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New teachers in the halls . . . Instructors beginning the year
with the Kenmare school district include, l-r, vo-ag teacher and
FFA advisor Mitchell Becker, science teachers Shelly Devoss
and Shannon Grondahl, special education instructor teacher
Jessica Gesvalli, second grade teacher Kacy Keysor and
grades 5-12 physical education instructor Brock Zietz. Not
pictured is business education teacher Shayne Haustveit.
By Caroline Downs
Kenmare’s class of new teachers includes a range of experiences and a mix of backgrounds. However, the seven new staff members are enthusiastic about starting their year with Kenmare kids.
Kacy Keysor is teaching second grade students at Kenmare Elementary School. Brock Zietz motivates kids to exercise and play in physical education classes for grades 5 through 12, and Jessica Gesvalli serves the special education needs of students from preschool to high school. Shelly Devoss and Shannon Grondahl welcome students to science, while Mitchell Becker serves as the vo-ag instructor. Shayne Haustveit, who was not available for this story, keeps the books on students in the business classes.
Keysor credited his father, former Kenmare elementary teacher Ken Keysor, with his own interest in the classroom. “School was always such a big part of my life,” he said, describing how he would hang out in his father’s classroom during his spare time. “And then the high school peer mentoring program. That made my decision for me. I enjoyed working with kids and helping them.”
Keysor is a 2007 KHS graduate and a December 2011 graduate of Minot State University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. He also attended Dakota College at Bottineau for two years, where he played on the men’s basketball team.
He spent last winter and spring subbing in the Kenmare district, and is pleased to have his own classroom now, where he intends for his students to focus on their reading, math and common sense skills. “I want kids to think outside the box and apply that to real life,” he said. “I know these will be second graders, but you can always learn something useful for the rest of your life.”
He called himself a “hands-on guy” and said the students could expect to participate in a variety of lessons. “Hopefully, they’ll experience something they can remember forever,” he said, “something we can build off of in the classroom.”
Keysor will take over the head boys basketball coaching role after serving as assistant last season. He will also continue to coach the Kenmare-Bowbells track team.
A job in the Kenmare school district is a dream come true for Keysor and his wife, kindergarten teacher Kara (Schumacher) Keysor. “It’s exciting to be back the area where we know so many people,” he said. “I feel so comfortable. We always both knew we wanted to be back here.”
Zietz is a 2005 graduate of Kenmare High School who earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education at Minot State University in 2010. He also attended Dakota College at Bottineau and most recently worked there as an admissions counselor.
He credits the Kenmare school district with his own interest in teaching. “I value the education I received here,” he said. “I had a lot of great teachers who were good mentors for me. Now, being able to teach under some of those veteran teachers is something I’m really looking forward to doing.”
Zietz will lead students in an established physical education curriculum, but he plans to bring a few new ideas to the gym. “I want to implement a full program and get kids excited about being active for life,” he said.
This is Zietz’s first year as a full-time teacher, but he has experience as a substitute teacher in the Kenmare, Mohall and Minot schools.
He is serving as assistant coach for the high school football program and will lead the varsity girls basketball program later this year.
In fact, Zietz’s coaching resume demonstrates his commitment to a variety of sports programs, with stints in 7th grade boys basketball at Bishop Ryan, JV and C-squad boys basketball at Surrey, assistant football for the MLS squad, and T-ball, Peewees, Midgets, Babe Ruth and American Legion baseball and girls softball in Kenmare and Mohall. He also assisted with the baseball and men’s and women’s basketball programs at Dakota College.
“I’m excited for the year to get started,” he said, “and I look forward to meeting all the kids.”
Gesvalli completed her student teaching experience in the Kenmare school district last spring, working with second grade teacher Peg Balvitsch and former special education instructor Kara Smalls. “I feel comfortable, I know the kids and I know what to expect,” she said about her new position as the school’s special education teacher.
The 2000 graduate of Bowbells High School finished her work at Minot State University in May 2012, earning bachelor’s degrees in elementary education and special education. She continues her studies at the college with classes toward a master’s degree in early childhood education.
For the Kenmare district, Gesvalli will work with students at the elementary and high school who have been identified with special needs, but she will also emphasize learning skills for preschool students who have shown a need for early intervention in their educations.
Those sessions will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays. “Right now, four preschool kids are expected, but that may change throughout the year,” she said, adding that the preschool classes are not mandatory. “We’ll be touching on letter and number recognition, and fine motor and gross motor activities.”
