By Jordan Gerard
Editor, The Caledonia Argus
The Spring Grove School District welcomed two new teachers and one new K-12 principal to its staff this year.
Laura Eglinton, Taylor Elton and Luke Kjelland are looking forward to what the school year will bring and how they can help their students navigate through COVID-19. Spring Grove starts on Sept. 8
Caledonia-native Laura Eglinton is no stranger to Spring Grove, as she worked as a paraprofessional for the school last year. This year, her position consists of a half time teaching position in special education and half time paraprofessional.
She has previous experience in different positions for Caledonia School District, including high school learning disabilities, elementary title teacher and special education. She also taught at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Caledonia.
In Spring Grove, she’s looking forward to learning more about the people and school and community as a whole.
“I’m excited about the upcoming school year to get better acquainted with the students, offer support to all and have fun while doing so,” Eglinton said.
As for COVID related changes, she cites the school’s proactive plans and adjustments to keep students and staff healthy. As a teacher herself, she intends to be flexible to students’ needs, teaching in person or in distance learning to provide support for all, Eglinton said.
“As individual situations may vary, we hope to provide the best education for all,” she added.
When she’s not teaching, Eglinton enjoys gardening, cooking, traveling when the opportunity arises and volunteer with civic groups. She lives with her husband on a farm outside Caledonia, and together they have six grown children.
Spring Grove High School alumna Taylor Elton is excited to start her teaching career at Spring Grove. She will be teaching 7-12 science.
She completed her degree at Luther College and is currently enrolled in grad school at Winona State University.
Elton started out as a paraprofessional in Spring Grove last year and also taught seventh grade civics.
“I’m excited to get to work with our amazing staff in a different capacity and seeing our students again!” she told the Argus.
As for COVID, Elton said, “This is such a unique situation that being flexible and communicating effectively is going to be the key to making sure that as the situation changes, we can still grow and learn.”
When she’s not teaching, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family, including her mom, Tanya, and Kasey, younger brother Noah, twin brother Aric and his wife, Paige, who are expecting a baby boy in October. She also likes reading, watching TV and movies and coaching.
As a final note, she said, “Keep an open mind and a good attitude, and we’ll have a fun year!”
New K-12 principal Luke Kjelland has already gotten a good start at Spring Grove, right after long-time principal Nancy Gulbranson retired in June. So far he’s enjoyed getting to meet people and building relationships with staff, students, families and community members.
“From day one, people have been awesome and that continues to hold true to this day,” he said.
Kjelland is originally from Coon Valley, Wisconsin and attended Westby High School. He earned his elementary education degree in 2004 from UW-River Falls. Later, he got his middle school certification in grades 1-8, and then taught in Prescott, Wisconsin for seven years. He earned his masters in educational leadership and principal license at Viterbo University in 2012. Before coming to Spring Grove, Kjelland was the assistant principal and athletic director at Cochrane-Fountain City School District for six years.
Though 2020 is a challenging time to start in a new position, Kjelland said the school district has done a lot of planning and consulting, especially with staff, community members and students. The plan Spring Grove has developed allows kids to be in the building with small class sizes, and minimizing the risk of COVID spread to them.
The main thing that will affect students the most is their social interaction, which is important to their mental health. Kjelland has experience in working with trauma-sensitive schools, as Wisconsin calls it. It’s an effort also known as trauma-informed care.
Essentially, “adults in the school community are prepared to recognize and respond to those who have been impacted by traumatic stress,” such as bullying, dramatic weather events, divorce or homelessness. Educating the staff and getting them involved has been step one. Community members’ education has also begun on trauma-informed care. It also looks at situations through a curious lens, versus a judgmental one.
“If kids are having trouble, there’s always a reason for things,” he said. “Taking a trauma-sensitive approach allows us to find the reasons.”
Mental health has the highest importance on students’ learning, he added. If their brain is another place, like what they’re going to eat at home because there’s no food, their brain is not focused on the task at hand.
“We try to start at the causes to our mental health, our anxiety and what causes those issues to rise, so we can have as good as learning as possible,” Kjelland concluded.
When he’s not teaching, he enjoys spending time with his wife Sara and three-year-old daughter, Silje. They like be outside, spending time on the boat fishing. Kjelland also likes to bow hunt.
“We’re all frustrated by the current state of events. It will take all of us to make it better and get out of it,” he said.