing out on an all-staff breakfast won’t ultimately define this group’s journey, but it will impact the culture that’s created. Chapman still remembers the people in her group the year she started with the district, memories of starting work together indelibly etched on her memory.

“I do think some of the connection is lost, but on the other hand, everyone is eager,” Chapman said.

Next week the 16 will be settled into their roles, balancing in-person learning and distance education, finding new ways to support students as they navigate the changes to their education.

New teachers

Catherine Bennett

New position: Kindergarten and first grade, Kelly Elementary

Education/background: I earned my bachelor’s degree in economics with a minor in poverty and human capability from Washington and Lee University in Virginia. There I examined the powerful influence of early education to shape and transform lives, which brought me into education. I completed a teacher certification program through Moreland University.

Teaching/professional experience: Five years in early education, one year in third grade and one year as a permanent support specialist

Teaching and learning philosophy: I believe that students need to be active participants in their learning and that learning to attend, self-regulate, problem solve and persist through failure are critical skills to learn alongside academic skills. The academic and “soft skills” developed early on in life have a lasting impact on a child’s educational career. I will do whatever it takes so that each child has everything he or she needs to be successful.

How long you’ve lived in the Jackson area: Six years

New teachers

George Cartwright

New position: Jackson, Kelly, Munger Mountain elementary schools Spanish teacher

Education/background: Northern Michigan University

Teaching/professional experience: I taught English in South America before coming to Jackson to work in the dual immersion program at Colter Elementary as a para. Since 2017, I have been teaching K-7 Spanish at the Mountain Academy of Teton Science Schools.

Teaching and learning philosophy: I enjoy teaching foreign language through real world application and authentic experiential learning.

How long you’ve lived in the Jackson area: Four years

New teachers

Kathryn Chapin

New position: Sixth grade social studies and drama cub director

Education/background: Bachelor of Science in middle grades education from Georgia College and State University in 2009; Master of Science in educational leadership from Georgia State University in 2010

Teaching/professional experience: This will be my eighth year teaching middle school. Most of my experience has taken place in Title I schools in and around the city of Atlanta. I’ve also had the privilege of teaching at Cumberland Academy of Georgia, a nonprofit private school that specializes in the needs of children with high-functioning autism, Asperger’s, ADD, ADHD and other learning differences.

Teaching and learning philosophy: Each student is unique. The key to their individual success is providing a differentiated pedagogy with elements of art, STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and lessons that cater to various learning modalities. I strive to scaffold each of my students into a sense of connection with their community and an overall feeling of success in the classroom.

How long you’ve lived in the Jackson area: Eight months

New teachers

Lauren Dickey

New position: second and third grade at Kelly Elementary

Education/background: Bachelor of Arts in educational studies and Master of Arts in elementary education

Teaching/professional experience: I’ve taught for four years in a multigrade classroom.

Teaching and learning philosophy: I believe in following each child’s passions and interests and that children need hands-on experiences to build knowledge.

How long you’ve lived in the Jackson area: Nine years

New teachers

Roan Eastman

New position: Jackson Hole High School educational technology specialist

Education/background: Western Governors University, Bachelor of Arts in social studies education

Teaching/professional experience: Teton County School District employee since 2011; Jackson Hole High School library paraprofessional since 2013

Teaching and learning philosophy: Every student has the ability to learn. The teacher’s job is to find ways to pass on knowledge in a way that makes sense to the student. Teachers do not just present the information; they need to be coaches, mentors, counselors, friends and shepherds to help the students be as successful as possible.

How long you’ve lived in the Jackson area: Since 1993

New teachers

Amy Glenn

New position: Learning Hub teacher at Summit Innovations School

Education/background: I have been a nationally certified massage therapist since 2011. I returned to Jackson in 2103 and started a small business offering massage and therapeutic yoga. In 2018, I decided to answer my dream of teaching in an educational setting. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Wyoming and a Master of Arts in teaching from Western Governors University. I am earning a graduate certification in teaching English Language Learners through the University of Wyoming.

Teaching/professional experience: I began working in the Credit Recovery Classroom and Learning Hub as a para at Summit Innovations School in February. I was able to experience and enjoy all of the challenges associated with shifting to distance learning for the remainder of the spring semester. This will be my first year as a classroom teacher.

Teaching and learning philosophy: Successful teaching requires learning as much as possible about each student so that content can be made accessible and engaging.

How long you’ve lived in the Jackson area: My first stay in Jackson was from 2002 to 2006. I returned in 2013 and am grateful to call Jackson home.

New teachers

Kayla Handlan

New position: Math teacher at Jackson Hole High School

Education/background: Bachelor of Science in meteorology from Mississippi State University. I worked as a broadcast meteorologist for a short time and still actively storm chase on the side. I also have a Master of Science in finance and worked as a financial consultant for a large accounting firm.

Teaching/professional experience: I started my teaching career teaching precalculus at Bowie High School in Arlington, Texas. My second year, I taught AP Environmental Science. Later I taught precalculus and Algebra 2 at Carroll Senior High School in Southlake, Texas. This year will be my fourth year as a teacher.

Teaching and learning philosophy: My goal is to create lifelong learners who strive to better themselves and the world every day.

How long you’ve lived in the Jackson area: I moved here in May from Dallas.

New teachers

Jimmy Hessler

New position: sixth and eighth grade Spanish at Jackson Hole Middle School

Education/background: Bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver; enrolled in a master’s in globalized education from Moreland University

Teaching/professional experience: I have been coaching in the Jackson area since 2016 and began my teaching career as a long-term substitute at Jackson Hole High School from March to June of this year.

