Teachers who’ve moved on


Portrait by Photography by Kent

John Neisler taught mathematics at U-High until May 2022. He also coached girls track and cross country and chaired the Faculty Leadership Committee.

Carlee Stadler, Reporter

Some of U-High’s favorite teachers have decided to give up their positions at U-High and move on to new beginnings. John Neisler was a math teacher who began teaching at U-High right out of college. Recently he went to be an administrator at Pontiac Township High School.

 “U-High was the only place I had ever taught at, so there’s a lot of differences just in the student population,” Neisler said. “It’s a brand new community for me, we moved up here to Pontiac. There’s just a whole different slew of kids.”

Neisler took the assistant athletic position and put his teaching career to rest.

“I’m out of the classroom now, so I’m just a full-time athletic director at this point. It’s been a huge change,” Neisler said.

Neisler’s plans came as a bit of a surprise for him.

“Two years ago I wouldn’t have thought that I was doing this, I mean as of right now I don’t have any problem sticking around here and doing this thing for a long time. For as long as people will let me,” Neisler said.

Even with the excitement of a new school culture, Neisler carries one particular fond memory of his final days at U-High. 

 “Last spring with our state trophy in track was a really great moment,” Neisler said, “not only because everybody participated, and everybody who worked for that totally deserved it, but to be exiting on that note was really spectacular.”

Donieka Solberg, better known by the students as Solby, was in the Science Department and was loved by many. Along with the students she had to make some adaptations of her own as she teaches at Heartland Community College.

 “The content and everything that I’m teaching is essentially the same as what I’ve been used to, but there’s a lot less extra stuff,” Solberg said, “it’s much better for my mental health and I don’t have to worry about a whole lot of other things. My schedule is way better so it’s been the same thing that I want to do, but less stressful.”

Donieka Solberg taught in the science department. She left mid-year last school year to go work at Heartland Community College. (Portrait by Photography by Kent)

Even with the reduced stress, there are still many things she misses from U-High.

“I really miss the students because it’s different, at U-High I always had kids coming and going in my room and always had open door policy and we got a lot closer, it’s more of a lifestyle,” Solberg said. “Whereas, at Heartland, we still have relationships with the students but I only see you twice a week, especially if it’s an online class, so it’s not as personal.” 

Solberg plans to stay at Heartland for some time to come.

“I think I’m going to stick here. I love the classes I’m teaching. I can teach in the way that I want to which is really great, there’s not a whole lot of restrictions,” Solberg said.

Solberg’s fond memories of U-High include some goofier moments.

“At least one, I really enjoyed [was] judging the Mr. U-High contest last year, that was super fun,” Solberg said, “two or three years ago, this would’ve been before COVID, everybody was shooting those paper post-it airplanes at the ceiling. Evans made us knock them all down. The students were so sad. It took a whole like an hour after school to knock them all down which was so sad, and then we saved them.”

Shannon Maney was the Oral Communication and Creative Writing teacher and was a coach for the speech and debate team. She has had her fair share of changes in her new routine at ISU.

It’s been interesting! I’ve been in the U-High school routine for so long that during my first weeks of the school year last fall, I kept expecting someone to walk into my office and ask why I hadn’t shown up to school,” Maney said.

Shifting from high school to college was a significant transition for Maney.

The first thing I noticed was how rarely I bump into my students during the day. At U-High, if I had a concern about someone, I could usually linger in the hallway or the lounge and ‘just happen’ to bump elbows with a student for a quick chat.” Maney said, “Here, everyone is moving in all kinds of directions on all kinds of different schedules—that sense of being together with people isn’t present. It took some time to adjust to that culture change, and I’m still trying to figure out how you nurture real community in this different context.”

Shannon Maney began working at ISU’s English department a year ago. Her work now takes her into both college and high school classrooms. (Portrait by Photography by Kent)

A big change for Maney was the workload, especially with all the extra work she has taken on visiting high schools as a Field Supervisor and researching ways to improve high school teaching. She is also completing her master’s degree.

What I’ve found is that my time at U-High—juggling the work of teaching, working with teacher candidates, coaching, and attempting to be present with my colleagues–prepared me for the inconsistent nature of this work,” Maney said.

Maney shared a favorite moment of hers.

I remember I was having a really, really terrible day in my personal life. I’d received some bad news in a voicemail (sidenote: bad news should never be a voicemail!), when I walked into the hallway, three students in a row said ‘hi!’ and told me something great about their day. No one knew what was going on for me. They were sharing just out of the joy of what had happened for them, and the joy of having someone to share that with,” Maney said.

Neisler, Solberg, and Maney shared some insight for the students, many of whom are also readying to move on. 

“ I feel bad leaving but it was amazing…I couldn’t imagine not having been there,” Solberg Said.

Neisler recommends students enjoy their time here. 

“Have good experiences, and be invested in the school, whether it’s through activities, athletics, in class,” Neisler said. “Trust the people there to take good care of you.” 

Maney said she wanted to follow in her students footsteps.

After years of cheering on students as they navigated new opportunities, it felt like it would be hypocritical if I didn’t follow in their footsteps,” Maney said, “Because of the strong example that students set, I knew it would be fine, and I knew I’d always be a Pioneer. I’ll always be cheering for the bold, thoughtful, curious, compassionate changemakers at U-High. U-High, U-High, woo!”