As the leaves begin to change colors and the school year settles into a comfortable rhythm, it’s the perfect time to introduce the vibrant additions to our school. Solomon Unified School District has had the pleasure of welcoming a group of dedicated and talented individuals who have joined our staff and family. Each one of them plays a crucial role in shaping the educational experience for Solomon students, and we are excited to introduce them to the community.
Abigail Depperschmidt from Topeka, KS, in the elementary school, is enjoying her first year teaching 4th-grade students. Depperschmidt graduated from Kansas State University in December of 2022. Her passion for school was unmistakable during her younger years, and she knew this was her calling. She reflects, “Growing up, I would come home from school and get siblings and neighbors together to play more school where I was the teacher.” In her classroom, kindness, respectfulness, and responsibility are emphasized through a reward system for students. A game board hangs on the classroom wall, and students can only progress through good behavior. The class voted on donuts as a worthy prize and diligently worked together to complete the game board. Deppershmidt will soon attend the National Science Teaching Association Conference in Kansas City to present on behalf of K-State for first-year teachers, where she will discuss how her college experience helped her prepare for her career. She emphasizes, “Not many preservice or student teachers get to attend these types of conferences, so we want to advocate for [them] to be able to attend.”
Another addition to the elementary school is Andrew Capsey. Although new to teaching, he is no stranger to the area. He shares, “I grew up in and around Solomon; both my grandparents and mother went to Solomon, and I attended Solomon.” Capsey teaches STEM, a few physical education and weight classes, and coaches football. When asked why he decided to teach, Capsey stated, “I know I wasn’t always the best student, but I had teachers who believed in me and never gave up on me. They shaped what I wanted to do, and now I think it’s time to pay that forward for these kids.” Capsey acknowledges the importance of technology in his classes but strives to use a hands-on, collaborative approach to his content. Beyond the classroom, Capsey takes pleasure in outdoor activities with his dog and, of course, football. His dedication to the sport is evident through his countless hours on the field. When discussing work-life balance, Capsey said, “My balance is the sports. One of the highlights of my day is being able to go out and be around the team at practice.”
Candy Johansen has been another asset to the elementary school this year. Although she is not new to education, this year has presented her with a new experience. She is currently working as a paraprofessional in pre-kindergarten. After her three sons grew up, she stumbled upon an opportunity to start writing articles for her local newspaper in Hiawatha, KS. Soon after, she decided to return to school to study journalism and communication, ultimately earning a master’s from Kansas State University. After years of teaching at the college level, her desire to be closer to her family led her to work with much younger students at Solomon. Stating, “With preschoolers, I just want to love them and want them to feel comfortable going to school. They want to feel secure away from mom and dad, and my goal as a teacher is to give them security and comfort away from home.” Johansen prioritizes organization outside the classroom, especially when balancing her role as an online college instructor and managing her two small businesses. Johansen considers her life experiences and passions to be her greatest assets as an educator. “I feel like I can bring so much to the kids because I have experienced so many things in life, good and bad. I can honestly tell them [whatever they may experience], it will get better.”
Another new middle school staff member is Graci Thompson. Thompson is originally from Valley Center and graduated from Fort Hays State University in 2022 with a degree in elementary education with an endorsement in special education and secondary English. When asked about the inspiration behind her choice to become a teacher, Thompson shares that her love for reading, learning, and helping people shaped her decision. Although working in the middle school wasn’t what she initially planned, she seems to have found a true passion in her teaching. She reflects, “I always planned to start in elementary school and work my way up eventually. I decided to give [middle school English] a try, and I loved it.” In the classroom, Thompson incorporates interactive activities encouraging student movement and subjects connecting to real-world applications. But first and foremost, Thompson focuses on getting to know her students. “I am a teacher who believes in connections over content, I really try to prioritize the relationship-building aspect over anything I can teach.” Thompson enjoys quality time with her friends and family in her free time, including her beloved pets.
