Medora schools welcome new teachers, admin changes

MEDORA — The departure of a principal over the summer left Medora Community School Corp. with a decision to make.

After switching to two principals — one for Medora STEM Academy and one for Medora Junior-Senior High School — in the 2022-23 school year, could one person serve in both roles, covering preschool through 12th grade? If an assistant principal was hired, what would their expectations be?

In the end, Superintendent Roger Bane and the board of school trustees decided to have Kara Hunt, who was the junior-senior high school principal, become principal of both schools and Carrie Brewer, who had been an elementary teacher, become assistant principal.

Hunt said when she started at Medora as dean of students, she talked to Brewer about pursuing a master’s degree in educational leadership and told her she would be a good administrator.

When Austin Skutnik resigned as elementary principal and school officials changed the administration setup, that opened the door for Brewer to make the transition. Having completed her master’s degree, she had spent an hour a day as an instructional coach this past school year.

“When that position opened up, I knew that Carrie had the skills,” Hunt said. “I knew she would be good at it.”

Brewer grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and moved to Medora her junior year and graduated in 2010. She then earned her education degree from Indiana University Southeast.

“I’ve always been interested in education, and I think it’s just because I had a lot of really great teachers that just impacted my life,” she said. “It’s just something I had always wanted to do since I was little, and I got into it and loved it.”

As she grew as an elementary teacher, Brewer said she recognized a need for strong, supportive leadership. A couple of years ago, Skutnik approached her about getting her master’s degree.

“I was hesitant and thought, ‘Well, absolutely, but not in the foreseeable future,’” Brewer said. “Then COVID hit, and I was like, ‘This is the perfect time to get started on a program like that.’”

While teaching and parenting, she completed her master’s degree from American College of Education with a 4.0 grade point average.

Becoming an administrator was a thought for the distant future because she knew she had to wait for the right opportunity. It wound up coming much sooner than expected.

“They are an amazing team, and I would never want to leave them,” she said of the Medora staff. “So when the opportunity opened up, I jumped at it. I love our team. We have some of the best teachers, and I’m just thankful to be able to stay and help support them.”

Hunt echoed those thoughts.

“Our teachers are awesome,” she said. “They are here for the right reasons. They are here for the kids. They are really knowledgeable in their subject areas pre-K through 12, and we’ve got people that are willing to do what our kids need.”

While there’s a lot of talk about teacher shortages around the country, Hunt said Medora has been fortunate to fill open positions.

“We’ve become a place where people know that we’re good to work for as a corporation,” she said. “I really do feel like we have that closeness of the staff. They all like each other. I just think we’ve created a really good culture here from the top down.”

This school year, Medora’s new teachers are Lindsey Carr (first grade), Carley McCammon (third grade) and Hannah Martin (agriculture), and Amber Hancher was added as a social worker.

Carr is a 2019 Brownstown Central High School graduate.

“I did cadet teaching in high school,” she said. “I just fell in love with it my junior year and knew from that second that education was my pathway.”

In December 2022, she graduated with an elementary education degree with a concentration in English as a second language from Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus.

She had been an instructional aide at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School in Seymour for two years before learning about an opening at Medora.

“Our fifth grade teacher, Jaelyn Ogle, reached out to me and encouraged me to apply for the position,” Carr said. “I saw it was first grade, which is what I wanted. First grade is where I wanted to be, just the age they are in between young but they are still old enough that you can teach them.”

She said having her own classroom is exciting.

“I love the small atmosphere,” Carr said. “Everybody is just very close here. The staff is very helpful. The students are great. I love the students. I’m looking forward to just all of the fun stuff we have planned. Being able to teach my first year and be in my own room and in my own space, I’m just excited for it all.”

McCammon graduated from Medora in 2016 and started at Indiana University before finishing her elementary education degree online through Western Governors University.

Over the years, she worked with after-school programs and in classrooms.

“I knew from an early age, I wanted to do something with children, working with children. I didn’t know specifically if I wanted it to be teaching,” she said. “Once I graduated college and I tried out a few different things, I decided I wanted to be more in the classroom than the administration side of it. I realized I just wanted to be more hands-on with the kids in the classroom.”

Seeing the third grade position open during the summer, McCammon said the timing was right since she finished her degree and was looking to start her career.

“I thought, ‘This seems like a good fit, and it seems like a good opportunity,’” she said. “I decided to apply for it, and I was excited obviously when I found out I got it. It was kind of meant to be.”

Having graduated from Medora, where her mother was a longtime teacher and her father was a longtime educator and administrator, it was the perfect opportunity for McCammon.

“I think my mom was probably as excited, if not more excited than I was,” she said, smiling. “She came and helped me get my room ready. She came back and she’s like, ‘This makes me miss it. I kind of want to come back.’ They both were really excited and happy for me.”

Over the years, McCammon had a firsthand look at what her parents dealt with as educators and also got to see the impact they made on students and the community.

“They still have a legacy,” she said. “I still have people that I see work here now and want to come up and talk about my mom and dad, so I kind of hope to have a legacy like that, as well, and set a good example.”

Martin grew up on a family farm in southeastern Ohio and was in 4-H and FFA, and her mother and grandmother were teachers, so she said she had a feeling her path would eventually circle around to tie it all together.

After earning a degree in ag communications with a focus in policy from Wilmington College, she said she fell in love with a Bedford boy, Cody Martin, and moved to Indiana, where she worked in soil and water conservation for Lawrence and Monroe counties.

Cody is Medora’s athletic director, and Hannah often attended sporting events with him.

“I told him that if the ag position came open, I wanted it,” Hannah said. “I feel like Medora specifically should thrive in the agricultural industry, and I think that a lot of these students had some qualities that I could relate to. I grew up in Appalachia Ohio, so I feel like the community that my mom and my grandma taught is very, very similar to the demographic here, so I fell in love with that kind of underdog mentality.”

Adam Conklin resigned as Medora’s ag teacher and FFA adviser this past spring, so that opened the door for Martin.

This school year, she is teaching turf grass management, horticulture, plant and soil science, principles of ag and advanced life science and plants. In September, she plans to hold officer elections for FFA.

“Once we get our FFA program going well, I would like to potentially extend that offer to eighth grade. Eighth grade FFA programs are on the rise, and I think that we could also benefit with that,” she said. “Mrs. (Jeanna) Eppley (Seymour High School ag teacher and FFA adviser) is my teacher mentor, so I’ll learn a lot from her over this next two-year timeline.”

Hancher is a 2010 graduate of Jennings County High School and earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from Indiana State University.

She worked in social services and for Head Start for a while, and then she pursued a master’s degree when Crothersville Community School Corp. offered her a case manager position.

“I really enjoyed it and went back to school to do therapy. I’m waiting to get licensed then to be a therapist. I just have to take the test,” she said.

Medora added a social worker position through a grant. Hancher said she’s teaching a social-emotional learning class.

“I’m going to have kids that just need help understanding feelings and how to cope with feelings,” she said. “I love kids, and I just want to be able to help them cope with traumas and things that they’ve dealt with in their lives and understand that they can do more. They’ve had stressful situations or traumas, but they can grow from that and do better for themselves.”