At this time of year, the thoughts of children and teachers turn to school. New supplies are purchased, bulletin boards are decorated and schools are cleaned in preparation for school starting. With the COVID-19 concerns, school may look different this year. However, the excitement of learning still continues.
The Iroquois School District is beginning its 136th year with 220 students and quite a few changes and challenges. Trying to be cautious and create a learning environment, the Iroquois staff are ready to begin.
“This year we will be pioneering through interesting times,” said Superintendent Mike Ruth, who is beginning his seventh year at Iroquois. “We look forward to the challenges and know we will be better because of the circumstances.”
Iroquois School has made some changes to create a safer environment during this pandemic. Masks will be available to all students and teachers; in classrooms, student and staff work areas will be outfitted with Plexiglas partitions; families are given the option to distance learn; and a color-coded status system has been initiated. This system will alert parents as to the daily status of the school, and they can make adjustments for their child. So far, just a few families have chosen distance learning.
Over the summer, there have been some exciting changes made to the structure of the school. Air conditioning has been added to the band loft, new flooring has been laid in the south gym, an outdoor education classroom has been added to the preschool room and the high school library was redecorated with new shelving.
An Open House is scheduled for Aug. 13. To assure social distancing, parents are asked come using the following schedule: 1 - 2 p.m. - last names begin with A – F; 2 – 3 p.m. - G – L; 3 - 4 p.m. - M – R; and 4 – 5 p.m. - S – Z.
Iroquois is proud of the experience and longevity of their teaching staff. With a staff of 21, the Iroquois teachers average 16 years teaching experience, with 10 years at Iroquois. There are five new employees this fall.
Reed Walter has signed on as the technology coordinator. A 1995 graduate of Iroquois High School, he went on to study technology information at Huron University earning an MIS degree. He also played collegiate football at HU for four years.
Walter brings IT and coaching experience with him. He has coached football and was a technology coordinator at both the Kimball School District and Brandon Valley School District. While at Kimball as the assistant football coach, Walter helped lead the team to the 2001 State 9A Championship. Before accepting the position at Iroquois, he worked for the city of Brookings as an IT Specialist, where he helped develop their current IT infrastructure.
“I applied to work at Iroquois School District to get back into the education world and have fun teaching both athletics and technology with the students,” said Walter.
The Iroquois native enjoys word working, hunting and playing catch with his dog Briggs.
David Novak joins the team, teaching middle school math and K-12 PE. This will be his fifth year of teaching. A native of Tucson, Ariz., he grew up in Germany as his father was stationed at Ramstein US Air Base. A 2016 graduate of Dakota State University, Novak applied at Iroquois to be closer to family. He and his wife, Micheala, have a three-month old son named Edward.
Novak is a big sports fan and loves baseball. He played baseball for DSU and still plays in the S.D. Amateur League for the Salem Cubs.
“I am most looking forward to teaching physical education again, as well as starting a new chapter in my life with my family,” said Novak
In the elementary wing, Stacy Uttecht will be teaching 3rd grade. Uttecht comes to Iroquois with a wide variety of teaching experiences. She has 12 years of classroom teaching experience ranging from 2nd-6th grades, including St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, Lower Brule Elementary, Rutland Elementary, Sioux Falls-Laura B. Anderson Elementary and Mt. Vernon Elementary. Before starting her first teaching position, she worked as a paraprofessional and substitute teacher in Norfolk, Neb.
“Teaching and working with young children has always been important to me,” said Uttecht. “Growing up, I helped my little sister with her homework, always volunteered to be teacher’s helper and later on, in my senior year of high school, I had a wonderful experience working at the elementary school as a teacher’s aide.”
Uttecht attended Chadron State College and completed her Bachelors in Science in 2004 from Wayne State College, Wayne, Neb.
“I applied at Iroquois because I believe small schools provide students with something the bigger schools cannot,” she said when asked about her goals at Iroquois. “That ‘something’ is personal and meaningful relationships. This year, I am looking forward to getting to know the Iroquois community and the families that make it thrive. Even with the uncertainty of everything that is going on in the world today, I truly believe we can and will work together to ensure that children receive the quality education they deserve!”
A native of Valentine, Neb., Uttecht’s family consists of two daughters ages 25 and 23, a son, 20, and a grandson. She enjoys her pets, an English Mastiff and a cat, and drawing and reading.
Iroquois School District will be managing their own food service program this year. Josi Hauge has been hired as the food service director, and Kim Strickler will be the assistant cook.
Josi Hauge, born and raised in the area, is the mother of two daughters, Judith and Korbyn, who attend Iroquois School. After years of experience in healthcare and food industry, she achieved management of the district’s food service.
“I am determined to obtain higher quality products while introducing better variety of meals, while assuring any dietary concerns are handled with upmost care and diligence,” stated Hauge.
Kim Strickler is married to Mark Stickler and mother to her two boys, Jesse and Mitch. Both of her grandchildren, Ella and Brooklyn, attend Iroquois School District. She has lived in the area for 34 years and is excited to be an official Chief by becoming the school’s new assistant cook. Strickler is looking forward to creating bonds with the many students and other staff during her time at Iroquois.