MMCRU welcomes seven new faces to district

Thursday, August 22, 2019

By: Megan Sabin

The Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn-Remsen-Union Community School District welcomes seven new teachers for the 2019-2020 school year. The new school year begins on Friday, August 23, 2019.

Tara Meinen

New teachers for the MMCRU School District include, Front row, from left: Tajie DeRocher, Middle School Math; Tara Meinen, Middle/High School Instrumental Music; Abby Christensen, High School Science; and Angeleah Hoefling, Marcus Elementary/High School Special Education. Back row, from left: Travis Sprague, Marcus Elementary PK-4/High School Principal; Andrew Wotherspoon, Middle/High School Vocal Music; and Melissa Ruden, Remsen Elementary/Middle School Art.
(Photo by Megan Sabin)

Ms. Tara Meinen will serve as the Director of Bands for grades 5-12 at MMCRU Schools. This will be her first full-time teaching position and she couldn’t be more excited.

Tara has live in a couple different places in Iowa, “I have lived in Iowa all of my life. I lived in Muscatine, Iowa, during much of my childhood and attended middle school and high school in Denison, Iowa. After I graduated from Denison High School, I attended Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, where I earned my Bachelor’s Degree of Music Education.

During her time at Morningside, Tara worked with Opportunities Unlimited, “While I attended Morningside, I volunteered for and then became employed by Opportunities Unlimited (OU) in Sioux City. OU is a facility that provides services for people with disabilities. I had the great pleasure of being a music therapist for many of the residential clients there. The other part of my position was being a service provider for student-aged clients in the Sioux City area, which meant getting those individuals out in the community and working on their personal goals of communication, financial literacy, etc. I was officially employed at OU for a year and a half. I can honestly say working with the wonderful people at OU was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had outside of teaching band.”

Tara completed her student teaching in the Sioux City area, “My student teaching experience was a dual placement for one semester. I was placed with a high school band director and a beginning band/middle school band director. This meant that throughout the week I would travel between nine different school buildings in Sioux City, including one high school, one middle school, and seven elementary schools. The schools were East High School, East Middle School, Sunnyside, Morningside, Riverside, Unity, Spalding, Loess Hills, and Perry Creek. This experience gave me experience with many students from many diverse backgrounds, and I learned so much.”

For substitute teaching experience, Tara stated, “After graduating from Morningside a semester early, I decided to use that time to not only search for a teaching job but also substitute teach to gain more experience. I was mainly a substitute for elementary music, band, and special education with many other placements in many different classrooms of all ages. This went on from January 2019 - May 2019.”

Tara is engaged to Jared Jochum, a ISU Microbiology Graduate Student, and for the time being, lives in Le Mars. Her father, Steve Meinen is a retired elementary principal, while her mother was recently employed by the Donna Reed Foundation in Denison. She has one sister, Kelley Meinen, who is a sophomore at UNI studying music education, just like her big sister!

Some fun facts according to Tara, “Both my sister and I play trumpet and study/have studied music education. My parents now live in Sioux Falls, S.D., which is where they met, got married, and where I was born.”

When asked what she enjoys to do in her spare time, Tara replied, “I like cooking new recipes, hiking, climbing, kayaking, biking, playing tennis, running. Obviously I love doing anything that involves music, but it is also good to have some outside of work interests.”

What does she enjoy most about teaching? Tara answered, “I will never stop being excited for my students when they make breakthroughs. Seeing the “lightbulb” or the “AHA!” moment for a student makes me happy for them. Also, I love music, but it is a lot more rewarding to share it and make it with others.”

Tara explained her passion for teaching, “There are two reasons I teach. The first is because I enjoy the band world too much to leave it for something else. I couldn’t imagine ever quitting band, so I decided to teach it. The second reason is because I had such wonderful music educators in my life, I want to strive to give students the same positive experience I had. I don’t teach music because I want all of my students to go into music education, but because it is beneficial to be involved in something (rather than nothing), and because music is something that brings people together.”

Tara can’t wait to get started for the school year, “I want to thank everyone who has been so welcoming to me so far. I was so eager to get the ball rolling that I implemented summer lessons for our beginning band students. I had such a great time meeting parents and working with students during the two weeks I taught lessons in Marcus and the two weeks I taught lessons in Remsen. I know I am still new to this community and I am still just learning about the area, but I hope I can become a good neighbor to you all.”

Andrew Wotherspoon

Mr. Andrew Wotherspoon will be teaching Choir at MMCRU Middle School and High School.

Andrew lived in a couple different states before coming to Iowa when he was ten-years-old, “I was born in Portland, Oregon; moved to Columbus, Nebraska, when I was seven; and moved to Fairfield, Iowa, when I was ten. I graduated from Fairfield High School.”

He received a Bachelor of Music Education from UNI.

