Oskaloosa Schools Welcomes 19 New Teachers

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The Oskaloosa Schools welcomes 19 new teachers to the district for the 2023-24 school year.

Mrs. Natalie Ashman is serving as a fourth-grade teacher at Oskaloosa Elementary School.

From Eddyville, Iowa, Natalie is a graduate of the University of Iowa, possessing a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a teaching certification. She is married to Nick and has two children, Kelly and Aurora, in addition to their dog Rider. The family’s shared hobbies include fishing, baseball games, swimming, and cheering on the Iowa Hawkeyes.

In her new role, Natalie’s ambition is to establish meaningful connections with her students, families, and colleagues. Natalie’s goals for the year include strengthening her skills in behavioral leadership and employing best practices in her teaching methods.

Mr. Bryce Brown is a new special education teacher at Oskaloosa Elementary School.

Originally from Sigourney, Iowa, Bryce holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from William Penn University, with endorsements in special education and reading. Alongside his wife Morgan, Bryce shares their life with four dogs and three cats, and the couple finds joy in traveling, quality time with loved ones, and visits to amusement parks.

Bryce is eager to establish rapport with both his colleagues and students, driven by his desire to have a positive impact on students’ total development.

Mr. Alex DeJong has joined Oskaloosa Elementary School as a new physical education teacher.

An alumnus of Oskaloosa High School, Alex pursued his higher education at William Penn University. Alex cherishes his family, which includes mother Tiffany, father Tony, brother Ki-Jana, and brother Tucker. Alex values spending time with friends, coaching, watching sports, and golfing.

Alex is enthusiastic about getting to know his students and collaborating with fellow staff members. Alex’s primary objectives include cultivating enduring relationships with his students and nurturing their appreciation for physical activity.

Ms. Michelle Erbs is serving as a kindergarten teacher at Oskaloosa Elementary School. 

A resident of Oskaloosa since 2017, Michelle recently completed her master’s degree in teacher leadership from Northwestern College. In addition, she holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Lindenwood University. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Michelle met her husband Ryan at Lindenwood University.

With a fresh challenge ahead, Michelle aspires to understand the school district better and become acquainted with her colleagues as she embarks on her kindergarten teaching journey.

Ms. Lauren Trainer is a new second grade teacher at Oskaloosa Elementary School.

A native of Oskaloosa, Lauren recently graduated from William Penn University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, featuring endorsements in special education and reading. Outside of her professional commitments, Lauren enjoys reading, listening to podcasts, taking walks, and cherishing time with loved ones.

As she begins her teaching career, Lauren is eager to forge connections with her students and their families, aiming to foster an inclusive and captivating classroom environment that fuels a passion for learning.

Ms. Kathryn Langenberg has joined Oskaloosa Elementary School as a fourth grade teacher.

Originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Kathryn holds a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, with a focus on literacy, from Western Illinois University. She also earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary and middle level education from the University of Northern Iowa. Beyond the classroom, Kathryn finds joy in running, exploring the outdoors, and spending time with family and friends.

Kathryn’s primary focus for the year is to foster a strong sense of community within her class, while guiding her students’ growth and cultivating a love for learning.

Mrs. Dee Dee Lehigh is serving as a special education resource teacher at Oskaloosa Elementary School.

A native of Oskaloosa, Dee Dee resides on a small farm in Fairfield, Iowa. Holding a master’s degree as a reading specialist from Morningside University, Dee Dee is married to her husband Eric, and they have a daughter, Miranda. The family’s shared interests include caring for their indoor and outdoor animals, engaging in household projects, and enjoying road trips.

Dee Dee is thrilled to return to her hometown and become an integral part of Oskaloosa Schools. She is focused on building valuable relationships with her students as her primary goal.

Mrs. Tori Mueller is a new fourth grade teacher at Oskaloosa Elementary School.

Originally from Sigourney, Iowa, Tori recently completed her master’s degree in elementary literacy at Morningside University. She also holds a bachelor’s degree from William Penn University. Tori attends Fellowship Bible Church in Oskaloosa and enjoys various outdoor activities alongside her family, which includes husband Jay, 18-month old daughter, Journey, three Australian Shepherds, and a cat.

Tori’s aspirations for the 2023-24 school year include establishing connections with students and colleagues, nurturing a love for learning, and facilitating holistic growth among her students.

Mr. Logan Sheets joins Oskaloosa Elementary School as a new special education teacher.

Raised in Oskaloosa, Logan’s educational background includes degrees in special education and business management from William Penn University. As a sports enthusiast, Logan is a fervent supporter of the Iowa State Cyclones.

In his first year of teaching, Logan seeks to enhance his understanding of special education while ensuring the best possible learning experience for his students.

Ms. Chelsea Steenhoek is serving as a new special education teacher at Oskaloosa Elementary School.

Originally from Montezuma, Iowa, Chelsea brings a wealth of knowledge with a degree in elementary education, featuring endorsements in special education and reading, from William Penn University. She has eight years of experience working with children of diverse needs.

Chelsea is a proud wife to Austin and the mother of two children. Outside of work, she finds joy in spending time with her family, hiking, and exploring new culinary experiences.

