Eleven new teachers? I’ve heard ‘stranger things’

Donieka+Solberg+said+she+is+excited+to+join+the+U-High+community.+%E2%80%9CThe+teachers+I%E2%80%99ve+talked+to+love+working+here%2C%E2%80%9D+Solberg+said%2C+%E2%80%9CThe+collaboration+here+is+fantastic.%E2%80%9D+
Donieka Solberg said she is excited to join the U-High community. “The teachers I’ve talked to love working here,” Solberg said, “The collaboration here is fantastic.”

Donieka Solberg said she is excited to join the U-High community. “The teachers I’ve talked to love working here,” Solberg said, “The collaboration here is fantastic.”

Photo by Celeste Berardi

Photo by Celeste Berardi

Donieka Solberg said she is excited to join the U-High community. “The teachers I’ve talked to love working here,” Solberg said, “The collaboration here is fantastic.”

Celeste Berardi, Reporter

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Eleven new teachers joined the staff this year.

The science department has seen the most dramatic changes, with three new teachers: Donieka Solberg, Jacob Davis, and Emily Telford.

Telford, who obtained a bachelor’s in biology from Illinois State, teaches chemistry and freshman biology.

Describing herself as fun and laidback, Telford hopes that her students know her passion for teaching. “I think they can tell that I just love my job, and that I am always trying to become a better teacher,” Telford said. Outside of class, Telford’s favorite nineties jams are rap and R&B music. “I listen to a lot of LL Cool J,” Telford said.

Sporting a pair of periodic table Toms, Solberg said she likes to bring fun into the classroom.  “We like to do demos and play with fire. I like to have a good time, but do still hold my students to a really high standard,” Solberg said.

Solberg, also an ISU Alum, has a bachelors of chemistry, specializing in bio and molecular chemistry. Solberg is a local, having taught AP and honors chemistry at Bloomington High School for 3 years prior.

Photo by Celeste Berardi
Science teacher Jacob Davis decided to return to the classroom this year.

Having most recently completed his third degree from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, Davis holds a masters of education administration, a bachelors of chemistry from Graceland University in Iowa, and a masters of science education from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. Davis joins U-High after teaching AP and regular chemistry at Marion High School for ten years and serving as principal for one.

“I heard about the fabulous students and faculty here,” Davis said. “I have a three-year-old daughter that I would love to see through the lab school system.”

There are also several new faces in the math department after the hiring of Amanda Stalets and Natalie Chiarello, a previous U-High intern.

Photo by Celeste Berardi
Stalets says she is excited to teach in a school where she can try new things. “As a teacher, what I appreciate about teaching at the lab schools is the flexibility and autonomy,”

Stalets may be a familiar face to some, having taught at Metcalf for the last nine years. She attained her degree at ISU and did her clinical work at U-High, later getting a job at LeRoy High School.

“My dream was to come back and work at U-High,” Stalets said, “The students are just the greatest in the Lab Schools.”

In her free time, you might catch Stalets listening to her favorite nineties group, New Kids on the Block. “I was obsessed,” Stalets said.

U-High feels like home to former intern Chiarello. After completing her bachelors in secondary education mathematics at ISU, Chiarello eagerly accepted the position. “I like the area of Normal and the freedom U-High gives to its teachers.”

Chiarello believes it is important to be motivational in the classroom. “I love when people give wrong answers because then you can learn,” Chiarello said, “Learning is messy and nonlinear”.

The department of foreign language has expanded their programs with the addition of Chinese, taught by Lin Lin (PhD), as well as the addition of Heather Sandy in Spanish.

Lin balances her schedule between Metcalf and U-High. Lin, who grew up in China, attended college at Sun Yat-Sen University in China, later becoming a professor at Shantou University. After moving to the United States, she studied at the University of Pittsburgh, teaching there before she came to Metcalf.

Lin said she values teaching at U-High because she enjoys working with her students one-on-one. “The freedom students get here will help them to be successful at universities,” Lin said.

Lin believes that learning should be fun, but values organized instruction.“I am trying to find a perfect balance,” Lin said. Lin enjoys listening to music in her spare time. “I really like the Beatles,”” Lin said.

One of the most experienced of the new hires, Sandy, is going onto her 24th year in teaching. After getting her undergrad degree from the University of Cincinnati, Sandy acquired ESL and TESOL certification from Concordia University Chicago. Before landing a position at U-High, Sandy taught Spanish at the Illini Bluffs, Bradley University, Illinois Central College, and Washington High School.

Sandy credits her love of Spanish to going to Spain in high school. “It was that defining moment of going to Spain and living in the culture..,” Sandy said.

New addition to fine arts, Jessen Smith, is new to the world of teaching. After graduating from Depaul University, he took over as interim band director in Jason Landes’ absence. As a child, Smith immersed himself in music. “The unique thing about teaching band is that band kids everywhere are pretty similar,” Smith said.

Smith has been busy tackling his new position while adapting to the atypical characteristics of U-High. “A big thing was how much freedom I have,” said Smith, “It gave me agency to try a lot of new things.”

Smith’s goal is to push his students. “I have really high standards for myself and for my students,” said Smith. Smith described himself simply: “I like band, and I like coffee”.

U-High has also incorporated the hiring of aid for the hearing impaired, Cora Winfrey, and vision assistant Canella Ontiveros, along with superintendent, Ty Wolf.

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Eleven new teachers? I’ve heard ‘stranger things’