With the second quarter of the school year underway, staff and faculty in Litchfield Public Schools have settled into their classrooms and are comfortable with their achievements thus far. For some staff members, the experience this school year is new territory.

Whether they are brand new to the world of education or are in new teaching positions, new staff members are Erica Hengel, Andrea Michels, Desiree Helstrom, Logan Manska, Jarek Kunz, Joey Hyde, Natalie Ahrens, Greyson Pingree and Brianna Hohenstein.

LOGAN MANSKA

A native of Morris, Minnesota, Manska is a first-time teacher at Litchfield High School. He teaches health and physical education after earning a degree from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Why did you choose to enter a career in education?

I entered into education because I wanted to be involved in helping change the lives of kids in a positive manner and knew there was no better way to do that than through education and coaching.

What is your favorite part of your current position?

Building relationships with the kids and getting to know everybody. I have built solid relationships with my students so far and look to continue that throughout the rest of my teaching career! It has also been a blast coaching for both the football and basketball programs!

What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?

I enjoy watching sports. I also enjoy coaching both football and basketball.

DESIREE HELSTROM

Originally from Grand Marais, Minnesota, Helstrom is no stranger to Litchfield schools. She earned a bachelor of science degree from St. Cloud State University and earned a master’s from St. Mary’s University. She previously taught fifth-, sixth- and seventh-grade classes, but this year she is teaching second grade at Lake Ripley Elementary.

Why did you choose to enter a career in education?

I chose education because I enjoy kids — they make me laugh!

What is your favorite part of your current position?

My favorite part of second grade is the kids, being able to be silly and have fun, and my team.

What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?

I love to bake, read, yoga, be with friends and family, and learning to crochet.

ANDREA MICHELS

Michels, a Litchfield native, currently teaches seventh- and eighth-grade health and physical education at Litchfield Middle School in addition to serving as a part-time special education supervisor for St. Mary’s University. She received an undergraduate degree in health and physical education from St. Cloud State University and a master’s degree in education from St. Mary’s University. Her background in education has been extensive since 2001, as she has taught health and physical education at Maple Lake Secondary School as well as BlueSky Online School.

Why did you choose to enter a career in education?

I developed a passion for teaching by first observing my own parents in their roles as educators. Their examples of not only teaching youth about living a healthy and physically active lifestyle but more importantly what it means to connect with and make a difference in young people’s lives is what drew me to a career as an educator.

Over the past 17 years, I have grown to appreciate the importance of being a lifelong learner with a growth mindset, which I hope translates to my students.

What is your favorite part of your current position?

My favorite part of teaching middle school students is the energy that the students bring to school with them each day. I love attempting to match this energy and passion for life in order to inspire my students to learn more about their own capabilities and strive to become lifelong learners.

What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?

I spend much of my free time supporting and spending time with my husband and our four children. Mischa is our foreign exchange student from Switzerland and is a senior. Tyson is a freshman, Kylie is in seventh grade and Emily is in third grade. When I get free time for myself I enjoy reading, quilting, gardening, and exercising.

ERICA HENGEL

From Mapleton, Minnesota, Hengel is a first-time teacher at Lake Ripley. She teaches special education after earning a degree at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Why did you choose to enter a career in education?

I decided to choose a career in education because I love helping students learn and seeing them grow.

What is your favorite part of your current position?

My favorite part of my job is my kids and people I work with. I enjoy forming relationships with the kids and helping them learn and grow throughout the year!

What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?

Outside of work I like to read, hang out with my family and friends, and spend time outside.

JAREK KUNZ

A former resident of Lake Geneva in southern Wisconsin, Kunz is now a high school counselor, teaching valuable life lessons as well as solving Rubiks Cubes. In past years he has coached football and track at a high school level, but this is his first full-time position in education.

Kunz earned a bachelor of science degree in recreation and sports management with a minor in athletic coaching as well as a master’s in school counseling from St. Cloud State University.

Why did you choose to enter a career in education?

I chose a career in education after spending time coaching and working with students through my undergraduate work. After an internship working with a local high school I decided that I wanted to spend my time helping kids be strong students and mentally healthy young adults.

What is your favorite part of your current position?

As a school counselor, I have the unique role of being a confidential source of support for the student as well as the gate keeper for things like student schedules, transcripts and scholarships. From exploring college and career options to supporting students that may be battling a mental health crisis, no two days are alike in my office.

Being a part of a student’s journey through life and seeing them mature socially, academically, and emotionally is my favorite part of being a school counselor!

What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?

I enjoy spending time outside, especially if there is a rod and reel in my hand. I also spend a fair amount of time yelling at my favorite teams through the television.

Molly O'Connor is a reporter who earned her B.A. from Winona State University.

Recommended for you