Chelsea’s primary goal for the school year is to develop impactful relationships with her students, witness their growth, and continually expand her own knowledge.

Ms. Lucianna Swarthout is a new kindergarten teacher at Oskaloosa Elementary School.

Born in Chariton, Iowa, Lucianna’s educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Simpson College. She has five sisters and is an aunt to five nieces and three nephews.

Outside the classroom, Lucianna enjoys reading, outdoor activities, and maintaining an active lifestyle. 

As she embarks on her second year of teaching, Lucianna is enthusiastic about building stronger connections within the school community and making a positive impact on her students’ lives.

Mrs. Laura Van Der Wal joins Oskaloosa Elementary School as a new fifth grade teacher.

A native of Oskaloosa, Laura holds both a master’s degree from Northwestern College and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Buena Vista University. With her husband Cory, Laura is raising seven children and a golden retriever named Ellie. Laura’s personal interests include camping, reading, and supporting her children’s endeavors.

This school year, Laura aims to create a safe learning environment while fostering relationships with her students and families.

Ms. Randie Gist is serving as a new special education teacher at Oskaloosa Middle School.

Randie is an Oskaloosa native and Oskaloosa High School alumnus. With a bachelor’s degree from Central College in elementary education, she holds endorsements in Special Education Strategy I K-12, Reading K-8, and Strategy II Intellectual Disabilities. Randie also possesses a coaching authorization.

Alongside her husband and their feline companion, Nala, Randie enjoys reading, volleyball, and quality time with loved ones. Randie is excited to return to her hometown district and make meaningful connections with her students, contributing to a nurturing learning environment.

Mr. William (Bill) Pester is a new special education teacher at Oskaloosa Middle School.

Bringing valuable experience from his prior tenure at OMS and holding a master’s degree from Morningside University, Bill is deeply committed to nurturing student development. His return to us comes after two years of teaching in his hometown of Ottumwa. As a devoted father to three school-aged children (Willa, Cason, and Lucy), Bill is also recently purchased a new home.

Beyond the classroom, Bill actively engages in expanding his knowledge through new courses, coaches youth sports, works part-time, undertakes home remodeling projects, and places emphasis on maintaining an active lifestyle. His objective in his role is to facilitate holistic growth in his students—academically, socially, and emotionally—equipping them for success beyond their time in school.

Mr. Keegan VanDevender joins Oskaloosa Middle School as a new eighth grade writing teacher.

A native of Oskaloosa and an alumnus of Oskaloosa High School, Keegan is currently pursuing a doctorate in philosophy from Drake University, having already obtained a master’s degree in curriculum & instruction, teacher leadership, and technology integration from Buena Vista University. He is simultaneously pursuing a second master’s degree in educational administration from Northwestern College. Keegan earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary English/language arts and journalism education from William Penn University. 

Keegan is an active participant in his church community as a musician. His focus for the year is to engage his students in the world of writing and reading, aligning with the district’s vision of inclusivity and warmth.

Ms. Kendra Mouton is serving as a new business/World of Works teacher at Oskaloosa High School.

Kendra brings a wealth of knowledge with a master’s degree in business leadership from William Penn University and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Graceland University. Originally from Victorville, California, Kendra is now a proud Oskaloosa community member and a devoted mother of two boys.

Outside of work, she enjoys exploring the city with her children and indulging in new culinary and film experiences. With prior experience as a full-time substitute in the district, Kendra is excited to embrace her new role and serve her community.

Ms. Heather Nelson is a new Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at Oskaloosa High School.

Originally from Oskaloosa, Heather holds a master’s degree in education from St. Catherine’s University, a bachelor’s degree in English from Iowa State University, and an associate’s degree in culinary arts from Indian Hills Community College. Heather brings a decade of food industry experience to her role.

Heather and her husband Brent are proud parents to three children, who are graduates of Oskaloosa High School. Heather’s interests include traveling, writing, cooking, and hiking. Her goal for the year is to broaden students’ culinary horizons and ignite their passion for food.

Mrs. Erin Vande Vegte joins Oskaloosa High School as a new English teacher.

Originally from Paullina, Iowa, Erin holds a bachelor’s degree in English education with a minor in health from Northwestern College, and is set to complete her master’s degree in English from Tiffin University this coming spring. Erin is an experienced teacher, having previously taught concurrent enrollment classes at another high school through DMACC.

Erin shares her life with her husband Loken, one year-old son Benson, and cat Zola. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, audiobooks, fitness classes, and co-managing the Osky Food Park with her husband. Erin’s focus for the year is to create a welcoming and secure classroom environment, attending extracurricular activities, and celebrating her students’ achievements beyond the classroom.

Ms. Kimberli Kern is serving as a new preschool teacher at the Oskaloosa Early Childhood Center.

Originally from New Sharon, Iowa, Kimberli holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Iowa and is currently pursuing an Early Childhood Special Education endorsement at Northwestern College. As a devoted mother of two daughters, Kimberli and her family indulge in ice cream outings, swimming, bike rides, and movie nights together.

Beyond the classroom, Kimberli has passions for reading, staying active through exercise, enjoying quality time with friends, and attending concerts. Kimberli is excited to embrace the challenge of special education within the preschool classroom, and her primary goal this year is to establish strong connections with families.

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