Schools have five new teachers this year

This article submitted by Molly Connors on 11/19/96.

Between the Paynesville Area Middle and High School, there are five new teachers this year.

This week, Nov. 17-23, is American Education Week. The new teachers are part of a staff who spend seven or more hours every day zshaping young minds.

Dave Wilke and Todd Theisen are the new faces on the high school's staff.

Todd Theisen

Theisen, the new high school math teacher, is a two-time graduate of St. Cloud State. He went through his first four years to obtain an accounting degree.

He didn't like accounting while he was working. He didn't want to stop and change majors, because he thought that would take too much time.

Theisen didn't like accounting when he was working in the field, either. He worked in downtown Minneapolis for one year. Then, he went back to SCSU and got a bachelor's degree in math with a teaching license.

"It (teaching) was one of those things I should have done from the very beginning," Theisen said. He went for the "money, rather than doing what (his) heart said."

Theisen, a St. Cloud native, worked at Apollo High School for eight years while he was in college. He liked the environment and got along with students.

"It's not quite as cutthroat as it was in downtown Minneapolis," he said.

Theisen's wife is from Marshall, so they had driven through Paynesville before. When they stopped, the "people seemed nice." The also liked the school. He accepted this job "without even thinking about it."

This is Theisen's first teaching position. He was nervous on his first day of school. He was used to students and the atmosphere from his work at Apollo. He was nervous about actually teaching.

Theisen, who doesn't like public speaking, didn't need to worry. The classroom, although it's in front of students, doesn't bother him like public speaking did.

In the classroom, "I'm the teacher and they're (the students) expecting to learn from me," he said.

After teaching in Paynesville for one quarter, Theisen still likes the town and the school.

"Paynesville is a nice community," he said. "The (school) staff gets along and tries to solve kids' problems." He felt comfortable coming in and received "support from everybody" on the staff.

Dave Wilke

Wilke is the wandering teacher who pushes his cart through the halls of PAHS. He doesn't have a classroom, so he moves all his teaching materials from room to room.

This is the "most difficult aspect" of his new job, Wilke said. The constant moving forces him to be "super-organized." The plus side, Wilke said, is that he sees more of the faculty than he ordinarily would. This is helpful in his first year, so he can get to know people.

Wilke supplements the high school foreign language staff. Darrel Carstens also teaches German.

Wilke is working on a Spanish program, which will be available to students next year. He's looking at textbooks and getting student and teacher input.

Before moving to Paynesville, Wilke taught at Neuman High School and St. Matthew's Middle School in Wausau, Wis. He taught German, math, social studies and was even a counselor.

His undergraduate degree is in German with a Spanish minor. Wilke taught social studies and math because the school couldn't find another certified teacher.

Wilke did his undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin at River Falls and he earned his master's degree from Mankato State University.

Wilke's father was in the Army, and he grew up in Germany. After his father got out of the Army, he got a civilian job in Germany. Wilke lived there for 15 years.

"I love to help people learn," Wilke said. That's why he became a teacher. He finds it "fascinating" to watch kids go from knowing no language to working with a language.

Wilke's wife, who is from the Watkins area, was recruited by the College of St. Benedict.

Wilke and his wife live on campus at St. Ben's with their 12-week-old daughter.

Barb Ingalsbe, Cameron Mahlum and Tim Woehler are the new teachers on the middle school staff.

Barb Ingalsbe

Ingalsbe has a one-year contract. She is taking Lorraine Skrypek's place, while Skrypek is on a one-year medical leave.

Ingalsbe teaches math and English to special education students in the middle school.

Ingalsbe taught occasionally as a substitute teacher last year. She also subbed in the Eden Valley-Watkins, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City and New London-Spicer districts.

Ingalsbe taught sixth grade for 14 years in Norfolk, Nebraska. She has three children. She "decided that teachers would always be available, but my kids would have only one mother." So, Ingalsbe spent the next 11 years at home raising her family.

"I couldn't be the best teacher I wanted to be and the best mother I wanted to be at the same time," Ingalsbe said. She has "no regrets whatsoever" about the 11 years she spent away from teaching and with her family.

Ingalsbe started out teaching mainstream sixth grade in Norfolk. She was "unable to reach some intelligent kids through conventional methods." She had kids each year who she knew were intelligent, but couldn't seem to succeed in a regular classroom.

"I felt I had a teaching disability," she said.

School was always easy for Ingalsbe. She always enjoyed going to school and learning new things.

