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Elmwood says 'hello' to new staffers

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Elmwood Early Learning Center employees include (from left) Debbie Helmer, Kelsey Leach, Ashley Zierl (Interim Director), Allison Hinrichs (Director), and Lindsay Hinzman. Missing from photo: Alaina de Werd. Photo courtesy of Linda Garfield 3 / 3

Each year, the Herald asks new staff at area schools to fill out a questionnaire in order to introduce them to the community. There are seven new staffers in the Elmwood School District. Here are their responses.

Alaina de Werd

Position/school: Teacher assistant, Elmwood Early Learning Center

Hometown: Chetek

Education: UW-Stout, human development and family studies

Previous experience: The Bridge to Hope in Menomonie

Family: Mom, Joni; dad, Mike; brother, Nick; sister, Morgan; in-laws Josh and Kylie; nephew, Chase; and niece, Aubree.

Hobbies: Dancing! Neftlfix, school, hanging out with friends, family and my "new" fiance!

Mary Jo Gardas

Position/school: First grade teacher, Elmwood Elementary

Hometown: Eden Prairie, Minnesota

Education: UW-River Falls, elementary education and English.

Previous experience: Previously taught at St. Francis Elementary in Ellsworth.

Family: Husband, Matt; four kids, Maddie (UW-Superior), Mallory (UW-Oshkosh), Mac Junior (Ellsworth High School), and Miaelle (seventh grade, Ellsworth Middle School).

Hobbies: I love to read, travel and spend time with my family.

Debbie Helmer

Position/school: Assistant teacher, Elmwood Early Learning Center

Hometown: Elmwood

Education: UW-Stout, B.A. in early childhood education.

Previous experience: Library aide, Elmwood Library; private childcare; student teacher at Stout daycare.

Family: Stepmother, brother, nephews.

Hobbies: Miniatures, genealogy and writing.

Allison Hinrichs

Position/school: Lead preschool teacher, Elmwood Early Learning Center

Hometown: Durand

Education: Bachelor's Degree, Winona State University, elementary education and early childhood education.

Previous experience: Student teaching in Mondovi; Creative Start Early Learning Center, lead teacher, Durand; Little Minds Matter, lead teacher, Durand.

Family: Fiance, Parker.

Hobbies: Spending time with friends and family, going for walks with Mya (our black Lab) and Parker, and watching movies.

Lindsay Hinzman

Position/school: Assistant teacher, Elmwood Early Learning Center

Hometown: Green Bay

Education: I attended Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts with a degree in pastry and baking; graduated in 2008.

Previous experience: This is my first time working in a child care center. I was a stay-at-home mom for six years before this.

Family: Husband, Ryan; twins Sean and Grant (age 6), son Devon (3).

Hobbies: Sewing, watching movies and reading.

Karlie Jensen

Position/school: I teach 4K at Elmwood Elementary School

Hometown: Menomonie

Education: I attended UW-Stout and received my Bachelor of Science Degree in Early Childhood Education.

Previous experience: I taught 4K for one year in Menomonie. I student taught in Elmwood in the Kindergarten classroom.

Family: My parents' names are Gregg and Becky. I have an older sister, Abbie, brother-in-law, Mitchell, and a younger brother, Dana. Lastly, my fiance's name is Ryan.

Hobbies: I enjoy camping and spending time outside. I also enjoy planting flowers and gardening. Lastly, I enjoy doing a variety of different crafts.

How are the first few weeks going? I am enjoying my time in Elmwood. We have a great program and have a wonderful start to the school year. The children are picking up on routines and concepts quickly. It is going to be a good year.

Kelsey Leach

Position/school: Lead toddler teacher, Elmwood Early Learning Center

Hometown: Elmwood

Education: UW-Stout

Previous experience: Bear Buddies in Baldwin; Sunshine Child Care, Spring Valley.

Family: Mom, dad, brother, son, boyfriend

Hobbies: Spending time on the family farm and spending time with my son.

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in February 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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