A majority of the new teachers at Crothersville Elementary School trace their roots to the corporation.
Nikki Hall and Kelly Schmelzle both attended Crothersville Community Schools from kindergarten to 12th grade, and Tiffany Orrill went to Crothersville High School from ninth to 12th grades.
Tina Kilgore also went to Crothersville K-12, but she’s different from the others in that she has been working in the school building, having taught second and third grades and Title I.
On Tuesday, she opened the 2021-22 school year as a new kindergarten teacher.
“When I graduated from college, it was always my goal to come back and teach at Crothersville,” she said. “I don’t know if that is a Crothersville thing, but there are a lot of people here that are coming back to teach here. It’s just Crothersville was home to me, and I want these kids to feel like this is their home, too.”
Hall moved back to Crothersville last year and took some time away from teaching, and now, she’s a new fifth grade teacher at CES.
“It feels like a different school because it has been remodeled since I left. I’m still trying to find my way around the school,” she said, smiling. “I feel lucky to have the opportunity to come back. I probably will know a lot of the parents of my kids in the class, and I know a ton of people that work here, so it’s cool to come back, kind of back to my roots.”
Schmelzle spent 20 years running a child care business in Crothersville and contracting with the school for special needs preschool. This is her first year at the school, taking over the preschool classroom.
“It’s like coming home,” she said. “I’ve come full circle in my career. I’m just glad to be home.”
Orrill worked in the education field for more than 10 years, including assisting in a classroom in Seymour for Whitney Reinhart, who is beginning her first year as CES principal. That’s how she learned of an opening in fourth grade.
“I knew the passion that she had for making the school a better place and just how excited she was,” Orrill said. “When this opened up, I immediately applied, and it didn’t matter what grade level, where I was, as long as I could be in the family because Crothersville is a family, and that’s what I truly enjoy.”
Hall graduated from Crothersville High School in 1992.
She then worked at Crothersville Town Hall for a while until moving north to pursue an elementary education degree from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
After finishing her degree in 2001, she worked for Indianapolis Public Schools. She was an elementary school teacher before becoming a graduation coach.
“It was brand new when I got hired to do that,” Hall said. “I was doing all of the attendance data for a certain number of schools, so I did all of their attendance data monthly and met with groups of kids that didn’t have good attendance to try to encourage them to come to school.”
In 2019, she left education and got into real estate. She plans to still do that on the side while teaching at Crothersville.
Hall has 18 students in her class.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know them,” she said. “This is a new experience for me. I’ve never taught fifth grade, so just learning their behaviors, it’s going to be different because I mostly taught first grade. Going from first to fifth is a big jump. I’m going to be learning along with them, curriculum and all of that.”
After graduating from CHS in 1982, Schmelzle headed to Purdue University to study nursing and retail management.
Along the way, though, she switched to early childhood and went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in 1986.
Schmelzle spent three years in Virginia when her husband, Dale, was in the military. Then in 1990, they returned to Crothersville, and Kelly opened a child care center, Children’s Time.
“Oh my gosh, you just love the children,” she said. “My favorite part was this age of preschoolers and the school-agers. It was just amazing shaping and forming them. They are so curious, and they are so honest. It’s just an enjoyable age.”
From 2009 to 2019, she served as a licensing consultant. Then she worked from home doing child care resource and referral for 4C of Southern Indiana Inc. of Evansville.
When she recently learned the preschool job was open at CES, Schmelzle submitted her résumé and was offered the position. She has 17 preschoolers in her classroom.
“This is their first taste of (school), so it’s got to be positive all the way around,” she said. “It’s definitely making sure that first day is so positive, fun and just working on that imagination. That’s what it’s all about.”
Orrill’s teachers at North Vernon Elementary School and later at CHS influenced her to pursue that profession.
In high school, she did cadet teaching with a couple of teachers that further drew her toward that career.
After graduating in 2004, Orrill did some substitute teaching, tutoring and restaurant work. Then she decided to go to college and graduated from Indiana University Southeast in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
A couple of years ago, she taught fifth grade at NVES. This past school year, she was the virtual academy teacher for grades 3 through 6 in Paoli.
While she said she very much enjoyed that role, Orrill couldn’t pass up the opportunity to return to Crothersville this school year.
“I’m really super excited to be in the family,” she said. “That’s a big part for me is how close everyone is and growing the school, so that’s what I really look forward to. I want to help the improvement aspect.”
Orrill has 17 kids in her class.
“My heart is here at Crothersville because you get to know the kids from beginning to end and you watch them grow,” she said. “They come back and they work as cadet teachers, they come back into the classroom. Even the kindergarten kids get to know the big kids because they see them in the hallway and watch them improve.”
Kilgore’s aunt, Connie Napier, played a big role in her becoming a teacher.
After graduating from CHS in 1986, Kilgore went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a minor in early childhood special education and a master’s degree in educational leadership, all from IUS.
She taught in a 2- and 3-year-old special needs classroom in Clarksvile for a while before working as a case facilitator and preschool coordinator for Austin and Scottsburg schools.
Then in 1999, she had the opportunity to teach second grade alongside her aunt at CES.
Kilgore taught second and third grades before becoming a Title I teacher in 2013, working with kindergartners and first- and second-graders. She held that position until this school year.
“I’m getting toward the end of my career, and it’s kind of like now or never, so here I am. I am super pumped about it,” she said. “I really liked doing the Title I because I like helping support those kids that need that extra boost, but I felt like (taking the kindergarten job) was an opportunity at this point in my career that I didn’t want to pass up and look back and say, ‘What if?’”
For her 14 students, Kilgore said she wants them to love school.
“I want them to feel welcome. I want them to know when they come here that they are loved and that learning is fun, and hopefully, we’ll build a good foundation for them for future years,” she said.
Second grade has a new teacher in Samantha Beverly, who graduated from Scottsburg High School in 2014.
She went to University of Louisville and earned a degree in history in 2018 and then went to IUS to obtain a teaching license.
“Actually, I never really considered being a teacher,” she said. “I subbed after I graduated, and it just kind of hit me and I really liked it, so then I looked into programs that would help me get my license, and that led me to there. I never thought that I would end up being a teacher, but now, I’m just excited to start teaching.”
This past winter and spring, Beverly was a student teacher in a kindergarten classroom at Lexington Elementary School.
“I feel like if I can student teach during COVID, I could handle anything because you have to be very versatile with everything that’s going on,” she said. “That helped me see that I won’t be able to have everything by the book like I’m used to doing.”
One of Beverly’s friends, Tara Bedwell, the other second grade teacher at CES, let her know about an opening, and she applied and was hired in late June. She has 16 students.
“I’m really excited about this grade because I feel like it’s the perfect middle. They are still young and like to have fun, but then they are a little more independent,” Beverly said. “I love education, and I love learning, so I figured I can get kids excited to learn and have fun while they are doing it.”
Taking Kilgore’s place as the Title I teacher is Brenda Ballinger.
She graduated from Marion High School in 1984 and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in reading from Ball State University.
For seven years, she taught at the elementary level in Marion and also did some part-time Title I. Then she stayed home to raise a family.
Her husband, Doug, became principal at Crothersville Junior-Senior High School in the summer of 2020, and now, she’s joining him in the school district.
Ballinger will introduce Orton-Gillingham phonemic awareness for students in kindergarten through second grade.
“They’ve heard of it, but they haven’t ever implemented or had the training on it, so that’s exciting to be able to show them that,” she said. “The teachers will hopefully see great improvements in their kids’ reading because of that.”