"It was important to me that I help kids who didn't feel that way find success in school," she said. So, Ingalsbe went back to school. She took night classes and summer classes and earned a master's degree and an educational endorsement in specific learning disabilities from Wayne State College in Wayne, Neb.

After she earned her second degree in 1981, Ingalsbe felt she was better equipped to help kids with special needs. She also taught students with specific learning disabilities in Northfield, Minn., for one year.

Ingalsbe and her family moved to Paynesville two years ago. She likes the area. She also likes the school, and has been "impressed with how very caring the teachers are" at all levels of the Paynesville Area Schools.

"Every day when I walk into my classroom, I think 'I am so happy to be here.' Every day I leave exhausted -- as most teachers do," Ingalsbe said.

One of her main goals as a teacher is to help kids understand that their success depends on them. All of her students are "hardworking." Ingalsbe is disturbed when she sees other kids, who aren't challenged by learning problems, waste their abilities.

Ingalsbe, a South Dakota native, earned her bachelor's degree in elementary education from Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D. She continues to take a variety of classes and courses. She believes in "life-long learning" and hopes to inspire her students to become life-long learners themselves.

Tim Woehler

Like Theisen, Woehler didn't start out as a teacher.

"I never thought I'd be a teacher," he said.

Woehler, who teaches eighth grade earth science, went to school at the University of Minnesota at Waseca, where he studied animal science.

He transferred to the University of Wisconsin at River Falls. UMW told Woehler if he earned his animal science degree, he could come back and teach labs there. However, when Woehler finished at River Falls, the state closed the college at Waseca.

"So I was stuck," Woehler said.

He had taught some classes at River Falls, and looked into a teaching degree. He went to Mankato State University and earned a bachelor's degree in earth science education.

Woehler taught junior high science, agriculture, natural resources and welding classes in Blooming Prairie for five years. He coached high school wrestling and football. He coached legion baseball.

He advised the FFA club, which included trips to 11 contests at county fairs in the summer. FFA also put on a farm safety program at the Blooming Prairie elementary school and went on a Boundary Waters trip every year. Woehler was busy while he taught at Blooming Prairie.

"Now that I've had time to sit back, I don't know how I did it," he said.

Woehler moved to Paynesville because he liked the area and felt he would have more time to spend with his family. He and his wife have a 5-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son. He also has friends in this area.

Woehler enjoyed teaching the kids in Blooming Prairie.

"They become your extended family," he said.

He visits Blooming Prairie, but he hopes to stay around Paynesville. He plans on teaching for "the rest of my life."

"I love kids," he said. "I think it shows."

Woehler and his family now live on a farm near Belgrade. He has most of his land in the Conservation Reserve Program.

Woehler would like to coach again someday. He wrestled at River Falls and particularly enjoyed coaching wrestling.

Cameron Mahlum

Mahlum is the eighth grade civics teacher.

He is originally from St. Peter and he went to college at St. Cloud State University.

Mahlum's first teaching job was in Tulsa, Okla., in the inner city. He "loved it."

There isn't much difference between the kids in Tulsa and in Paynesville, but Mahlum's role as a teacher differed greatly between schools.

In Tulsa, he was a big brother and a counselor in addition to his teaching duties.

"I was a very badly needed role model," Mahlum said. Here, parents fill that gap and teachers don't have to.

The school in Tulsa held a parents' night while Mahlum taught there. Other teachers told him there would be a "small turnout." Mahlum believed them, but he didn't think it would be as small as it was. Of his 151 students, five parents showed up. Before that parent's night, Mahlum would have considered 50 percent to be a bad turnout.

In Tulsa, he spent much of his time with students. He was involved with their every day activities. He gave private tutoring sessions for the ACT. He gave kids rides home after practices. He bought lunches for kids who didn't have money to eat.

Mahlum hasn't changed his teaching style in Paynesville. "I can't," he said. He doesn't talk down to his students. He tries "anything" to get kids interested in learning. He respects his students.

"To demand respect, you've got to give respect," he said. "If you showed care and respect, you had more support than you could imagine."

Mahlum brings these ideals into the classroom and teaches this way. He feels self-confidence and self-esteem are the keys.

"I turn them on to themselves," he said. "Then I turn them on to academics."

Mahlum has high expectations of everyone in his classroom, no matter what level the students happen to be at. Letter grades don't mean much, he said.

Mahlum moved back to Minnesota to be closer to his family and to further his education. He will begin studying for his master's degree this spring.

Mahlum is also the new girls' varsity basketball coach.

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