By Jordan Gerard
Editor, The Caledonia Argus
Houston School District began its year on Tuesday, Sept. 7, with several new on-site teachers also beginning their year.
New teachers to Houston are Alana Braund, Brett Hoskins, Daneka Romportl, Emily Freeman, Kiara Reichstadt, Jessica Reed, Chelsey Carlson and Shannon Pass.
First grade teacher Alana Braund is looking forward to getting to know her students, families, new co-workers and the community as a whole. Originally from Elroy, Wisconsin, Braund received her elementary education degree and middle level math endorsement from Winona State University. After she graduated, she taught second grade in Winona.
No matter what remains of Covid-19, Braund is prepared to help her young students navigate the year.
“I plan to follow all of the guidelines that we are given by our school nurse and public health,” she said. “We will be spending as much time outside as possible, keeping our distance in the classroom and disinfecting surfaces often!”
When she’s not teaching, she enjoys spending time with her dog Bleu, spending time outdoors, hiking, traveling, cooking and with friends and family. She also enjoys photography and has her own professional photography business, Alana Braund Photography.
Having previously worked at Caledonia Area Elementary School, Daneka Romportl is ready to continue her career in special education at Houston.
Romportl is originally from Taylors Falls, Minnesota, on the St. Croix River and earned her degree from Winona State University. She’s excited to move to Houston and teach in the wonderful community that makes up Houston, she said.
“I am looking forward to teaching in Houston this year for a number of reasons! The Houston School District has incredible administration leadership and phenomenal teachers that all work together to provide the best education both academically but also socially and emotionally for the students,” she told the Argus. “With an education and experience in special education, child advocacy, and behavior intervention; I was excited to join a team that encourages meeting students where they are at and working together to provide the support that each individual may need.”
Romportl said she plans to take Covid-19 measures one day at a time and make the most of every opportunity to work with students and provide the best education possible. Her students call her Ms. R in the classroom.
When she’s not teaching, she enjoys hiking with her black Lab puppy in Beaver Creek State Park. She also enjoys golfing with her boyfriend and his four kids. When Romportl isn’t outside, she’s usually finding a new project to work on, painting or playing piano.
She’s also the seventh grade girls volleyball coach, which has been a blast so far, she says.
“It was a great summer filled with many great memories; however, I am thrilled to start teaching and getting to know all the students!” she said.
Emily Freeman, originally from Broomfield, Colorado, but also from Victoria, Minnesota is Houston’s new ADSIS Behavior Interventionist for grades 7-10. The acronym stands for “Alternative Delivery of Specialized Instructional Services,” and means an intervention teacher who helps students work on specific skills in a small group.
Freeman graduated from Chanhassen High School in 2014, then received her B.S. in Psychology from UW-La Crosse in 2018 and graduated with her Masters in school counseling from Minnesota State University, Mankato in 2020.
This is her second year teaching, as she spent her first year at Wabasha-Kellogg as a school counselor for grades 7-12.
Freeman is looking forward to getting to know students and becoming a part of the community. She plans to support her students and remain a solid, steady person for them to come to if they are anxious, worried, stressed, angry, confused, or feeling other emotions.
“I think that just being there for the students during this turbulent and uncertain time will be very helpful,” she said.
In her free time, she likes reading, baking, cooking, watching Netflix and playing with her two cats, Mochi and Kylo. She also likes to travel and plan trips. Her name changes permanently to Freeman, when she gets married on Oct. 30 this year.
Kiara Reichstadt hails from Spring Valley, Minnesota and is looking forward to her new position as a reading interventionist for grades 7-10 in Houston. She has an integrated elementary and special education license from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Her first year of teaching was with LeRoy-Ostrander Public School as a middle school special education teacher.
Reichstadt moved to the Houston area over the summer and is looking forward to a somewhat normal year again, she said.
“There will be new experiences and opportunities for me to grow as a person as an educator here at Houston,” she said. “I will not only be working with several students from several grades, but I will also be a co-advisor for the Yearbook Committee.”