Bailey Whitson has also been welcomed as the middle school’s 7th and 8th-grade math teacher. Originally from McPherson, KS, Whitson pursued junior college at Hutchinson before furthering her education at Kansas State University. After working at an elementary school a few years back, she recognized her enjoyment in working with students and decided to pursue a career in education. “I have always wanted to work with students in the older grades, but I also love the littles, so my heart pulls in two different directions.” Although she didn’t plan on teaching math, she is steadily finding her footing and learning what works best for her students. “In math, it’s hard to instill a sense of curiosity. Building relationships with students has helped create an environment where students want to learn. Those relationships help the students want to perform and do well in class.” Like any dedicated teacher, even during weekends, Whitson finds her thoughts often gravitating towards her students. She humbly acknowledges, “You are always going to worry about certain kids, but I remind myself and know that during school hours, I do what I can.” Her favorite activities when she’s not at work are getting outdoors, going on hikes, playing and watching sports, and reading.
Jacob Johansen also joined the Gorilla Family as the 5th and 6th grade English Language Arts teacher. After growing up in Hiawatha, KS, Johansen went to Highland Community College and then proceeded to Kansas State University. His passion for sports and desire to coach played a pivotal role in leading him towards a career in education. He reflects, “I knew I wanted to coach, so that brought me in, but I also really enjoy being around kids and acting crazy with them, getting the opportunity to help them grow into good adults.” Despite being an adult, he humorously admits, “I am a middle schooler at heart,” a quality that enables him to connect with the students. One of his favorite activities in the classroom is sharing stories that incorporate life lessons, saying that hearing them laugh while knowing that they are learning is one of the best things a teacher can experience. Looking ahead, he contemplates returning to school to study communication or coaching, recognizing the potential benefits of relating to students and engaging them. Johansen coaches middle school football outside of school and enjoys hunting, golfing, and spending time with his wife and three young daughters.
Solomon is also lucky to have Kelly Glanville teaching English Language Arts in the high school. Although she is new to Solomon, her extensive experience spans 18 years in education. She started her career in education as a paraprofessional before transitioning to teaching special education. More recently, she has been involved in teaching a wide array of subjects and grades, having worked in White City, KS, and Chase County, KS. Glanville recalls having a natural instinct to want to be a teacher from a young age. She shares, “I really like teaching older students, being able to have conversations with them, hearing their perspectives and perceptions on things. They make me energized.” Before joining Solomon, she was familiar with the school, its administration, and its familial atmosphere. Her commitment to the school is evident in her daily commute of over an hour to get to Solomon. In her classroom, she prioritizes teaching students respect, the importance of self-advocacy, and the ability to communicate their needs effectively for success. “I think that if students self-advocate in an appropriate manner, they are going to get so much further in life than just knowing what is in a book or on a page.” Outside of teaching, her hobbies are reading, playing golf, and keeping up with her two teenage daughters.
Last but certainly not least, Tina Jaquart is a new school counselor. A significant portion of her career in education was dedicated to teaching special education before she transitioned to counseling. She is currently pursuing her second master’s degree in school counseling. Jaquart’s motivation to pursue a counseling career stemmed from her son, who has special needs, and her parents, who were resilient in overcoming life’s challenges. She recalls, “After working with Central Kansas Mental Health and different therapists in the area, I realized there are services for students who suffer academically or social-emotionally that the world isn’t aware of. It has just become a very passionate part of my life to help people meet those needs.” Her mission as a counselor is to instill a sense of pride in the students she interacts with. She emphasizes, “So many people want to hear that others are proud of them. I say to a lot of them, ‘I can be proud of you, but I want you to be proud of yourself because you are the only person who is going to determine where you are going to go in life.’”
Every new staff member acknowledges the profound influence of the educators who inspired them to pursue careers in teaching. Gratitude is extended to all educators who make a lasting impact on students worldwide. A special note of appreciation is directed towards Beth Pesnell, Kjell Nordgren, Kerry Benson, Amy Schaffer, Jason Shelangouski, Angela Frankenfeld, and Dana Sprinkle for their inspirational role in shaping the new staff members’ journey toward becoming exceptional educators at USD 393.