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Clarinda welcomes new staff, teachers to school district
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Clarinda welcomes new staff, teachers to school district

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HJ - New Clarinda Teachers 2021

The Clarinda Community School District has added two administrators and 13 new staff members for the 2021-2022 school years. The new members of the district include, front row, Mackenzie Clark, Miranda Wilson, Nicole Davis, Matt Ridge; second row, Kristin Wagoner, Clarisa Johnson, Nevi Zerkle, Nicole Berning; back row, Lesley Ehlers, Jared Bevins, Dustin Piper, Rudy Cox, Amy Wood, Paul Riekan, and Luke Cox. Not pictured is Matt Darrah. (Photo provided by the Clarinda Community School District)

There were several new faces to greet students Aug. 25 as Clarinda started classes for the 2021-2022 school year.

Two new administrators have joined the Clarinda Community School District this year as Luke Cox is serving as the new principal for grades 7-12 at Clarinda High School and Lesley Ehlers has joined the district as the PK-6 principal. In addition, 13 other new staff members have joined the school district this year.

Those new teachers and staff members are Nicole Berning, Jared Bevins, Mackenzie Clark, Rudy Cox, Matt Darrah, Nicole Davis, Clarisa Johnson, Dustin Piper, Matt Ridge, Paul Rieken, Nevi Zerkle, Kristin Wagoner, Miranda Wilson and Amy Wood.

Berning is serving as a seventh and eighth grade education specialist for Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates (iJAG). The program provides comprehensive drop-out prevention and school-to-work transition services.

“I have experience working with youth through the Clarinda Academy, Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation and Iowa Department of Human services,” Berning said. “I am looking forward to meeting my students and getting to work with all the staff and teachers in the school district. I am excited to have a great year.”

Berning holds a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She is currently working on a Master’s degree in child, youth and family studies. Berning also has three children including a fourth grader, a second grader and a four-month-old.

Serving as the PK-4 physical education instructor, Bevins will also lend his talents as a football and wrestling coach. He holds a degree in exercise science from Simpson College.

Bevins previously served as a teacher and coach at Centerville and Harlan.

After working as a student teacher in Clarinda in the fall of 2020 and then a reading specialist at Garfield Elementary School in the spring of 2021, Clark has been hired by to serve as a third grade teacher.

Clark graduated from Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Mo., in Dec. 2020. She holds a degree in elementary education and early childhood education.

“I am looking forward to experiencing the general education classroom again and seeing some familiar and new faces,” Clark said. “We are going to have an amazing school year.”

A special education teacher for grades 4-6, Cox earned her Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education and cross categorical special education from Northwest Missouri State University in 2005. She then earned a Masters degree in special education from the university in 2020.

Prior to coming to Clarinda, Cox taught in five school districts in Missouri - Savannah, Maryville, Tarkio, Rock Port and Northeast Nodaway. She is the wife of middle school and high school Principal Luke Cox.

“I’m looking forward to working with my students and helping them achieve their goals. I’m also looking forward to working with the staff at Clarinda. I’ve already met some great coworkers,” Cox said.

Also working in the iJAG program is Darrah. He will serve as an education specialist working with high school juniors and seniors.

Darrah formerly worked at the Clarinda Academy including spending four years as a transition coordinator. He holds a Bachelor’s of Science in sociology with a minor in criminal justice from Northwest Missouri State University.

“I am looking forward to getting back into helping, guiding and mentoring youth to assist them with making post-secondary plans. I also want to see them grow and develop the skills they may possess if they yet lack direction,” Darrah said.

Raised in Clarinda, Davis is a 2006 graduate of Clarinda High School. She is returning to her hometown to serve as the eighth through 12th grade Family and Consumer Science teacher. This will include courses in food and nutrition, culinary arts and child development.

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Davis holds a Bachelor’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences Education as well as a Master’s of Counseling with an emphasis on K-12 school counseling. She taught for four years at Washington High School in Sioux Falls, S.D., and seven years at Central High School in St. Joseph, Mo.

“I am looking forward to being back in my hometown and teaching at the high school,” Davis said. “I have a daughter, Sophia, who will be in the third grade. I love to bake, shop and read.”

Johnson is also a 1993 graduate of Clarinda High School. She is returning to Clarinda to serve as a preschool teacher this year.

A 1997 graduate of Peru State College in Peru, Neb., Johnson earned a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education with an early childhood education endorsement. She has one adult son and a second son who is a senior this year in the Stanton Community School District.

Piper is starting his teaching career in Clarinda as a fourth through sixth grade special education instructor. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in special education from Northwest Missouri State University.

“I am looking forward to creating new relationships and building my skills as a teacher. I love sports so I will be sure to be at many Cardinal events,” Piper said.

Previously a member of the Biology Department at Iowa Western Community College in Clarinda, Ridge is joining the school district as a high school science teacher.

Ridge earned Bachelor of Science degrees in biology and marine science, along with a minor in chemistry, from Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C. He then completed his graduate work at the University of Nebraska and earned a Master of Science degree in biology.

“I am looking forward to an exciting year helping students learn scientific principles needed for the 21st Century,” Ridge said.

Rieken was hired to fill one of the new Behavioral Learning Advisors positions created in Clarinda this year. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Human and Social Services Administration from Bellevue University in Bellevue, Neb. He then went on to earn a Master of Science in Organizational Performance from Bellevue University.

“I am excited to be part of a behavior team focused on helping teachers and paras with behavioral strategies that benefit students, classrooms and the school as a whole,” Rieken said.

Zerkle will serve as the 6-8 grade band teachers. She will also assist with the Clarinda Marching Band.

After earning her Bachelor of Arts in music from Drake University, Zerkle received a Masters of Music degree at the University of New Mexico. She also served as a teaching assistant working with the University of New Mexico bands, Spirit Marching Band and Soundpack.

“I am looking forward to fostering a love of music in the community and continuing the tradition of excellence for which the Clarinda bands are known,” Zerkle said.

Like Rieken, Wilson will serve as a Behavior Learning Advisor for Clarinda. She will also join the coaching staff for the Clarinda High School volleyball team as an assistant coach.

Wilson received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. She then earned a Master’s degree in clinical psychology from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. She is married to Dakota Woods.

Finally, Wood joins the staff at Clarinda High School as 9-12 science teacher. Her courses will include chemistry, physics, physical science and anatomy and physiology.

Wood received her Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Central College in Pella. She then worked in a laboratory for eight years before earning her teaching credentials from the Regents Alternative Pathway for Iowa Licensure.

Prior to joining the Clarinda Community School District, Wood taught in Lenox. She is married to Duane Wood, who owns Wood Plumbing and Home Improvement.

“I am looking forward to teaching in Clarinda. I’ve lived here since 2014 and I am excited to start teaching in the same community that I have called home,” Wood said.

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