Douglas Students become Douglas teachers
These young people: Joe Andrews, Lauren Hayes, Caleb Currence and Kaycee Green have something in common. They are all Douglas High School graduates who have chosen to return to Carson Valley to teach school.
Of the 61 new teachers hired for the 2005-06 school year by the Douglas County School District, 16 are first-time teachers.
As a math teacher, Larry Lippmann sees some of his students become teachers. He works with Kaycee Green and Joe Andrews at Douglas High School.
“We’ve got a lot of good new teachers this year,” said Lippmann. “That’s what keeps our school district going strong.”
Ernie Monfiletto is a coach and teacher who was mentioned by the new teachers as an influence when they were high school students or now as co-workers. He said he was glad these teachers chose to stay in the Valley.
“I always encourage my students to come back to teach ” to give back to education and to the community,” said Monfiletto. “We need good teachers and this group fits the criteria. We need more young people like these who want to teach. We’re blessed to have them.”
The Big Kid
Joe Andrews is 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 250 pounds ” the same playing weight as he said he was in college. He started playing football right after middle school.
“I was at an awkward age,” said Andrews. “I was looking for my identity and started football. At around my junior year in high school, I really took off with it.”
Andrews competed in varsity football and track during his years at Douglas High School. Now he teaches algebra, geometry, “consumer math” and is a coach at his old school in his home town.
“Football is a passion the same as with teaching,” said Andrews. “It’s a more complicated game than what people think. Just like math, you have to be intelligent. Now I get to work with the kids. I’m lucky to do what I do.”
Andrews also gets to work with the teachers who coached him in high school.
Ernie Monfiletto’s classroom is right across the hall from Andrews’ and they both coach football.
“Joe has a great sense of right and wrong,” said Monfiletto. “He has a sense of humor and a great knowledge base of the sport. Joe tries to do everything right for the kids.”
“Ernie’s a great coach and mentor,” said Andrews. “I could work with coaches forever. They’re like family to me. I wanted to teach at DHS because of the people who work here. And my coaches certainly played a part in the decisions in my life so far. Hopefully I can influence another student’s life the way my coaches had.
“I’m a lifer.”
Joe Andrews was born at Barton-Tahoe Hospital and grew up in Gardnerville. He attended Meneley and Scarselli elementary schools, Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School the first year it opened and graduated from Douglas in 2000. He graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, with a degree in secondary education with an emphasis in math. At 23, he’s one of the youngest teachers at Douglas.
Andrews said he had other plans for what he wanted to be when he grew up.
“I wanted to be a vet as a kid but didn’t have the stomach,” he said. “I’m kind of a wuss.”
As a high school student in Larry Lippmann’s math class, Andrews knew his life had changed direction.
“One day in his class I realized I wanted to be a teacher,” he said. “I decided that interacting with kids is a great thing.”
“When Joe was a junior in my Integrated III class, the students would have to go to the board to explain a problem to the other students,” said former teacher and now co-worker, Lippmann. “When Joe did it so well, I asked him if he ever considered becoming a teacher.”
“Math is not the easiest subject for students, but teachers made it fun for me,” said Andrews. “I love school. Getting students to learn is a great endeavor.”
“Joe has a natural ability as a teacher,” said another former teacher and current co-worker, Gaye Tyndall. “He’s creative, funny and patient. He’s phenomenal as a first-year teacher. He handles all levels of students.”
“Joe strived for excellence even as a sophomore in high school,” said fellow math teacher Debbie Barnes.
“The math department as a whole is very close,” Andrews said. “The other teachers are like math mentors and share material with the new teachers. We get a lot of support from the department and from the administration. It’s a great team ” they’re in the classrooms telling us, ‘Do what you need to do and we’ll back you up.’ Even during my first year, I can’t feel alone. It’s a great experience.”
Andrews is hitting the ground running ” a new job in 2005 and a wedding this summer to his college sweetheart, Jill Couwenhoven.
Andrews was an injured football player and Couwenhoven was an injured volleyball player when they met in the training room at UNR.
“Jill is from Clovis, Calif., and graduated with a master’s degree in occupational therapy,” said Andrews. “Therapists are in high demand, so she could work for the school district, a hospital or a clinic. Coming back to Gardnerville was my goal after graduation and Jill loved the area.