Andrew completed his student teaching in Waterloo and Hudson and substituted for a semester in Waterloo. He has moved to Remsen from Webster City, as he taught choir at Webster City High School before coming to the MMCRU School District.

Most of Andrew’s family also has a love of music and theatre, “My mom, Betsie, teaches high school special education and serves as drama director at Fairfield High School. My dad, Jim, is a retired pastor and low brass performer in Fairfield. I have three sisters: Joy, a book editor who lives in Grenoble, France, and is married and has two kids; Charisa, who works at a community development non-profit in Ottumwa; and Noel, who does freelance theatre work in southeast Iowa.”

In his spare time, Andrew stated, “I enjoy small group fellowship, trivia and game shows, and watching stand-up comedy.”

When asked what he enjoys most about teaching, he answered, “I love Light Bulb Moments - when a student struggles with a new concept, but then all at once it makes sense and they take a leap forward.”

“I want to make a difference in students’ lives. I believe it’s vital for middle schoolers and high schoolers to be involved, to find something that they look forward to when they wake up in the morning. Music is an excellent avenue for this.” stated Andrew on why he wants to teach.

His favorite Bible verse is Romans 8:28. “And we know that God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”

Melissa (Brantsen) Ruden

Mrs. Melissa (Brantsen) Ruden will be teaching PK through eighth grade Art in the Remsen building for MMCRU Schools.

Melissa is familiar with the Northwest Iowa area, “I grew up in Orange City and graduated from Unity Christian in 2003. I attended Iowa State University after high school for advertising, graduating in 2008. Later, I attended Dordt College to add my teaching degree in K-12 art, graduating in 2015. Most recently, I completed my Master’s Degree in art education from the University of Northern Iowa this past spring, 2019.”

Before teaching and coming to work in the MMCRU School District, she worked in graphic design for a year while living in San Diego, after graduating from ISU. Melissa stated, “After moving home and returning to school at Dordt, I taught K-12 art for four years at Boyden-Hull from 2015-2019.” She has also student taught at Rock Valley, K-12 art for half a semester, followed by the remainder of the semester at MOC-FV high school.

Melissa has recently moved to Remsen, “My fiance, Justin Ruden, and I will be getting married this year in October. Justin teaches at Remsen St. Mary’s. We have a fur baby, our miniature dachshund Alli. My mother, Mary Jane, lives in Orange City. My brother, Michael, lives in Cherokee with his family.”

As for hobbies, she stated, “We love to golf, watch any sporting event possible, spend time with our dog, and watch movies.”

Melissa explained what she enjoys most about teaching, “I love when students realize their potential in the art room. Some students may have a belief they are “not good at art”, but I always tell them that “everyone is an artist, but everyone is a different kind of artist” and that they need to find their special place in the art world. Then they are able to explore and discover their unique talents and how they are able to use those both in the art room and the rest of their lives.”

When asked why she wants to teach, she replied, “I love helping kids to discover and grow their artistic abilities, and helping them understand the beauty of different types of art in the world around them. Visual arts help students to think outside the box and strengthen their ability to find alternate routes in learning, giving them ownership in their education. I have always had a strong passion for art and love to help students strengthen their own love. By exploring different mediums of art, as well as styles, processes, and historical influences, students are able to see how varied art is and in turn, make their own unique mark in the art world.”

She has a favorite quote, “Art has the role in education of helping children become like themselves instead of more like everyone else.” -Sydney Gurewitz Clemens.

Taije DeRocher

Teaching fifth and sixth grade math at MMCRU Middle School will be Ms. Taije DeRocher.

Taije grew up in Le Mars, graduating from Le Mars Community High School in 2010. She earned her degree in Elementary Education from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake with a Special Education Endorsement K-8 and Reading Endorsement K-8.

She just finished teaching three years at South Sioux Middle School as a Resource Math teacher. She has student taught at Le Mars Community at Franklin Elementary School and Loess Hill in Sioux City.

She has a son, Jagger, who is three-years-old, and they live in Le Mars. She has a big fun-loving family. Her parents are Kris Singer and Paul DeRocher. She has four sisters, Mandi Parker, a stay-at-home mom; Brittany Cochran, a Instructional Literacy Coach; Keshia Nashleanas, a stay-at-home mom; and Sierra Reuter, a Speech Language Pathologist. She also has 11 nieces and nephews.

When asked about her hobbies and what she enjoys to do in her spare time, Tajie answered, “I love shopping for clothes and shoes. I also love watching Vikings play football on TV. I love spending any free time with my one and only son.”

What she loves about teaching is, “building relationships with the students and watching them grow throughout the school year”.

She wants to teach because, “I have been teaching to make a difference in the students.”

A quote she lives by is “Always believe in yourself”.

Abby Christensen

Mrs. Abby Christensen will be teaching High School Science at MMCRU High School in Marcus.

