August 26, 2014 Community news from the prairie to the lakes  
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  Four new teachers at Secondary School  
  Kyle Owings

Kyle Owings spent much of last week putting up maps and finding spaces for globes in his classroom at West Central Area Secondary School. When the new school year starts, he will be using them as a new teacher for World History, 8th Grade Geography, and Psychology.

“I love maps,” he said.

Owings grew up in Battle Lake where his parents own Stub’s and Madsen’s Resort. He played football and wrestled for Otter Tail Central, and following graduation went to Concordia College in Moorhead where he played football for four years, graduating in 2013. Last year he took a job teaching special education in Dodge City, Kansas.

“I wanted to get a job and get my feet wet,” he said. “It was a great learning experience.”

One day his dad met West Central Area Superintendent Pat Westby at Stub’s and told him his son was a social studies teacher and wondered if there was an opening at WCA. There wasn’t at the time, but when long-time Social Studies teacher Tim Cochran announced his retirement, Westby informed Owings’ dad who told Kyle.

“I bugged Mr. Westby at least once a month all last year,” Owings said. “When I actually got the job I was thrilled. It’s so exciting to be back home.”

Owings will also be an assistant coach for football, wrestling, and track this year.

“I want to make myself indispensable.”
  Erin Lawler

“I’ve got an apartment in Elbow Lake, but haven’t unpacked yet,” said Erin Lawler, the new Instrumental Music teacher at WCA High School.

Understandable considering she was hired just last week, after Mr. Speer’s sudden resignation to take another job. This is Lawler’s first teaching job and she is looking forward to meeting her students.

Lawler was born and raised in Mandan, North Dakota, where her mother’s family owns a business making branding irons and other metalwork. Her father works at the Mandan Airport. She is the oldest of three children.

“I was going to be a doctor, but in my second year of college, I decided to transfer from UND to the University of Minnesota and change my major to music.”

Lawler played clarinet in high school.

At WCA she will be teaching instrumental music, conducting the pep band and jazz band as well. She plans to put together a half-time show for the WCA Homecoming, and maybe, in a couple of years, start a WCA Marching Band.

  April Nelson

“Surely I don’t want to teach,” April Nelson told herself over and over again while she was growing up, graduating from WCA in 2010, and during her first couple years of college. After all, her mother taught 5th grade at WCA forever before retiring last year and her father taught and coached for years before becoming WCA Community Education Director.

“I always tried to go around it, the idea of teaching,” Nelson recalled. “I knew I wanted to work with kids, so at first I looked into pediatrics or something else in the medical field. Eventually, however, I thought, ‘Well, why not teaching?’”

She is glad she changed her mind. Following graduation from Bemidji State last year, she was hired for her dream job, teaching 6th grade at WCA Middle School in Barrett.

“I love this school. It is a good school to be part of.”

She admits her mother likes to give her advice, and claims to even taking that advice sometimes, and doesn’t find it intimidating at all to be teaching at her old school.

“In fact, it helps because I know so many people here.”

Nelson, who played a lot of sports for the Knights, is JV Volleyball Coach and will be JV Girls Basketball Coach.

“I guess I get that from my dad.”

  Peter Ray

“It will take a long time to stop calling everyone Mr. and Mrs.” WCA alumni and new English teacher Peter Ray said. “So I probably won’t.”

Ray graduated from WCA in 2004 and from the University of Minnesota, Morris in 2009 with a major in Theater and Creative Writing. He moved to the Twin Cities where he worked as a theater teaching artist but soon found his opportunities were limited because he didn’t have a teaching license.

“I found I liked the teaching aspect more than the theater aspect so decided to get my license.”

Ray went back to UMM in 2012 to earn his teaching license and did his student teaching last winter at Morris High School.

“All the preconceptions I had about teachers as a high school student, are all different now.”

Ray and his wife Jenna live in Morris where she is a writer/editor for University Relations. He will be teaching 12th grade English, Popular Literature, and World Literature.

“I want to help students learn to become deeper readers with an understanding of what they are reading in order to prepare them for college, or whatever they do,” he said. “With all the social media out there, we are a nation of skimmers.”

He adds, “It will be fun!”

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August 26, 2014