“The Valley is beautiful, and although students in the classroom tell me that they can’t wait to get out of Gardnerville, there’s no better place. There’s a small town feel and the pace is perfect.”
Andrews said that he and Couwenhoven have made friends with some of the many new teachers at Douglas.
“We mountain bike in the Pine Nut Mountains and play video games, watch sports and spend time with the family,” said Andrews. “I’m a big kid.”
As for his advice on what to do to get his students to respond to him, Andrews said he tries to be enthusiastic and positive.
“I love to have fun,” he said. “Laughing is good as long as it’s geared in the right direction. It’s good to focus on the activities at hand. Treating the students as human beings is the way to gain respect.”
Life as verb
Third-grade teacher Lauren Hayes’classroom of 19 students at Minden Elementary School is what any other classroom in the country for the past 50 years would look like: There are third-grade-sized chairs at desks labeled with the students’ names, an American flag, a globe, cubbies full of backpacks. Artwork of tree drawings is on the walls. There are shoe box dioramas of scenes from “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”
Paper snowflakes are taped to the windows that look out to a small garden area outside. On the wall above the teacher’s desk is a child’s drawing of a stick figure with a flip hair style and the words, “Nic techr!” Only a white dry erase board instead of a chalkboard, a computer and a TV make this classroom look different than one from decades ago.
Except that she’s wearing slacks instead of heels and hose as a teacher might have done in an earlier time, Hayes is sitting on the floor of her classroom with all of her students teaching a lesson about verbs.
“Brainstorm as many verbs as you can,” Hayes said. “Act out verbs and the class is going to have to figure it out. You can’t talk, and I prefer that you don’t act like an animal. Act out an action.”
The students separate into smaller groups to do the verb charade. They grasp the idea of what verbs are. They act out throwing a football, sliding, singing, break dancing.
“I never wanted to be a teacher but wanted a job where I could help people,” said Hayes. “Since I was little, people joked that my second home was school. I came to school with my mom so people assumed I’d be a teacher too.”
Hayes, 23, has been a Carson Valley resident for 20 years. Her mother Gerdy Hayes is a fourth-grade teacher at Meneley Elementary School. Lauren Hayes and other teachers’ children who came to school with their parents formed an informal club at Meneley.
“We were like army brats, so we named ourselves ‘The Brat Club,'” Hayes said. “We realized we were privileged to be in school all the time. I’ve always loved school.
“In seventh grade and all through high school, teachers told me that I’d make a good teacher. I kept denying it, but they finally convinced me that teaching would be a good job choice for me.”
“I took ‘Future Teachers’ as an elective class at Douglas and had Julie Franklin as my teacher,” Hayes said. “She influenced me. She convinced me that teaching is the thing for me. Everything extracurricular I did in high school was related to teaching.”
Former teacher Julie Franklin said Hayes is enthusiastic about people and is conscientious about teaching.
“I always thought she’d be a teacher ” I just assumed it,” said Franklin. “During her second semester internship in ‘Future Teachers,’ Lauren worked with the little kids. You could see the concern she had for students and their home lives. Her nature is giving ” no matter what. She has patience and people are drawn to her.”
In elementary school, Hayes was a founding member of the “Stand Tall, Don’t Fall” organization formed to combat underage drinking. In later school years, she was a member of the student council, the Honor Society, the golf team, was a conflict manager and a member of the Governor’s Youth Advisory Council.
In the future, Hayes thinks she might want to pursue a master’s degree in education or get a job in higher education. Maybe she’ll be a principal or have a position on the state level. But right now, Hayes says she has a love of learning that she wants to share with her third-graders.
“I have different activities to get them interested in learning ” to bring out their true interests,” she said. “I’m enthusiastic and positive. I try to do exploratory and hands-on learning.
“When I was in a high school scholarship interview, they asked, ‘Do you think you’ll come back to the Valley to teach?’ I told them that I’d like to. I never thought I would graduate and come back so soon. But I couldn’t think of moving out of the Valley. Now as a teacher, I can give to the school district what they gave me.”
“What’s a verb?” Hayes asks the third-graders.
“A verb is an action word,” the students recite in unison.
At the end of the lesson, the students sing and dance to “There’s a whole lot of learning going on.”