Teaching and learning philosophy: Through various experiences and relationships I’ve learned to speak French, Portuguese and Spanish, which has opened my eyes to the beauty of this world and the depth of our Jackson community. I’m excited to help the youth of our community realize the importance of foreign language and culture.

How long you’ve lived in the Jackson area: I moved to Jackson with my family in the summer of 2010 and went to Jackson Hole Middle School and Jackson Hole High School.

New teachers

Kelli Petrick

New position: Second grade at Colter Elementary

Education/background: Bachelor of Science in environmental science from Mary Washington College; Master of Education in curriculum and instruction from the University of Washington; teaching certification from Western Governors University

Teaching/professional experience: I have over 10 years of elementary teaching experience, including classroom teaching, field teaching and providing professional development for classroom teachers.

Teaching and learning philosophy: I believe that learning is a full-body experience. Students thrive when educational experiences are tailored to their needs, engaging their senses, brains and hearts. Therefore, I strive to integrate play, art, music and movement into my standards-based teaching.

How long you’ve lived in the Jackson area: 13 years

New teachers

Bobi Pierson

New position: Jackson Hole High School social studies

Education/background: B.S. composite social studies 6-12 from Utah State University

Teaching/professional experience: I taught six subjects, grades nine through 12, for two years in Vernal, Utah. I also ran the student government program and was the lead senior advisor. I then taught four subjects, grades nine through 12, in Montpelier, Idaho. While in Idaho, I also worked with the IT department as the IT implement specialist.

Teaching and learning philosophy: I believe in the importance of teaching students critical skills that make them career- and college-ready. By using critical skills as the framework for education, students can use project-based learning to apply historical events to the present day. Real-world application of crucial concepts allows students to diversify their educations and develop their passions.

How long you’ve lived in the Jackson area: Three years currently, but I was born and raised in the area.

New teachers

Jonathan Souter

New position: Jackson Hole High School math teacher

Education/background: Bachlor’s of Arts from Colorado College; teaching certification from University of West Florida

Teaching/professional experience: I have been working in the outdoor education world for over 20 years, teaching kayaking, skiing and leadership. I taught math and science for a traveling kayak academy for two years and have spent the past four years teaching 8th to 12th grade math at Teton Science Schools.

Teaching and learning philosophy: Fostering the teacher-student relationship is essential for positive outcomes for both the students and the educator. Making connections and creating an environment of mutual respect is vital for delivering instruction of any kind. It is my intention to find the strengths in each of my students, in order to celebrate their abilities, achievements, learning and growth, as well as to see the positive in all situations, big or small.

How long you’ve lived in the Jackson area: Since 2002

New teachers

Erin Visconti

New position: Jackson Hole High School educational technology specialist

Education/background: Munger Mountain Elementary School fourth grade teacher

Teaching/professional experience: Bachlor of Arts in anthropology and environmental studies from St. Lawrence University; Friends School Boulder Teacher Preparation Program graduate; Master of Arts in education and human development from the University of Colorado

Teaching and learning philosophy: As an educator I believe it’s my job to motivate learners through authentic engagement, employ equitable teaching practices and foster a deep sense of belonging in each and every learner.

How long you’ve lived in the Jackson area: Four years

New teachers

Joseph Weakland

New position: French teacher

Education/background: Master’s in French: second language acquisition from Kansas State University

Teaching/professional experience: I’ve taught summer school at a French immersion school back in Kansas City, substitute taught in multiple school districts in Kansas and instructed undergraduate French courses at Kansas State while completing my master’s.

Teaching and learning philosophy: I believe that teaching is about so much more than pushing content. It’s connecting with students, supporting them, facilitating discovery of self, and opening doors to foster curiosity and interest in something new. Learners learn best when the thing they’re learning is interesting, relatable and fun, and when they know that their teacher has a genuine interest in their life and values their individual presence.

How long you’ve lived in the Jackson area: About two weeks

New teachers

Johnson Whippie

New position: Jackson Hole High School science teacher (physical sciences)

Education/background: M.Ed. Secondary Science Education, B.S. Kinesiology: Outdoor Education Option, B.A. Physics, University of New Hampshire

Teaching/professional experience: I am most recently coming from Teton Science Schools’ Mountain Academy, where I was the upper school science teacher. I have had a range of science teaching and outdoor education roles, from directing summer camp programs to teaching undergraduate coursework.

Teaching and learning philosophy: Scientific phenomenon can be the best teachers, so I aspire to facilitate opportunities for students to connect those phenomenon to their lives and passions experientially. Beyond science content knowledge, I wish to develop confidence and skills in my students to allow them to be successful beyond high school.

How long you’ve lived in the Jackson area: Have found this valley to be my home since August 2019, after moving here from Maine.

New teachers

Jennifer Wood

New position: Third grade teacher at Colter Elementary

Education/background: Master in Education (Grand Canyon University), Teton Science Schools graduate program (University of Wyoming), Natural Resource Recreation and Tourism (Colorado State University)/Title 1 reading paraprofessional (Colter Elementary School), ski/snowboard instructor (Jackson Hole Mountain Resort), among others positions.

Teaching/professional experience: In 2008, I was hired as a substitute teacher for the Teton County School District. I completed my student teaching at Wilson Elementary School in the fall of 2014. I was hired as a Title I reading paraprofessional at Colter Elementary School in January 2015.

Teaching and learning philosophy: Inquiry is a reflection of thinking and should be honored. As a teacher, it is my role to facilitate “wondering.”

How long you’ve lived in the Jackson area: Since December 2006.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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