Her goal is to have normalcy for her students this year and give everyone a mental break from Covid-19, while still following school and community guidelines.
“The world as we know it is going to be different from here on out, finding our grounding in the midst of this rapid change is going to be the main goal,” she added.
When she’s not teaching, you can usually find her hiking on a trail with her hyperactive puppy. Say hi if you see her!
Chelsey Carlson is no stranger to teaching and this year, she is Houston’s English teacher for grades 7 and 9, and teacher for new courses Digital Citizenship and Mythology. Originally from Virginia, Minnesota, and with a Bachelors degree in English education, a minor in sociology and a Masters in Education with an emphasis in English, Carlson has spent the last few years teaching in southwest Minnesota.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know the students, staff and community here,” she said. “I have family in the area and it’s nice to be close to them as well.”
As for Covid-19 measures, Carlson said she feels students are resilient and make the best of what they can.
“There’s been a lot of loss during this pandemic and not just academically, but personally as well,” she said. “I lost my grandmother, Ardyce Esch, in January (non-covid related), but because of Covid was not able to really say goodbye. My students at the time showed real empathy and helped me cope with the loss. So I think it’s really about being there for each other and being open to understanding that there are things beyond our control.”
When she’s not teaching, she enjoys reading, kayaking, crocheting, scrapbooking, puzzles and watching Netflix series and movies. She has a dog name Mr. Wiggins, who is a poodle mix and a lovable goofball, she says. Carlson also likes going to sports games and other events to support her students and spend time with her co-workers. That comes from her grandma, she adds.
Shannon Pass is ready to help her students in the mathematics world, as a grade 8 algebra, grade 9 algebra topics, grade 11 algebra II and grade 12 pre-calculus and Calculus teacher.
She is originally from Baltimore, Maryland and earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Maryland, a Masters in Science from Texas A&M University and teacher preparation at West Texas A&M. Previously she taught in Winona for two years and taught in Borger, Texas.
“I am looking forward to meeting all of my students and learning about this wonderful community,” she said.
As far as Covid-19 goes, Pass will look at where students are at in their mathematics learning and go from there. Covid-19 did leave achievement gaps, the board said earlier this year, so there will be holes to fill, Pass relayed.
When she’s not teaching, she enjoys hiking, camping and traveling with her husband and two dogs.
Two more teachers are looking forward to the new school year in Houston, which started Sept. 7.
Jessica Reed, school social worker, and Brett Hoskins, developmental adapted physical education (DAPE), are two new staff members.
Caledonia native Jessica Reed is taking her experience in social work and translating it to her new position as Houston’s school social worker for elementary and pre-school.
Reed has worked as a child protection social worker with Houston County Public Health and Human Services for the past 15 years. She’ll be working with pre-k to sixth grade kids on different levels.
“I’m really excited to continue with family outreach and incorporate information focusing on self-worth and compassion into the social-emotional curriculum,” she said.
Reed graduated from Caledonia High School, attended UW-La Crosse for accounting/finance and then earned her degree in social work from Winona State University.
As for guiding students and families through Covid-19, Reed says she’s hoping to bridge the gaps.
“I believe COVID has created a lot of uncertainty and anxiety for children and adults, and I’m hoping to help identify stressors affecting students and/or families and help bridge the gaps so that everyone can have a successful school year,” she explained.
When she’s not helping kids and families, Reed attends her kids’ activities and spends time with her family.
New teacher Brett Hoskins is a familiar face around the Houston campus, as Hoskins graduated from Houston.
He earned his Bachelor’s degree in physical education with a minor in adapted physical education, which allows him to teach grades K-6 for gym class and grades K-12 for developmental adapted physical education.
“I look forward to seeing the students and working with them to meet their physical education needs, and of course, having fun while doing so!” he said. Hoskins has previous experience as a substitute teacher for many different grades and subjects at Rushford-Peterson and Houston.
As far as Covid-19 measures, Hoskins said he’ll be reminding students to wash hands and sanitize and socially distance.
When he’s not teaching, he enjoys camping, side-by-side rides and spending time on the river with his wife.