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GMR welcomes four new teachers to staff

New teachers to the 2020-21 Greenbush-Middle River School staff pose for a photo in the school’s teacher’s lounge, including (L-R): Mindy Helle, John Moore, Robin Waage, and Karis Musker. Waage has worked for the GMR School in the past. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Due to COVID-19, this 2020-21 school year brought its share of newness as students and staff members walked through the doors for the first time. It has also brought some newness unrelated to COVID in the form of teachers. This school year, Greenbush-Middle River welcomed four new teachers to its staff, including John Moore, Karis Musker, Robin Waage and Mindy Helle.

Here’s a brief look at the four new teachers, including one who taught at GMR just a few years ago.

John Moore:
Moore brings 24 years of teaching experience— time spread out over three states— to Greenbush-Middle River. He will work as the school’s Industrial Technology teacher.

Moore graduated from Lakin High School in Lakin, Kan., in 1978. Having a strong high school experience, especially in the shop classes, influenced him to pursue a career in education, but not right away.

“I enjoyed woodworking the most. I wanted to either farm, with my dad, teach or do construction,” Moore wrote. “I spent 10 years in agriculture and then decided to go into teaching. My dad and my shop teacher were the greatest influence on my career path.”

He would attend Pittsburg State University in Pittsburgh, Kan., where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Technology Education in 1993.

Over his 24-year teaching career, he taught 16 years in Kansas, 4 years in Colorado, and 4 years in North Dakota. During that time, he has taught Technology Education, Woods, Metals and Welding, Drafting/CAD Small Engines, Auto Maintenance, Carpentry, and Home Repair.

As GMR’s Industrial Technology teacher, he will teach eighth to twelfth grade students. His class list includes: eighth grade Intro to Industrial Technology, and, in the high school, Welding, Production and Manufacturing, Auto Basics, Woods, Electronics, Small Engines, and Building Trades.

Karis Musker:
At GMR, Musker is serving in a new role for her, that of Elementary Special Education. Even though this is her first year in special education, she does bring three years of prior teaching experience in different subject matter to GMR. As for her journey to the education field, she wouldn’t pursue a career in education right out of high school.

Before getting into teaching, she would graduate from Pewaukee High School in Pewaukee, Wis., in June 2009. She then attended Concordia University Wisconsin, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in graphic design with a Minor in youth ministry in 2013. While searching for a job following her college graduation, she did begin substitute teaching at a local district where she lived out in Arizona.

“My time as a sub in Arizona was the main influence in choosing to go back to school to be a teacher,” Musker wrote. “My reason for going into teaching is so that I can be a positive role model for kids in a society that is getting crazier.”

So, in 2015, she moved back to Wisconsin and returned to Concordia University Wisconsin, this time as part of its Graduate Teacher Certification program in elementary education. After student teaching, she moved to Minnesota, specifically Warroad. Due to different licensure requirements in Minnesota, she did not receive her elementary teaching license until September 2019. On the first day of school at GMR, she began her special education license program for autism through Concordia Saint Paul.

As for her prior teaching experience, she officially began her education career in Warroad, using her undergraduate degree in graphic design— an art degree— to teach high school art there. She then taught at Lake of the Woods School for two years, including as a high school English and Read 180 teacher during the first year, and then as the enrichment and middle school Read 180 teacher and the Title Math paraprofessional for third through sixth grade during the second year.

Robin Waage:
Robin Waage joins the GMR staff this school year, but is familiar with the GMR School, including the classroom in which she is returning.

A 1994 Kittson Central High School graduate, Waage then attended Moorhead State University and graduated with a K-6 Elementary Education teaching license in 1998.

A teacher figure at home influenced her to pursue a career in education. Waage grew up seeing her mom teach kindergarten and second grade at Kittson Central.

“(I) always knew I wanted to do what she did,” Waage said. “I watched her compassionately teach and make a difference in her student’s lives and I wanted to do just that.”

She then began her teaching career, one that has covered two schools and five different elementary grade levels. She started at the GMR School as a third grade teacher during the 1998-99 school year. After one year, she then worked at the Tri-County School in Karlstad as a second grade teacher for three years (1999-2002).

Waage returned to GMR, this time working as a kindergarten teacher for three years (2002-2005). After some time away from education, she came back to GMR, working as a fifth grade teacher for six years (2011-2017).

She then went back to Tri-County, working there as a fourth grade teacher for two years (2018-20). Waage returned to GMR this school year, coming back to the same classroom and into the same role she last left GMR— as the fifth grade teacher. She is “super excited” to be back.

Mindy Helle:
A Thief River Falls Lincoln High School graduate, as she wrote, “ages ago,” Mindy Helle will teach K12 music (band and choir) at GMR and looks forward to the opportunity to give them a strong music experience.

She decided to teach for the chance, as she wrote, to “share my love for music with students,” having many people in her life supporting her during her teaching journey.

Her college education background includes the following places: North Dakota State University (NDSU), Moorhead State University, MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis, Normandale Community College, and Northland Community and Technical College (NCTC). She started pursuing the pharmacy field while at NDSU, but her path would change.

“(I) was in the music classes for sanity and fun and took so many classes that I changed to a music degree,” Helle wrote.

As for degrees, she would earn her Bachelor of Arts degree in Music and a Minor in Spanish from Moorhead State University in 1996.

She began teaching in 1990 as a preschool teacher privately in the Twin Cities. Working off and on in the educational system—including time as a realtor and substitute teacher—after some time, she took a break from teaching and worked for the government for 10 years. Outside her years working for the government, she has always substitute taught. After working for the government, she returned to teaching on a full-time basis.

To see the complete stories on each of these teachers, read the October 7 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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