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A surge of new teachers bring 'a fresh set of eyes' to HOTL in Perham

Heart of the Lakes Elementary School's 11 new teachers offer more than just new faces for the community. They bring different educational ideas and backgrounds that could help improve education.

HOTL Principal, Kari Yates, said in an email that staff members who have been teaching at the school for years have, "to be open to the new ideas and observations that can only come from someone with a fresh set of eyes seeing us from the inside."

"Ultimately, if we can support and encourage a true exchange of ideas, our whole system will just keep getting stronger," Yates said.   

The new teachers participated in an email interview last week. Six were introduced in an article published in last week's newspaper. Here's a look at the final five new faces.

Pam Jaskowiak

Pam Jaskowiak teaches kindergarten at HOTL. Before coming to Perham, she taught for five years in an elementary school in Bloomington, Minn. She taught kindergarten, first and second grades.

 Moving to the Perham area seemed like a perfect fit for Jaskowiak, because she and her significant other, "love to fish, hunt and enjoy the outdoors," she said.

"I have really enjoyed meeting the students and families at HOTL," Jaskowiak added. "I have the best kindergarten class!" 

"I grew up in the small town of Silver Lake, Minnesota where my family farms.  I have two nieces and a brand new nephew.  Besides fishing and hunting, I love spending time with my family and friends," she said.

Erin Gaffaney

Erin Gaffaney teaches kindergarten through fourth grade music at HOTL.

She has one year of experience as a music teacher for kindergarten through 12th grade in Braham, Minn.

"Initially, I was attracted to Perham because it is close to my hometown (Glenwood, Minn.), its charming downtown, and proximity to the lakes," Gaffaney said.

"After my interview, however, I was really sold on the school atmosphere. Now that I've been here for more than a month of school, I'm truly convinced of just how wonderful Perham is," Gaffaney said.

"I'm very happy to be working with a staff that genuinely cares for children and their education," she added.

Lance Wittnebel

Lance Wittnebel teaches physical education at HOTL. He also coached the seventh grade volleyball team this fall and looks forward to coaching junior varsity girls basketball this winter.

"My goal as a PE teacher isn't simply to make all-star caliber athletes but rather equip students with a diverse knowledge of physical activities that can be practiced for a lifetime of enjoyment," Wittnebel said.

This is Wittnebel's first position as a teacher, however he does have experience as a student teacher at West Fargo High and Ellen Hopkins Elementary in Moorhead.

"I came to Perham because I like the small town atmosphere and I am familiar with the area.  Growing up, I spent most of my summers at my grandparents' lake house on Paul Lake," Wittnebel said.

Chelsie Tatge

Chelsie Tatge was hired as a speech language clinician for HOTL.

Since 2008, she has been a sign language interpreter for the district, and was excited for the opportunity to advance to a speech clinician position.

Before coming to Perham in 2008, Tatge spent 10 years as a sign language interpreter in other districts.

 "The first month has been great," Tatge said. "The learning process of a new position is made easier by having great people to work with that are always willing to help."

Chris Collins

Chris Collins is a speech language pathologist at HOTL. He has five years of experience in other districts.

He was attracted to Perham after working "in the school a few years ago, filling in as a long-term substitute," he said. At that time, he "enjoyed working with the staff and students."

"The first month has been fun getting to know all the new staff and students. It has been going very well," Collins said of his new position.

Collins is from Detroit Lakes, and is, "happily married with two daughters," he said.