New Chequamegon Teachers

New teachers at Chequamegon School District include, front row, from left: Ashley Genslak (special education), Melissa Dupke (HS science); middle row: Thomas Tollakson (MS social studies), Arielle Hilgart (ES special education), Michelle Denny (PFES 4th grade); back row: Maria Brandenburg (MS special education), Tammy Olson (HS math), Chris Kleist (HS special education), and Alissa Weinberger (PFES 3rd grade).

New teaching staff starting at Chequamegon schools this fall responded to a Price County Review survey asking them to introduce themselves to the community. The following are their responses.

Maria Brandenburg

Special Education

“I was born in New Jersey to a big Italian family where my dad owned a pizzeria. I played lots of basketball and loved going on road trips. I attended North Central University in Minneapolis. I have a degree in cross-cultural communications, teaching English as a foreign language. I am also a licensed emergency medical technician and am ordained as a pastor with the Assemblies of God church. I am married to a wonderful husband and have two fantastic kids. I love hiking, kayaking, finding waterfalls, singing at church, and trying new food and music.

“When someone says that something is difficult, it doesn't mean it's impossible, even if it may feel that way. I want to show each student their true value and potential so that they can approach hard things with courage — both in school and in life.

“Because of Jesus Christ, my heart is full of joy and peace no matter what life brings. I want to bring hope and peace to each person who crosses my path because I believe each life is unique, invaluable, and irreplaceable.”

Melissa Dupke

High School Biology, AP Biology, Environmental Science, and Anatomy

“My name is Melissa Dupke and I have been a teacher for 23 years. I graduated from Clintonville High School, earned bachelor's degrees from UW-Oshkosh and Lakeland University, and a master's degree in school counseling from Lakeland University. I love being active, exploring the world, both near and far, and spending time with my family and our dog. I enjoy just about any activity that gets me outside and active, but particularly enjoy kayaking, biking, riding my motorcycle, berry picking, and skiing.

“I was inspired to become a teacher because I wanted to give something back to my community and instill a love of learning in others. Seeing my students ‘get it’ for the first time, helping them discover new ways of solving problems, witnessing the spark of creativity that ignites when a child is excited to learn ... that is what makes me love my job. Every day is different and filled with opportunities to impact the lives and learning of my students and I look forward to getting to know the passions and interests of my students this year. I want my students to leave my classroom this year with better scientific inquiry skills based on curiosity and exploration, more tools and skills to solve problems, I also want my students to leave my classroom knowing that they are respected and valued in our community and that their contributions and accomplishments are all a part of what makes Chequamegon great!”

Thomas Tollakson

6th Grade Science and Social Studies

“I am from Argyle and graduated from high school there in 2008. I attended UW-Stevens Point for two years and then transferred to UW-Platteville where I graduated from in 2013. I have a major in elementary education with a special education inclusion minor. My parents are Kurt and Theresa Tollakson who reside in Argyle. My sister Rachel is a social worker at Meriter Hospital in Madison. I enjoy watching and listening to most sports. I love coaching basketball, working with kids in all aspects of the game. I also enjoy hunting black bear with my hounds.

“I always enjoyed school and sports and being in that environment. I tutored second-grade students when I was a senior in high school which lead me to major in elementary education. I am very excited to be a part of the Chequamegon School District!”

Alissa Weinberger

Third Grade

“Hello, my name is Alissa Weinberger. I'm from Park Falls and I'm a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where I studied early childhood education and early childhood special education.

“I've known I wanted to be a teacher since I was an elementary school student myself; I loved school and was enamored with my own teachers. My goal this year is to provide students with a warm, caring classroom full of hands-on learning opportunities where students develop a love of learning that stays with them their entire life. I want to teach students the ability to seek out knowledge and understanding. I also want students to practice strong character habits like respect and consideration for one another and the people in their community.”

Arielle Hilgart

Elementary Special Education

“I am Arielle Hilgart and I am from Fountain City and have been in Park Falls for seven years and counting. I went to UW-Stout, majoring in human development and family studies as well as attended UW-Superior focusing on elementary education. I enjoy spending time outdoors with my husband and our three children. I enjoy a good book, coffee, and fall weather.

“I became an educator because I have a passion for learning and children. I enjoy watching students enhance their skills as well as learn new skills and the excitement those achievements bring. I am looking forward to supporting our younger generations in their achievements and love for continued learning!”

Tammy Olson

9-12 Algebra 1, Intermediate Algebra, College Algebra

“I grew up in Gilman and earned my bachelor’s degree in chemistry and mathematics education from UW-Eau Claire. I have four children: two are successful in their careers and two are still in college. I am looking forward to enjoying the Northwoods. Some of my hobbies are horse-riding (I used to own 17 of them!), walking, hiking, especially waterfalls, and just taking time to enjoy life and family.

“I spent the first 10 years of my teaching career at Thorp High School teaching chemistry, and a variety of mathematics courses along with a general science course. I also coached volleyball for all 10 years, two of which my team competed at state.

“The past 19 years I taught at Gilman. During these years I continued to coach for another 12 years. I taught many different subjects throughout my years in Gilman including; chemistry, physical science, algebra, geometry, consumer math, middle school science and math.

“This year I begin my 30th year of teaching and I am looking forward to teaching at Chequamegon High School.

“I became an educator because I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. As a teacher, I want every one of my students to know they can be successful! My goal for this year is to build professional relationships with students that allow them to learn with confidence and become better mathematicians and problem-solvers than they were yesterday.”

Editor’s Note: Not all new teachers responded to a survey distributed by Price County Review.

(Copyright © 2020 APG Media)

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