Combined grade levels are a thing of the past for Medora STEM Academy.
Preschool through fifth grade now are all separate classes, resulting in Medora Community School Corp. hiring two new teachers for the elementary.
Another new teacher is serving students in preschool through 12th grade, another one is teaching sixth through eighth grades and the final new staff member is teaching ninth through 12th grades.
Dean of Students Kara Hunt said having separate elementary classes allows the teachers to be experts in their grade level.
“There are so many standards for each grade level, and while they do overlap, it was really hard for them to cover everything they needed to cover in a year with both groups, so it has been really nice, and we know it’s going to be even better for the kids,” she said.
While Amanda Terrell is in her first year in a school setting, she’s no stranger to education.
After graduating from Brownstown Central High School in 2006, she earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and middle school science from the University of Southern Indiana in 2010.
“When I was going to decide what I wanted to be, I wanted to help people, and I felt like, ‘What better way to help people than teach?’” she said. “Through the Brownstown school system, every teacher I had was wonderful, and I just felt like the impact that they have each year on your life, I wanted to have that impact on students’ lives.”
Following a year of social work, she took some time off to start a family and then served as the preschool teacher at God’s Lil Blessings in Brownstown for nine years.
“I loved it, but my heart was always I wanted to be in a school system,” Terrell said. “I was able to raise my kids, and then my youngest just went into preschool, and so it was just perfect timing to transition into a school system.”
During her stint in social work, she worked with Medora schools and said she loved it.
“They were so welcoming, and their mindset is student first, and that’s my mindset — relationship first and then the education,” she said. “I felt like we had very similar teaching philosophies, and when I came for my interview, I just knew it was the right place for me. It was just a comfortable fit.”
As the new first grade teacher, Terrell said she’s excited to get to know her seven students and collaborate with the other elementary teachers.
“In first grade, you teach kids to read, so that’s where my heart is,” Terrell said. “I’m excited to teach the kids to read because I feel like if you can read, then you can figure a lot of things out. That’s where we’re at — teach them to read and then they can figure the rest out together.”
Fellow BCHS alumna Macy Forrest is another new elementary teacher.
After graduating in 2018, she began working on an educational studies in elementary education degree through Western Governors University while serving as an assistant in the preschool room for Immanuel Lutheran Child Care Ministry in Seymour.
“I actually didn’t start in education when I went into college. I started in business, and I realized that was not for me. I did not belong there,” Forrest said. “When I got my job at Immanuel, I was in the 3-year-old room, and I think it was within a week of being there that I changed my major to education. … Just the love the kids have for learning, they have so much fun, and I love being able to foster that in them.”
She remained at Immanuel until late in the 2020-21 school year when she worked as an assistant at Shawswick Elementary School in Bedford while finishing her degree.
Earlier this summer, Forrest learned through a Facebook post that Medora was looking for a fourth grade teacher. She applied and accepted a job offer.
She has 10 students in her class.
“I came from a preschool background, and I briefly worked at Shawswick with K-3, so I really didn’t have any experience with fourth grade. I was worried about the age difference and about what I was used to,” she said. “These kids, they are so fun, they love to learn, I can have conversations with them, so I think that’s what I love most about being here.”
She also felt welcomed by the staff.
“They are very supportive and made it very easy to come in here without any experience in fourth grade,” Forrest said. “I would say those two things — the kids and the work environment — I’ve never seen anything else like it. I don’t think I could have done it without the people around me. They are amazing.”
Amanda Newby may be new to teaching special education at Medora, but she has gained a lot of experience in her 22 years in education.
She first taught at Medora in her second and third years and later spent time at Seymour schools. In 2017, she began teaching special education at Brownstown Central Middle School.
She remained there through the end of the 2020-21 school year, and then Medora contracted with Brownstown for special education services for this school year, and she was hired to fill that role.
The opportunity was special because she graduated from Medora High School in 1994.
