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Kenmare School has new teachers for second grade and math

As new teachers in the Kenmare school district, Kara Keysor and Michael Johnson scrambled to start the year with their students.

9/07/11 (Wed)


As new teachers in the Kenmare school district, Kara Keysor and Michael Johnson scrambled to start the year with their students.


However, both of them have handled the transition professionally and are enjoying the opportunity to teach for some of Kenmare’s terrific kids and parents.


Kara Keysor is KHS grad

Kara (Schumacher) Keysor was actually hired with plenty of time to prepare for her kindergarten assignment at Kenmare Elementary School. She decorated her classroom accordingly and reviewed the kindergarten curriculum and knew just what she wanted to do, especially after teaching kindergartners in Garrison during the spring semester.


Then came the registration days for Kenmare school, and the realization that the predicted number of kindergarten students did not enroll, while the second grade class size mushroomed.


With a week and a half to go before the students arrived, Keysor learned she would be teaching second grade instead, so she quickly made the necessary changes to her classroom and materials.


Fortunately, Keysor completed her student-teaching in kindergarten and second grade at Bottineau Elementary School a year ago, before she graduated in December 2010 from Minot State University with a bachelor of science degree in elementary education, including a reading concentration and a kindergarten endorsement.


“I’ve always liked working with kids,” she said. “I get along with them well, and there’s always something new every day.”


She smiled as she continued, “And it’s fun to see them progress, to see them two or three years down the road.”


Keysor is familiar with the Kenmare school system as a student and a 2006 graduate of Kenmare High School. She started college at Williston State College, where she also played volleyball, then transferred to MSU where she continued her volleyball career and her pursuit of an education degree.


The position in Kenmare came as a pleasant surprise to both Keysor and her husband, KHS alumni Kacy Keysor, who is student-teaching at Mohall Elementary School this semester in preparation to earn his elementary education degree from MSU in December.


“This was something we were really excited about and it turned out to be a good opportunity for us,” said Kara Keysor. “I always thought I wanted to come back to Kenmare to teach, but we didn’t know it would be so soon!”


Keysor teaches 13 of the 26 second graders, and shares resources and ideas with her counterpart Peg Balvitsch. “We work together a lot,” Keysor said. “We do the same math lessons each day. We look at the same standards and use the same texts [for other subjects]. She’s keeping my head above water!”


The second graders will be using more technology this year as they work with the ActivBoard in large group settings and the iPads individually and in small groups. “And once the year gets going, we want to expand their vocabulary and their writing,” Keysor said, “but we’ll take that gradually.”


Despite having sat in these classrooms herself as a student, Keysor is making the change to the teacher’s role quite easily. “I’ve always thought this was a really good school district,” she said, “and there is lots of new staff since I was here.”


Then she laughed and added, “But it’s hard to address my former teachers by their first names!”


One of those former teachers is her own mother, Kathy Schumacher, who teaches the fourth graders in a classroom at Kenmare High School. “It doesn’t seem like we’re ‘teaching’ together,” said Keysor. “We get along really well and we’re both professional. I do ask my mom a lot of questions and she gives me ideas for my students. She’s always ready to help me.”


Keysor isn’t coaching any sports or advising any activities this fall as she focuses her efforts on her second graders. “I want to get established in my classroom,” she said. She and her husband will also be busy setting up their new house that arrived on the lot last week.


Her students and their parents will see her at the KHS activities, though. “That’s always been something I’ve done!” she said.


Any parents with questions about their child’s progress or the lessons in second grade are welcome to call Keysor at Kenmare Elementary School, 385-4688.


In fact, Keysor hopes some of those parents want to volunteer with her. “Parents are welcome in our classroom,” she said. “They can help with a project or help with activities that we do. It’s nice to have extra hands!”


Michael Johnson

grew up at Park River

Michael Johnson teaches the 7th and 8th grade math classes, as well as pre-algebra and consumer math to Kenmare High School students. He moved into his classroom and met the students August 29th, a week and a half after school began but soon enough to set the tone for the year.


“Most people say they hate math classes,” he said, “but I want to get that excitement going and hear kids in the hallway say, ‘We’ve got math class today!’ When you come to math, I want you to see we can also have fun.”


Johnson grew up in Park River and graduated from high school there, then attended the University of Minnesota-Crookston where he majored in computer technology. “But I couldn’t program them,” he said, explaining his frustration led to a change in majors. “I became a math tutor while I was there, and I liked that, so I went with my second career choice as a math teacher.”


He transferred to Mayville State University and graduated in the spring of 2010 with a bachelor of science degree in math education and a minor in business. He enjoyed his coursework and plans to continue his studies as a graduate student in the future.


Right now, he is focused on his students, and he understands how many of them feel about his class. “In high school, I hated math,” he said. “It was one of the worst subjects I had. But when I was tutoring at Crookston, I saw that when I knew something, I could explain it to someone else.”


He also realized he really enjoyed working with teens. “I love being around kids,” he said, “so I decided that was it, I was going to become a teacher.”


He taught last year at Rolla High School under an alternative license granted until he passed the certification exam required of all North Dakota teachers. He took the test last spring, but his successful results weren’t available until late May and the school district had already advertised for another instructor to insure they had that secondary math position filled.


Johnson started applying for other math jobs and discovered the Kenmare High School opening in August. School administrators in Kenmare had made plans to offer the necessary math classes using Internet long distance learning courses with a facilitator in the room to help the kids. However, Johnson’s application was welcomed in order to have a full-time teacher in the position.


Kenmare and the KHS Honkers were unfamiliar to Johnson, who recalled traveling through town once as a boy during a family trip to Williston. Last week, he was impressed by what he noticed.


“I love being in a small community, having grown up in Park River,” he said, adding that a school board member helped him find a place to rent.


The goose mural painted on the wall in the high school locker area attracted his attention, especially after hearing the work was done by students. “I’ve noticed how the students here want to keep their school nice,” he said, praising the kids for the positive behavior he has seen.


Students in his classroom can expect typical math lessons and assignments, but Johnson wants them to experience math concepts in other ways, too. “I like doing hands-on things,” he said. “That way, they can see how math is related in real life.”


Last year, among other activities, his 8th grade students worked with models of shapes and figures, and his geometry students put their knowledge to practical use by building bridges from popsicle sticks. “They had to make a blueprint of their bridge first,” he said. “Once they got started, you could see everything they had learned in class coming together for them.”


He’s already looking ahead to the Math Counts! season and working with students who want to enter math competitions. “I hope I have some kids who want to come out for that,” he said.


Although he hasn’t taken any coaching assignments yet at KHS, Johnson did coach junior high boys basketball at Rolla last winter, and he has officiated both girls and boys basketball. He described himself as a sports fan, and said students and community members would find him at the Honkers’ events.


“Especially all the home games, I’ll be there,” he said, adding that he participated in football, basketball and golf himself during high school. “And if I know where the towns are, I’ll be at the away games, too. I love high school sports, and I want the kids to think, ‘He’s not just my teacher. He’s someone who cares about the other parts of my life, too.’”


Parents are welcome to contact Johnson by calling the school at 385-4996. “If parents have questions about anything we’re doing, they can feel free to call and ask me about it,” he said.


As the junior high math teacher in a Class B school, Johnson is well aware he’ll be seeing his students in class again. His intentions are to prepare them step-by-step for each level of math.


“I hope to see kids come back next year and hear them say, ‘I remember when we did that in class last year,’” he said.