September 1, 2015 Community news from the prairie to the lakes  
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  ‘New’ teachers not new at teaching  
  Vanessa McNamara

Vanessa (Denardo) McNamara hated math when she went to school at West Central Area. However, after graduating in 2003, she attended St. Ben’s and earned a degree in elementary education with a minor in math to make herself more marketable. When she did her student teaching, she had an 8th grade class and discovered she loved teaching middle school kids with their unpredictable ways. So when she started applying for teaching jobs she only applied for middle school positions. For the past seven years she has been teaching middle school math for the Chisago Lakes school district, but when a job opened at WCA, she was thrilled to get it.

“It’s fun to be back, walking the halls I used to walk,” she said. “For one thing, I see how hard people have worked to make this a great school. That is why so many alumni want to come back and teach here.”

McNamara is a third of the totally new math department. The other two-thirds are Chris Shea, who was hired mid-school year last year, and Ryan Ogren, who will be teaching 10th through 12th grade math. She said her and her husband, who is the new technology director at WCA, always hoped they would be able to get jobs together in a smaller school district when they started raising a family. Things have worked out perfectly and the McNamaras, with their two young boys, have recently purchased a house in Elbow Lake.

“We have always wanted to raise our kids here,” she said.

“I am overwhelmed, being here is so much fun, and WCA has so many things I wouldn’t expect a smaller, rural school district to have. Things I didn’t have when I was here like the iPad Initiative, the laptops, Smartboards, etc. They don’t have them in many bigger districts.”

McNamara will be teaching 7th grade math and 6th grade math intervention, for students who are struggling in math and those who excel in it. She coached volleyball and was the head softball coach at Chisago Lakes, but plans on no coaching for her first year at WCA, because she wants some time to get her and her family settled, and her kids’ transition.

One thing McNamara said she knows she will find different between teaching at WCA and teaching at Chisago Lakes is snow days.

“In eight years of teaching, I had only one snow day. If I remember correctly, that will change here.”
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September 1, 2015