The teacher and students dance, hands in the air. They sing, “Raising the roof, we learned about verbs.”
“Here’s a verb ” ‘teaching,'” said Hayes. “I do my verb every day.”
“Even Saturday?” said one student.
Keeping the Tradition
Caleb Currence’s mother, aunt, grandfather and cousin are all or have been teachers. His younger brother graduates with an education degree this year.
“I guess it’s a family tradition,” said Currence.
Currence didn’t see himself as someone to continue in the footsteps of his family and planned to take engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno.
“I was an electrical engineering student but didn’t see myself as a cubicle person,” he said. “I got straight As in engineering but it wasn’t for me ” it wasn’t fun. I changed my mind and had fun in college. I stepped out of the cubicle and into the classroom.”
Currence, 24, graduated from UNR in 2004 and is a first-year teacher at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School. He teaches an integrated algebra and geometry class and is the junior varsity soccer coach at Douglas High School. He and his mother, Judy Currence, both teach at the same school.
“The kids say that my mom’s more strict. so they come into my class fearing me,” said Currence. “Mom prepares them well.”
Judy Currence said she didn’t think Caleb would be a teacher.
“Absolutely not,” she said. “Not that he wasn’t always a good student. But he needs interaction with people. That’s why he didn’t continue with engineering.”
Currence said that his math teachers at Douglas made him think and influenced him as a teacher.
“Gaye Tyndall wasn’t an easy teacher, but she made it fun and interesting,” he said. “My math teachers always came into the classroom with positive attitudes.”
Tyndall, Currence’s former math teacher, didn’t think he would fall too far from the tree.
“It was like old home week having Caleb as a student because I went to DHS with his mom, dad and aunt,” Tyndall said. “His grandfather was my principal at Gardnerville Elementary. I’m not surprised that he’s now a teacher. He had a good grasp of math in school. As a soccer coach, he really relates to the kids.”
Larry Lippmann was one of Currence’s instructors at Douglas and was also his lead teacher when he was student teaching.
“Caleb is highly skilled at many things,” said Lippmann. “He’s working at remodeling his house. He’s a hard worker. He’s engaging. One requirement for being a teacher is that you have to like kids, and Caleb’s someone who likes kids.”
Currence teaches ninth-grade math classes of 30 students five times a day. Some character trait that drew him to engineering has also influenced the way he keeps his classroom. The room is neat and orderly with artwork and lessons placed symmetrically on the walls. The only personal item on his uncluttered desk is a photo of him with his fiancee.
A colorful box kite hangs in the corner of the room and a poster on the wall with soccer players’ legs advertises “Courage.”
Currence is at the front of the class teaching algebraic equations. He’s wearing a shirt, tie and nice slacks, but he’s on his knees at the overhead projector. The students are quiet and attentive on the lesson he teaches in preparation for the next day’s final test.
“I try to make the abstract more concrete,” said Currence. “If you can make it concrete, the kids can get it. I give them real world problems that they would use later in life. It’s the goal of every math teacher.
“I’m lucky to have one class to prep for. But by the last class, I have to ask the class, ‘Did you guys hear this already?'”
For right now, Currence spends all his extra time working on his house. He looked at new houses but couldn’t afford anything on new-teacher pay, so he bought a fixer-upper in the Gardnerville Ranchos and started over.
“My dad and I gutted it down to studs and plumbing,” Currence said. “I have no free time but we’re very close to finishing. I had to live with my mom until the heat and water was in.”
Currence married Eva Davidson this spring.
“Eva’s an elementary school teacher from Las Vegas but hopefully will get a job with this school district this year,” he said.
And for the future, Currence is thinking ahead to new career options.
“I’d like to go for a pay raise by taking my administrative licensure as a grad student, but rather than go into administration, I’d stay teaching,” he said. “I like being a teacher. But you’ve got to keep the doors open.”
As a third-generation native of Carson Valley with a new job, new wife and new house, Currence doesn’t see himself moving away from his home town.
“We’re in the middle of everything,” said Currence about living in Gardnerville. “You can go to the mountains at Lake Tahoe and then there’s Reno. This is the perfect town.”
Kaycee Green is a fifth-generation Nevadan and a first-year teacher at Douglas High School. She loves Carson Valley but eventually she sees herself teaching abroad.
