New faces join Centre staff

Staff writer

Three new teachers and a new counselor have joined the Centre staff.

Jay O’Brien is a new agriculture education teacher at Centre High School. This is his first regular teaching position after being a student teacher during the 2013 spring semester at Scott City. He will teach shop classes, including welding and woods, and will teach a soil science class.

O’Brien grew up on a five-generation farm at Cherryvale in southeast Kansas. He was active in 4-H and FFA and assisted his two younger brothers with their projects. He attended Coffeyville Community College and Kansas State University, earning a degree in agriculture education with a minor in animal science and horticulture. Adam Regnier of Marion was his roommate at K-State.

O’Brien is looking forward to helping his students do the best they can and to develop skills and knowledge in the shop and classroom. He likes competition and looks forward to leading his students in various career development events.

He lives in rural Burdick. He likes hunting and fishing and also enjoys relaxing with a good book.

Bob Mitchell is the new music teacher at Centre schools. He will teach general music in grades one through 12 and will direct choral and band groups.

Mitchell grew up in Pennsylvania. After attending the Oberlin Conservatory for 1½ years, he joined the Army in 1980 as a violin player. He played in various Army bands for 15 years, performing in Illinois, Massachusetts, Belgium, and Germany. He studied music while in the Army and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

After Mitchell left the Army, he attended Florida State University and had several teaching jobs in Alabama. He came to the plains when his wife got a job as a music teacher in Nebraska. He taught music as a para-professional at Beatrice Community College and at the University of Nebraska.

After spending four years participating in a new teachers project in Baltimore, Md., he was certified as a full-fledged teacher.

Prior to coming to Centre, he spent a year in Kearney, Neb. His wife will remain there one more year before joining him in Marion. They have two grown children and two grown grandchildren who plan to join them for Christmas.

Mitchell plans to spend his spare time improving the house and using his small pickup to move goods from Nebraska. He hopes to find ways to continue to play his violin and tuba outside of school. He enjoys woodworking and is teaching himself Spanish.

“The people at Centre are the nicest people in the world,” he said.

Phil Duerksen will teach junior high and high school science. He grew up in India as a son of missionary parents. In 1973, he graduated from Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park.

Duerksen earned a natural science degree from Bethel College and a master’s degree in biology from Emporia State University. He expects to devote most of his time to teaching, as well as coaching junior high girls’ volleyball, basketball, and track.

Phil and his wife, Norma, have past connections to Marion and are living in Marion. He did his student teaching under Leroy Burton at Marion. His wife taught at Florence, and they lived in Florence for a while.

Duerksen said the staff members at Centre have been welcoming and appear to be a good group with which to work.

Jill Brunner is returning to her alma mater as the school counselor. She is excited about being back in her home school.

“The thing I like the most is recognizing the names, learning to know the children of former classmates, and even knowing some of the teachers from the past who are still here, including my mom (Jean Brunner).”

She graduated from Centre in 1995 and earned bachelor’s degrees in elementary education and early childhood education from Kansas State University. She also has an endorsement in teaching English as a second language. She taught Head Start in Manhattan for five years and at Riverside Elementary School in Emporia for six years before coming to Centre. She is working toward getting a master’s degree in school counseling at Emporia State University.

“I discovered that counseling was part of my job as a teacher,” she said. “This seemed like the logical next step.”

Brunner has a 12-year-old son, Tucker. She plans to be married in two months to Lance Day of Council Grove. She looks forward to the football season, including watching her son play for Council Grove Middle School and attending K-State games.

 

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