MARSHALL -They now feel like they're part of a big family.
This year Holy Redeemer School welcomed three new teachers -Angie Prokop in kindergarten, Brittany VanKeulen for fifth and sixth-grade language arts and Marcela Valencia for Spanish.
Valencia and her family have been in Marshall for the last two years. Her husband, Alejandro Sanchez-Aizcorbe is a Spanish professor at Southwest Minnesota State University. Besides teaching at HRS, she also teaches French at Marshall High School.
Photo by Cindy Votruba
Holy Redeemer School language arts teacher Brittany VanKeulen assists sixth-grader Courtney Roth with an assignment. VanKeulen is one of three new teachers at the school.
Prokop, a 2003 Canby High School graduate and SMSU graduate, started babysitting while she was in junior high, and that is where she fell in love with working with young children.
"Kids have always had a special place in my heart," Prokop said. "As a teacher, I have the opportunity to make a difference in their lives."
Prokop also was a nanny for a year.
"That showed me I enjoy being with kids on a day in and day out basis," Prokop said.
VanKeulen taught at the Lynd School for two years and was a long-term substitute at Holy Redeemer for Michelle Appel before she landed a full-time job at HRS.
"I liked the parent involvement, the kids and all the teachers," VanKeulen said.
Each of the teachers bring different kinds of experience to the classroom. Valencia, who is originally from Lima, Peru, grew up going to private school. She took French during her last years of secondary education.
"I love languages, I have always loved them," Valencia said. Besides English, Spanish and French, Valencia said she can speak a little bit of German.
Valencia was a journalist before she got into teaching and was an editor of a magazine. She also worked as a director of art galleries and even does a little watercolor painting herself.
"I am a novice, not a professional," she said.
She went on to get her master's degree and doctorate at the University of Kentucky, Lexington. She taught at a small college in Nacogdoches, Texas for a couple of years before the family moved to Marshall.
Prokop graduated from SMSU for early childhood and elementary education. She worked at the SMSU Daycare. She said she's excited for the coming school year. She's already met most of her students' families in the last week.
"This year, I'm looking forward to getting to know the kidslearning the traditions," Prokop said. "Kindergarten is a big year, lot of transitions. It's the transition to the elementary school setting."
Kindergarten began Monday at Holy Redeemer. Prokop said she has 14 children in her class.
"I'm excited to have my own classroom now," Prokop said.
Valenica had substituted for French and Spanish at Marshall High School last year. Her daughter is on the swim team and the parents would refer her to teach Spanish in the schools. She had wanted to wait and get to know the town.
"Finally, they convinced me," Valencia said.
HRS wanted to keep the Spanish program, Valencia said, and she was invited to see the principal, Carol DeSmet. She now teaches Spanish to grades 4-8 in the morning at HRS and French in the afternoon.
"I was lucky to be able to teach French because it's been a while," Valencia said.
Valencia said teaching elementary students is different than teaching college students. For her Spanish classes, she has the students play games, sing songs and repeat pronunciation.
"I'm remembering those things to get their attention,"?Valencia said.
VanKeulen has subbed in all areas of elementary school, but mainly teaches fifth- and sixth-graders.
"It just kind of happened that way," VanKeulen said. "I actually love working with this age group. They can add some interest to the class, especially with their personalities."
In the past week at HRS, VanKeulen said she's been learning about her students, building a bond with them. Then they'll move into reading and writing assignments.
"So far we've been doing a lot of 'get to know you' kind of stuff," VanKeulen said.
Besides teaching, VanKeulen is also working toward her master's degree in education with a reading teacher license at SMSU. She also has another part-time job.
The new teachers said they like the atmosphere at the school and how parents are actively involved with the school. VanKeulen noticed that when she subbed, noting that parents would always ask her if she needed anything.
"It's just nice to know they're willing to help out, that's nice to see," VanKeulen said.
"So far it's been a great experience here at Holy because everybody's so welcoming," Valencia said.
"I look forward to the entire year,"?Prokop said. "I feel like in the right place."