Nine new educators join West Branch schools
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · August 23, 2013

West Branch Community Schools welcomed nine new educators to the school district on Friday with teacher orientation at West Branch High School.

The new fourth-grade teacher was hired just two days before arriving at teacher orientation, another is also the new head boys basketball coach, and another is moving all the way from California.

Here is more about them:

• Michelle Bacon Curry of Iowa City will teach English and language arts at the high school. She and husband John Bacon have three children: Jack, 13; Joe, 10; and Bobby, 6.

Curry earned in May a masters degree in secondary education; she also has a bachelors degree in English and religion, all from the University of Iowa.

While at UI, she served as a College of Education instructor for one of their courses, and as president for UI’s student affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English. Before that, she had been a stay-at-home-mom for her three sons.

“I love West Branch!” she said. “I had the privilege of serving as a practicum student in the middle school while I was in the College of Education, and as a substitute teacher there from time to time. I am so impressed with this community and the strong support its families provide for their students and their schools. I am looking forward to being a West Branch Bear!”

• Clare Keeney of Iowa City will teach high school English for the 11th grade and journalism.

She is married to Matthew Keeney.

Clare earned a bachelors degree in journalism focusing on graphic design and earned a minor in English from Creighton University in 2009. She then earned a master of arts degree in teaching from La Sierra University, which she finished this year.

Before coming to the area, she lived in Southern California in Loma Linda. She worked at Loma Linda University while completing her masters degree. From 2009-10, she taught high school art in Kansas. For both degrees, she graduated summa cum laude.

She said she was drawn to West Branch because it is a “small, tight-knit community.” She likes the 1-to-1 technology with laptops and the fact that she could combine teaching journalism with teaching English.

• Lisa Weideman of Eldridge will teach art for grades three through five, study hall and a technical class. She has two children: Elizabeth, 4, and Chloe, 2.

She earned a bachelors degree in elementary education and a minor in art from University of Northern Iowa.

Before West Branch, she taught kindergarten-through-eighth-grade art in the Howard-Winnesheik Community School District in Cresco.

She said she was drawn to West Branch because her family is from the Quad Cities, making this city “an ideal location.”

“I love the small-town atmosphere and have greatly enjoyed the friendly staff and community members that I have had the opportunity to meet,” she said.

• Matt Cain of North Liberty will teach Project Lead the Way and STEM — Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics.

He earned a masters degree in science education in 2013 and a bachelors degree in physics in 2011, both from the University of Iowa.

Before coming to West Branch, he spent six years at UI where he also served as a Noyce Teacher Scholar in science education a tutor for TRIO, and a teaching and research assistant.

“I was excited to become a part of a tight-knit and growing community where I could begin a great STEM program with PLTW,” he said. “I wanted to be on the ground floor of a school making changes to its schools to better serve its innovative community and students.”

• Lindsay Meyer Giannetto of Cedar Rapids will serve as an Instructional Strategist II for kindergarten-through-12th grade pupils with behavior or learning disorders.

She is married to Justin Giannetto.

She earned a fine arts degree for K-12 pupils in art education from Mount Mercy University. She has endorsements as an Instructional Strategist I for grades 5-12, and as an Instructional Strategist II for grades K-12 with behavior and learning disorders. Giannetto is currently studying to earn a masters degree in education with a special education emphasis.

Before coming to West Branch, she taught as a substitute and was working as a 1:1 paraeducator at Polk Alternative Education Classroom in the Children’s Integrated Therapy in Education.

She said she was drawn to West Branch from “the desire to teach in a rural community with an excellent school district and environment.”

• Kevin Gaster of Coralville will teach American History, geography and behavior psychology. He will also coach boys basketball.

He graduated in 2012 from Coe College with a degree in psychology.

Before coming to West Branch, he worked at First Federal Credit Union.

“I have done a lot of basketball coaching as a volunteer assistant at Coe College,” he said.

He said he also taught as a substitute in Cedar Rapids as well as organized an AAU basketball program called IA Dynasty Hoops.

Gaster said he became interested in this city through a couple of classmates from West Branch High School.

“They told me about the coaching and teacher opening,” he said. “After meeting the staff and students during the interview process, it felt like the right place.”

• Alyssa Jacobson of Coralville will teach high school biology.

She earned a middle school science teaching degree from the University of Northern Iowa in December 2011.

Before coming to West Branch, she taught as a substitute in the Cedar Rapids school district.

She said she was attracted to West Branch because of the “small school size and supportive community.”

“(That) made West Branch an appealing place to start my career,” Jacobson said.

• Lacey Becker of Hiawatha will teach elementary reading and will also serve as a math support teacher.

She finished her bachelors degree in elementary education and a minor in literacy at University of Northern Iowa in May 2013. Also before coming here, she was a leader of a summer camp in Hiawatha over the summer.

She said she was interested in coming here because “I have heard great things about the West Branch Community School District.”

“I was drawn to the energetic atmosphere and the close sense of community,” she said. “I am very excited to join the West Branch staff!”

• Dina L. Hull of West Liberty will teach fourth grade.

She has two children: Wilow Adkins and Rowan Adkins.

She earned a bachelors degree in elementary education with an emphasis in math for grades K-8.

Before coming to West Branch, she attended college and worked in bookkeeping as well as rearing her children.

She said “student teaching brought me here.”

“The wonderful people and school district made me want to stay,” she said.

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