Schools welcome new staff

By Ron Burtz

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A group of both new and veteran employees of the Custer School District gathered at the Armory last Thursday to welcome and orient those new to the district. 

Incoming teachers and paraprofessionals were paired up with current staff members who will serve as mentors as they go through their first school year in Custer and Hermosa. 

The beginning staff members heard a presentation from school resource officer deputy Matt Tramp who brought them up to speed on the ALICE security protocols. They were also treated to lunch at Crazy Horse Memorial as part of a tradition started by the late Ruth Ziolkowski. 

Among the new teachers at Hermosa School is Amanda “Mandy” Carlson of Hay Springs, Neb. Carlson has 11 years of experience as a teacher and will be teaching 6-8 math and eighth grade social studies. 

“I am excited to be part of such a great school community,” said Carlson of her move to the Custer School District.

Alexis Marran of Long Island, N.Y., will be teaching sixth through eighth grade special ed in Hermosa. She has been teaching for the past 16 years. 

She says she is “very excited to get started in such a great community.” 

Kattie Thalacker was born and raised in Rapid City and will begin her teaching career at CES teaching in special education in Pre-K through second grade. 

“I was a student teacher in Hermosa before I got the job,” said Thalacker, adding “I loved the students and staff so I am happy to be here.

Also new at Hermosa is special ed paraprofessional Julie Neugebauer. 

In Custer there is a new fifth through 12th grade band teacher, replacing the outgoing Rick Hamil. Catherine Halliday of Newcastle, Wyo., taught for two years while in college but this will be her first full-time teaching position. 

“I am so excited to be here!” said Halliday. “I could not have asked for a better place to be for my first job.” 

Halliday will also be the grades 5-12 pep band advisor.

Chasen Cole of Hermosa is a recent graduate of Chadron State College in Nebraska and did his student teaching in Custer. He will be teaching fourth grade at CES and says he is “pretty excited” to be starting his teaching career in Custer. 

Kara Bradeen will be co-teaching fourth grade with Cheri Hartman. While new at CES Bradeen is not new to teaching or to Custer for that matter. 

“I’ve been here for 34 years,” she says.

Bradeen taught for six years before her two children were born and says she is excited to be back and excited for the opportunity to job share. 

Hailing from Arlington, Dustin Christiansen is the new high school special ed teacher. 

He brings five years of teaching experience to the job, having taught special ed classes for three years in Cowley, Wyo., and two years in Edgemont. 

“I am excited to dive into the high school setting and help the freshmen students get a foundation down for success in high school,” Christiansen said. 

Michele Clevenger who will teach Algebra I, an eighth grade math class and a seventh grade math class, comes off a highly successful year as the part-time math coach at Custer jr./sr. High. 

Clevenger moved to Custer in 2001 from a small town on the west side of Wyoming and has six years of teaching experience.

“I taught in the Custer School District 12 years ago,” said Clevenger, “and I am so excited to be back into the district to do what I love to do which is teaching.”

A lifelong resident of Custer, Tammy Wicks brings six years of teaching experience to her new position as a pre-school special ed teacher and district evaluator. 

“I’m very excited to be a part of the team,” she said. 

A native of Platte, Andrew Bakken comes to Custer from Hisega and will be starting his first year of teaching as the technology teacher at CES. 

“I’m excited to share my knowledge of the tech industry with my students,” he said. 

Also new to the Custer schools are special ed paraprofessional Roslyn Fairbanks, Don Paulson, husband of CES principal Barb Paulson, as temporary jr./sr. high math coach, Sarah Keil CES/CHS special ed paraprofessional and Dawn Preble as ACE alternative school and CES library paraprofessional. Tab Barton has also joined the staff as a district maintenance worker and Becky Hove will serve as the temporary school nurse in Custer. 

Robert Baty of Belle Fourche is the district’s new payroll and accounts manager. Originally from the suburbs of Chicago, Baty’s family moved to South Dakota in 1991 and he attended high school in Custer. His parents still live here. 

Baty replaces Sara Bishop who retired at the end of the last school year in order to spend time with family in her native England.