She continued, “We’ll work on socializing and getting them ready for school, so it’s not such a shock when they attend five days of classes each week right away the next year.”
Devoss moved to North Dakota with her husband and son in early summer from Riverton, WY, but despite never having lived in the state, she has deep roots here. “My great-grandparents homesteaded in Garrison and Douglas,” she said, “so now the family jokes that we’ve come full circle.”
She has bachelor’s degrees in environmental science and biology from the University of Wyoming, and used that background to teach and then work with her husband in oil and gas industry. She returned to the classroom and earned a master’s degree in educational curriculum and instruction with a focus on science from Montana State University at Bozeman.
She was most recently teaching both science and math classes in Wyoming and she looks forward to the emphasis on science in her schedule at Kenmare High School. She will instruct the life science, biology and anatomy classes this year.
“My goal is for students to have more opportunities to experience things hands-on as much as possible,” she said. “I want them to be able to answer, ‘What’s the purpose of this to me? How is this useful in my life?’”
Devoss and her family live between Burlington and Berthold, and the couple’s 8th grade son attends classes at Lewis & Clark-Berthold High School. Devoss was excited about teaching in Kenmare, however, given the location of the school next to the Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge. “It’s a good place to get kids outside as much as possible,” she said. “It’s a way for the kids to start to get connected with natural things.”
She also noted her experience with oil and gas development booms. “My husband and I have a concern about people feeling overrun,” she said. “We hope to be here and work here, but as members of the community and to help with the transition from all the activity.”
Grondahl’s career path made a sharp turn during one of her elective courses as a pre-veterinary medicine major at North Dakota State University. “I took an education class with one of my friends who was becoming a teacher, and I really enjoyed it,” she said.
The 2002 Mohall High School graduate finished instead with a biological science education degree in 2008, then taught for four years at Newburg High School. She covered all science classes for grades 7 through 12 there, but the opportunity at Kenmare offered a slightly different focus at a larger school.
“I’ll have the physical and environmental science classes here,” she said, starting with 8th grade students.
She is also looking forward to learning more about the Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge and to continuing her participation as an advisor for the Envirothon competition.
Grondahl intends her students to see and do science in her classroom, rather than merely read about it. “I hated science in high school,” she said, “so my goal is for my students to come out of high school loving science.”
Even though he’s listed as a new staff member, Becker has been on the job for over a month already. “I’ve been here since July,” he said, “cleaning and going through stuff in the classroom and shop.”
The bulk of his work so far, however, has been with the school’s active FFA chapter, which held a meeting to introduce Becker to chapter members, hosted a blood drive in July, and showed various projects at the North Dakota State Fair. Becker also had several duties at the fair as an FFA advisor, and he attended a weeklong conference for FFA advisors in Bismarck in early August.
The 2007 graduate of Minot High School has thrown himself into his work. He earned his bachelor’s degree in ag education from NDSU in December 2011 after student-teaching in Carrington, then taught the ag classes at New Rockford school through the spring semester before relocating to Kenmare.
The reputation of Kenmare’s vocational agriculture and FFA programs under former vo-ag instructor Cameron Young inspired Becker to apply for the position. “I knew the program Mr. Young had was a really good program, and I’d like to continue that and see it grow,” he said.
In fact, one goal of the FFA chapter this year will be to maintain and possibly increase membership. Becker also wants to provide students with opportunities to compete in a variety of contests and interact with other FFA members around the state.
“There’s something for everybody in the FFA,” he said. “You can do as much as you want and still have a quality experience.”
Becker plans to devote his attention to the classroom, as well. He likes teaching the ag classes, and he especially enjoys helping kids. “I liked working with my fellow students back in high school,” he said. “I want to make sure I’m providing students a good quality educational experience.”
His schedule for the fall semester includes the ag introduction class for 8th graders, the Ag 1 and II classes for freshmen and sophomores, respectively, animal science, ag mechanics, and job placement.
Becker immediately demonstrated the FFA attitude people are accustomed to in Kenmare. “If you’re having any type of event or activity and you need volunteers to set up or take down, help with clean up, or anything else, give the school a call,” he said. “We’ll talk about it and see what [the Kenmare FFA chapter] can do to help out.”
Becker can be reached at Kenmare High School during school hours by calling 701-385-4996.