GEHS Welcomes 34 New Staff Members

Angela Ocanas, Reporter

Blazer nation welcomed 27 new teachers and an additional seven support staff this year, with almost every department seeing new faces. 

Mrs. Ruley – English

Mrs. Stephanie Ruley, an English teacher located in room 224, likes that Gardner is a one high school town and has a  small-town feel. She has been teaching since January of last year, starting in the midst of remote learning. Ruley said the students and staff were very welcoming with open arms. When asked if she has any wise words for the high school students, Ruley said, “Life will throw you crazy curve balls, and to just go with the flow a little bit, try to think smart but also follow your passion. Even in those rocky times think, ‘What’s best for me? What’s the healthiest for me?’ And go from there.”  

Mrs. Megan Ward – 9th Grade Counseling Secretary

Even the counseling department experienced significant changes. Two counselors began this year, and a new secretary also greets students in the freshmen wing – Mrs. Megan Ward. She has been doing her job since August 9 and previously was a stay-at-home mom for the last nine years. Ward has a degree in social work and said she enjoys her job. She likes the experience and seeing all the young students. She wants the high school to know that she likes the show Friends and also likes sports. Mrs. Ward’s wise words are to, “Make good choices.”

Ms. Melanie Peery – English

Enthusiasm exudes from first-year teacher Ms. Peery in room 215, who has been striving to be a teacher for the past four years as she worked for the Walt Disney Company. She likes Gardner’s atmosphere and has family in town. She wants the high school to know that she is an expert on all things Disney. “If you have any questions, I probably know the answer,” Ms.  Peery said. “Thank you for letting me join your guys’ family, it’s fairly awesome to be here and I’m excited to be a Blazer.”

Mr. Riley Trowbridge – Trainer

When asked why he applied to work at GEHS, the new trainer Mr. Riley Trowbridge said, “I am from Basehor, Kansas. My family is from Kansas and I traveled all around the United States, the midwest mainly, with different jobs in strength and conditioning and when this job came open, with a name like Gardner Edgerton and the tradition they carry, I could not pass it up.” Ever since he was in high school he loved strength and conditioning and he loved his coach. He pursued this passion as soon as he got into college. Coach Trowbridge has been teaching strength and conditioning for nine years. He wants his students to gain a strong and positive work ethic and know how to find a passion for what they love. Mr. Trowbridge’s wise words for students are, “ Who you are now is not who you’re gonna be in 10 years, live in the moment. Living in the moment is how I got here, this is my Superbowl. It’s like winning the Superbowl, I love it.”

Mr. Robert Latona – Special Ed

Mr. Robert Latona, who is located in room 208, moved to Gardner from Arizona. This is his 30th year teaching and coaching. