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BACK TO SCHOOL: Rugby students see new teachers

By Staff | Aug 23, 2019

Submitted photo New teachers this year at Rugby schools include (left to right): Junior High English teacher Kari Geisinger; Rugby High math teacher  Olivia Erpelding; Rugby Junior High/High Phy Ed teacher Tyler Green; RHS music teacher Abby Landsteiner; Ely Elementary first grade teacher Miriah Yoder, Ely Elementary; Savannah Harbaugh, fifth grade, Ely Elementary and Kristi Tonnessen, Ag Education, Rugby High School.

Seven new teachers join the staff of Rugby public schools for the 2019-2020 school year.

Two of the new teaching staff have strong ties to the community, while others are new in town.

Olivia Erpelding will teach math classes at Rugby High School.

“I will have algebra 1 and geometry, and then a group of intervention students from eighth grade,” Erpelding told the Tribune. Intervention is a term used for a teaching strategy to help students who encounter challenges in learning.

“I have not taught before,” Erpelding added. “This is my first teaching job. I’m actually from Iowa. I went to school down at Grand View University in Des Moines.”

Erpelding said of her new home, “I love North Dakota so far. I’m really excited about the school district. It really reminds me of home. It’s very safe and clean, so I’m excited about it.”

Rugby Junior High’s new English teacher, Kari Geisinger said she taught for seven years in Fordville, near Park River, North Dakota. However, Geisinger noted, “Rugby is my home town.” Geisinger is a Rugby High alum.

“I’m looking forward to the change in grade level, and teaching a new grade,” Geisinger said. “I taught first and second before. This will be my first teaching experience in middle school.” Geisinger said she had taught as a substitute in middle school classrooms before. “I’m excited for the change and to see growth in the students,” she added.

Tyler Green joins both Rugby Junior High and High School staff as a physical education teacher.

“I am (teaching) health and phy ed, seventh, eighth and ninth,” Green said. “So, middle school and high school.” Green said he would possibly coach Panther sports. “I think I’m going to be coaching middle school boys’ basketball,” he noted.

“I’m looking forward to meeting the new students, teachers and community, and just building relationships with all of them,” Green added. “Before (coming to Rugby), for the last two years, I was a kindergarten through sixth grade phys ed teacher in Oakes, North Dakota.”

What are Green’s impressions of Rugby?

“It’s a great town so far,” he said. We (Green and his family) really like it. Everyone’s been really friendly to us.”

Abby Landsteiner comes to Rugby High from the University of Mary in Bismarck.

“I am a brand new teacher,” Landsteiner said. “I just finished school last December at the University of Mary for my k-12 music teaching license.”

Landsteiner described her new position at RHS: “I’m doing seventh through 12th grade choir, with a couple of added music classes that we’re starting brand new this year: a strings class, and a beginning guitar class, and I’m also helping with a little bit of reading intervention for eighth grade.”

“I like teaching music because I like music and I really love kids,” Landsteiner indicated. “I love it when I can show them, and they can experience how joyful music is, like when they have a connection, or when a student gets that moment when they’re really interested and engaged; when they discover that they have a beautiful voice just all those moments throughout teaching.”

“That’s what I’m so passionate about,” Landsteiner continued. “It’s really great.”

Kristi Tonnessen will teach agriculture education.

“I have eighth grade through 12th,” Tonnessen said. “This will be my fourth year teaching. I was in Wishek, North Dakota for three years.”

Tonnessen said of Rugby, “I love the town very progressive school district; very innovative. I’m excited for the year.”

“I taught ag and was the FFA advisor (in Wishek),” Tonnessen noted. She and fellow ag instructor Kasey Okke will be co-advisors for Rugby High’s FFA chapter.

Savannah Harbaugh also comes to Rugby from southeastern North Dakota. She will teach fifth grade at Ely Elementary School.

“I taught for half a year in Ashley last year, and I taught fifth grade,” the new teacher said of her experience.

“I really like (Rugby) so far. Everyone’s pretty welcoming, and it seems like a very safe and open community,” she noted.

“I’m really looking forward to the new experiences (at Ely), and trying out the new standards-based grading system. I hadn’t had much experience with that, but I think it will be a cool experience to get to know more about it,” Harbaugh continued.

“It’s a district (program),” Harbaugh said of standards-based grading. “Instead of giving kids like an A or an F, they’ll be graded on how well they think they can do, 1 through 4; so it’s not like they’re failing or passing; they’re getting there.”

Harbaugh said she wants to give her students a chance to contribute their own input to their grades. “I want them to feel like they can control their learning as well.”

Ely Elementary’s new first grade teacher, Miriah Yoder said she has many ties to Rugby.

“I’m from Devils Lake originally, but I have a lot of family in Rugby. My mom and dad were Rugby High alumni,” Yoder said. “I have always liked Rugby. I’ve visited since I was little, and I liked the small community. It wasn’t too big, and everyone knew everyone,” Yoder noted. “I just really like the community and how they’re very welcoming.”

Yoder comes to Rugby from the University of Jamestown.

Yoder said she looked forward to using the new standards-based grading system to measure her students’ academic progress.

“This is my first year teaching,” Yoder said. “I’m excited to meet the kids and build relationships with them, and get to know who they are individually. It’s always exciting to meet the new kids and their families, and be able to build those relationships with them.”

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