“I’ll find my way to living in a foreign country,” said Green, 24. “I want to travel to Spanish-speaking countries to teach English. I’m not interested in administration. I love the kids. If there comes a day when I don’t like them or they don’t like me, I’ll find a job doing something else.”
Green spent two years as an engineering student but “engineering doesn’t deal with people,” she said. She went to Costa Rica as a volunteer to teach English to elementary school children.
“Once I entered the classroom, it was automatic,” she said. “It was kind of apparent of what I had to do.” Green decided to become a teacher.
“My parents were pleased with my decision but I never imagined that I’d end up in Gardnerville,” she said.
Both of Green’s parents are teachers ” mother Karen Green teaches health at Carson Valley Middle School. Father and daughter both work at Douglas. Randy Green teaches government and is an assistant basketball coach.
“It didn’t surprise us that Kaycee is pursuing a career in education, however, she resisted for many years,” said Randy Green. “I think she hesitated because everyone in her immediate family teaches. Watching her mature with a sense of caring, honesty and sacrifice made me always believe she would find her way back to the profession. We just let nature take its course.
“I don’t know how often this father-daughter teaching situation has happened, but it has been wonderful for me, and I believe enjoyable for Kaycee also. Karen and I are very proud of Kaycee and the person she has become, but she has been a joy for many years. Her commitment to her students has always been an expectation and it’s not surprising that she has delivered on this task.”
“While I was student teaching, an English job opened up,” Kaycee Green said. “I got an e-mail, ‘We have this job, you’re perfect, take it.’ It would be an arrogant move to not accept. I put in an application and three weeks later landed here.”
The job was to teach two sophomore and two senior English classes at Douglas. She also inherited the 17 students enrolled in speech and debate class.
“The first tournament with these kids was my first,” Green said. “I learned a lot from them. They’re bright and talented. It’s a pleasant part of my day to be around them.
“Teaching is a challenge for me. In one class, 21 out of the 26 students are boys and 12 are on the football team. Teaching takes a lot of time and time is limited.”
Green runs the Junior Statesman program at Douglas, tries to stay politically active in the community and started a sophomore fundraiser for grad night. She’s also the coordinator for the Orange Crush boys basketball fan club. Handling a group of up to 200 rowdy students isn’t out of the ordinary for Green.
“I was a ringleader when I was here as a student, so I guess they think I can handle it,” she said. “Leading this group is a compliment, and it helps the basketball team. It’s a way to hang out with my dad.
“I’d like to become a volleyball coach but it depends on the speech and debate class,” said Green. “My last year at Douglas, (1999), we won state in volleyball. I was with some awesome athletes.”
In high school, Green took volleyball, weightlifting and hung around with the football team. She didn’t have Ernie Monfiletto as a teacher but encountered him in sports activities.
“He was the one who thought I should be a teacher and told me not to fight it,” Green said. “Ernie has a good read on who we are as people.”
“Kaycee was destined for education because of her family,” said Monfiletto. “When she went away, I knew she’d come back to education at some time. I encouraged her to teach because she has the ability to relate to others ” to kids and faculty. She has a wonderful influence on students.
“She’s a piece of work ” there’s nothing generic about her. She has a wide range of experiences that makes her a better teacher.”
“My family traveled during summer vacations to a lot of the U.S.” Green said. “There’s nowhere else like this area. Everything about it, the Sierra, is home. But there’s a side of me that wants to see other cultures. I bring that idea to my students ” that to grow as a human being, you’ve got to know there’s something beyond white suburban culture. Diversity is not a horrible thing.”
In her shorts and tennis shoes and with her hair up in a pony tail, Green could be mistaken for a high school volleyball player. She sports a stud in her nose and three tiny studs in a row below her bottom lip.
“Being young, I have some good qualities to bring to teaching, and some teachers have piercings and tattoos,” she said. “No one says anything about it.”
Being away at college and in Costa Rica, Green has noticed a difference in her home town.
“Coming back after several years, the Valley’s changed,” she said. “It’s become a transitory area. There’s an element of change here.”
Walking out of her portable classroom and looking to the east at sunset, Green comments on the familiar green fields, turquoise sky, pink clouds and purple mountains of Carson Valley.
“But isn’t this great?” Green said. “I live just 10 minutes away.”