“I know a lot of the families who send their kids to school here, and so the community is just near and dear to my heart,” Newby said. “It gave me an opportunity to contribute to our community, so that’s why I took the position here.”
She’s teaching nearly 30 kids from preschool to 12th grade.
“I enjoy working with the kids, that’s for sure,” she said. “I love teaching and helping kids find what they are good at, find their trouble spots so they can overcome them.”
Newby also is going to work with Brownstown students as the blind and low vision teacher.
“I haven’t done that in several years, but I did do it at Seymour several years ago for a couple of years,” she said. “I’m looking forward to learning more about that.”
Medora’s new junior high math teacher brings military experience and a high level of education and training to the job.
Kyle Derheimer graduated from Bedford North Lawrence High School in 2002 and then served in the U.S. Navy for nine years in the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.
“When I was in high school, I was always a math and science guy. I loved math and science,” he said. “This particular program is the most academically challenging in the military.”
In the first two years, he earned a bachelor’s degree in applied science and technology with nuclear power being his core major from Thomas Edison University and received an associate degree in mechanical maintenance through the Navy.
In the Navy, he spent time in operations, supervision and maintenance for power plants and aircraft carriers in all four corners of the United States, including South Carolina, New York, California, Washington and Virginia.
Derheimer then worked at the Duke Energy gasification plant in Edwardsport for seven years before moving to Crane Naval Base and serving in a variety of roles.
From the military to civilian jobs, he trained and tutored others, so he was always teaching in some regard.
This past school year with students on a variety of schedules due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Derheimer did a lot of tutoring.
“I found that I really enjoyed doing that, and I’m at a point in my life where I want to do it full time, I’m ready to do something I’m passionate about,” he said. “I had a cool job at Crane, but it was time to do something I was a little more passionate about.”
He only has a couple of classes remaining in Indiana University’s hybrid transition to teaching program so he can earn his teaching license.
At Medora, he’s teaching sixth, seventh and eighth grade math and sixth grade science, and he will add a STEM class for eighth-graders in the third trimester.
“I’m looking forward to really just getting to know the students and make an impact, for sure,” Derheimer said. “It is a very small community, it’s a tight group of staff and students and I really think that I’ll be given an opportunity to make a real impact here.”
Also a BNL graduate and a new Medora math teacher is Will Marlowe.
The Leesville native graduated in 2010 and then did a variety of jobs, including working on music — all the while earning an associate degree in general studies from Ivy Tech Community College.
It wasn’t until traveling out west to see his brother, who teaches at a branch campus of Washington State University, that he figured out he wanted to become a teacher and enrolled in Indiana University East’s online math program.
“I had been a pretty good math student in high school, but I hadn’t studied it at all in college,” Marlowe said. “I had taken calculus and finite for college credit at BNL and never needed to take anymore.”
After nearly 10 years of not taking any math classes, he said he was pleasantly surprised he still remembered a little bit.
“This summer, I was coming down the stretch with my degree, I was down to my last class and I go, ‘OK, here I am. I made it,’” he said. “When I decided, ‘OK, I’m going to get this degree in mathematics,’ teaching had always been something I had considered.”
While he’s starting at Medora on an emergency license, Marlowe said he’s going to pursue a teacher certification program.
Having been a boys basketball assistant coach at Medora in the past, Marlowe said the community and school hold a special place in his heart, and he was happy to apply for the teaching job and receive an offer.
“I thought about it for all of about 15 minutes,” he said, smiling. “I believe when an opportunity like that presents itself and there’s no resistance to it, it is a bad idea to not walk through that door that has just been opened for you.”
That’s the same attitude he wants to bring to the high-schoolers.
“I know math isn’t everybody’s favorite and it’s a big hangup, but you do use it in life … you do need it to graduate from high school, which itself opens up lots of doors for you in this world,” he said. “I realize I can’t carry them through the door as much as I’d like to sometimes, but I’m going to do my best to open the door, hopefully make math a little bit less scary.”