Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part story.
With a new school year starting, Creston Community School is welcoming some of its newest faces. The school year starts Monday.
This year, 4 year olds at Creston’s Early Childhood Development Center will meet Courtney Phelps. She’s eager to meet them, as well. She likes their enthusiasm.
“Small children are still excited about school and I enjoy watching them learn and grow,” she said.
The Afton native is a graduate of Northwestern Missouri State University, where she recieved her bachelor’s in elementary education, a minor in early childhood education and early childhood special education.
Phelps started in the Clarke Community School District and has been in education for two years.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19 in her second year, she said the best part of her experience is watching her students grow and develop their own personalities.
In her free time, Phelps enjoys spending time with her boyfriend Keaton Eslinger and working out at CrossFit. Fun fact, she can squat 285 pounds.
Phelps will bring her competitve streak to the courts as Creston Community High School’s ninth grade volleyball coach.
Creston Elementary welcomes Madison Skarda as its newest second-grade teacher.
The Creston native received her associates degree from Southwestern Community College prior to earning her bachelor’s in elementary education with an endorsement in science from Northwest Missouri State University.
After one and a half years in education, some of which was spent teaching preschool and then fourth grade in a rural school district in Pike County, Illinois, Skarda is looking forward to working closer to friends and family.
“This year, I look forward to giving back and serving the community that I was born and raised in by living my passion each and every single day!” she said. “I want to be able to show all students the love and support as teachers in Creston did for me.”
Skarda said she’s thankful for her supportive family for helping her transition back to her roots.
“In my free time I enjoy my loved ones, being outdoors, kayaking, yoga, swing dancing, and playing with my dog, Piper.”
As she tackles the foundation of education with her young students, Skarda is also focused on three things.
“The reason I teach is to guide all students to feel loved, important, and discover their strengths so they can reach their true potential,” she said.
Returning to Creston this year is Scott Wagner, who will be teaching sixth-grade math.
“I previously taught social studies at Creston Middle School and I wanted to return because I love how math allows different paths that lead to the same correct answers,” he said.
Wagner was born and raised in Mitchell, Negraska. He holds a bachelor’s in secondary education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master’s in educational leadership from Arkansas State University. He is endorsed to teach sixth through 12th grade social studies and sixth through eighth-grade math.
Last year, Wagner was a full-time substitute teacher at Adel-De Soto-Minburn High School. This is his 14th year in education.
Wagner enjoys watching the light bulb turn on in the eyes and faces of his students when they learn something new. He said he likes being around middle schoolers and figuring out how he can help them be critical thinkers about numbers and logic. He’s slightly concerned about carrying his experience teaching from social studies to math, but knows that his hardwork partnered with his students’ will result in a successful school year. He’s not afraid to encourage his students to try new things and to be the best they can be.
“I finished last at state cross country as a freshman in high school and learned that perseverance creates strong character,”
Wagner and his wife Michelle have been married for 13 years. Together they have two daughters, Zoey and Norah. At home, he spends most of his free time with his children building LEGO.
Wagner looks forward to getting to know each of his students, their needs and how to best help them succeed in his classroom.
Taylor Briley, who was born and raised in Creston, is Creston Community Middle School’s new English language arts teacher.
“I wanted to become a teacher to help students realize their full potential and help them reach their goals,” she said. “I am most excited about being on the middle school side and meeting all of my new students.”
Briley earned an associates degree in 2018 from Des Moines Area Community College, where she played softball. She completed her final two years at Iowa State University in 2020 with a bachelor’s in elementary education with endorsements in English and reading.
This is Briley’s second year teaching. Last year she taught fourth grade in Sidney.
Over the summer Briley and her fiance Casey Tanner were engaged. Together, they enjoy time with family, friends and their puppy Marley.
Briley will also be the assistant high school cross country coach at CCHS this fall.
“I am very excited to be back in my hometown!” she said.
First-year teacher Ethan Faeth joins Creston Community High School as its agriculture technology teacher for the 2021-22 school year.
“I couldn’t be more excited!” he said.
The Fort Madison native said his primary focus is hands-on education.
Faeth attended Southeastern Community College, where he recieved an associates in agriculture management before transferring to Iowa State University. At ISU, Faeth majored in agriculture education, graduating this year with a bachelor’s. He is also endorsed to teach biology.
“I had a passion for agriculture growing up and I wanted to be able to make a positive difference in the world,” Faeth said. “So I put the two together and am loving my work.”
Faeth said he’s most looking forward to all of the opportunities that are coming up with the FFA at CCHS.
Faeth is single and is close with his parents, Lynn and Heather Faeth, and brother Austin. When at home with them, Faeth enjoys working with his horses and on his vehicles. The Faeths own and operate a restoration shop, where they specialize in classic International Harvester vehicles. Faeth also shows Appaloosa horses at world and national level.
“This last year at the world championship my horse Amigo and I won two world titles,” he said.
His teaching philosophy is, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
Elisa Soosloff, originally from Elgin, Illinois, is teaching upper level math at Creston Community High School this year.
The Drake University graduate is a double major – secondary education and mathmatics – also earned a minor in Spanish.
This is Soosloff’s first year teaching. She pursued a career teaching math because she wants to show students it can be fun and engaging.
“I’m looking forward to meeting all of my students and learning alongside them,” she said. “Other than teaching I used to be involved with colorguard and music and I’m excited to support the school and students in any way possible.”
In addition to teaching, Soosloff will also be working with student government this year.
Alyssa Higgins of Creston is joining Creston Community Elementary as a fifth-grade teacher this year. For her, its a dream career come true and a lifetime in the making.
“Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “I had a couple of amazing teachers when I was growing up and my great-grandma, grandma, and mom all worked or work in the education field. This was what inspired me and helped me decide I wanted to pursue a career in teaching. I wanted to be able to make a difference in my students’ lives by encouraging, supporting, and inspiring them each and every day.”
Higgins graduated from Northwest Missouri State University in 2020 with a bachelors in education and an endorsement in reading.
This is Higgins second year or teaching. She taught kindergarten at Lenox Elementary School during the 2020-21 academic year. As she approaches the first day Monday, Higgins said she looks forward to meeting her students and getting to know her coworkers better.
In her free time, Higgins enjoys traveling, crafting, reading, being outside, and spending time with my friends and family.
Her approach to building a successful learning environment is focused two things.
“Build strong relationships and form a classroom community,” she said.