Abby stated, “I grew up in Cherokee, Iowa. I graduated in 2012 from Washington High School. I then went to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where I got my degree in Teaching Physical Science. I student taught at Oak Canyon Junior High in Lindon, Utah, in the fall of 2016. Here I taught eighth grade integrated science and ninth grade earth science for one semester.”

This will not be her first year of teaching, “MMCRU is my third school I have taught at. My first teaching job, I was fortunate enough to get hired mid-year after my student teaching. This was at a school in Sandy, Utah, called Indian Hills Middle School, and I taught just eighth grade Integrated Science. Then after that school year ended, I went to a different school, Orem Junior High, where I taught for two years. Here I taught seventh and eighth grade Integrated Science and ninth grade Earth Science throughout the two years.”

She has been married to Logan Christensen for just over four years. They have one daughter, Harper, who is eight-months-old and live in Le Mars. Her parents are Jeff Hayes and Kim Hayes and she has two siblings Emily Bowers and Jake Hayes.

In her spare time, she stated, “I enjoy spending time with my family and going hiking.”

When asked what she enjoys most about teaching, Abby answered, “I enjoy seeing students getting excited about the subject that I am teaching and see their understanding of the subject.”

Abby stated, “I don’t really know why I want to teach besides I just enjoy teaching. I really like teaching kids and seeing them understand after they have been struggling or having kids get excited about a topic we are discussing. I just enjoy teaching.”

Angeleah Hoefling

Growing up just two miles south of Marcus, Miss Angeleah Hoefling will be teaching Special Education as the Strategist II teacher. She stated, “I will be teaching students in grades K-4 at MMCRU Marcus Elementary and 9-12 at MMCRU High School.”

Angeleah graduated from Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn High School in 2015 and then went to Iowa State University and graduated in May of 2019 with a bachelors in Elementary Education with special education and reading endorsements.

She has worked multiple jobs which inspired her to be a teacher, “Growing up, I worked multiple jobs from vacation bible school, to swimming lessons, to lifeguarding, babysitting, to being a camp counselor, and finally teaching. My last job was teaching MMCRU’s Extended School Year this past summer.” For student teaching, Angeleah stated, “I student taught at MMCRU Marcus Elementary for eight weeks starting in January and ending in March of 2019 and finished my students teaching by completing eight weeks at St. Cecilia School in Ames, Iowa, starting in March and ending in May.” This will be her first full-time teaching job.

Currently, she lives in Marcus. She stated, “I am the daughter of Alan and Geralyn Hoefling, whom also live in Marcus, Iowa. I have four older siblings: Allison (married to Fletcher Christy - Des Moines), Alex (married to Chad Wallway - Des Moines), Amanda (Hamburg, Germany), and Andrew (married to Samantha (Newborg) Hoefling - Hospers).”

When asked about what she enjoys in her spare time, Angeleah replied, “I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I’m always up for an adventure, but also like my movie nights! You can often times find me in the gym, petting dogs, or smiling at babies (especially my niece, Hannah Kay Hoefling). Something I find joy in doing is painting, listening to music, or hanging out with my boyfriend, Brad Roling.”

What does she enjoy most about teaching? She answered, “When I’m teaching, I feel like the best version of myself. I like building that connection with students and making them feel important, loved, and like they can do anything they put their minds to. I especially love when students get excited about learning something new and want to come and show me - such a blessing!”

When asked why she wants to teach, she replied, “Since I was younger, I have always been drawn to teaching. When people ask me why I chose teaching I always say it chose me. It’s hard to explain but teaching truly brings out the best version of myself and is something I thoroughly enjoy doing. When it was time to pick a career, I tried taking different classes and realized my favorite parts of all those classes were related to education/teaching so here we are!”

Angeleah is excited about the start of the school year, “I would like to wish all teachers good luck on the upcoming school year!”

Travis Sprague

The final new addition to the MMCRU School District is Mr. Travis Sprague, who serves as the MMCRU Marcus Elementary PK-4 and MMCRU High School Principal.

Travis grew up in Osage, Iowa, graduating from high school in 2004. He earned several degrees including an Associate of Arts degree at NIACC in Mason City in 2006, a Bachelor of Arts degree in All Social Science Teaching at UNI in 2008, and a Master of Arts degree in Educational Leadership at UNI in 2019.

His educational career includes teaching 11 years at Harris-Lake Park from 2008-2019 in MS/HS Social Science, Technology Integrationist, mentor, drivers ed instructor, and coach.

Currently, Travis lives in Marcus. His father, Jerry, and mother, Jane, live in Osage. He has one brother, Josh, who lives in Grimes with his wife, Laura, and their two children, T.J. and Henry.

Hobbies that Travis enjoys in his spare time include golfing, reading, and playing sports.

Travis stated, “I'm excited to be at MMCRU and look forward to working with the students, staff, and community.”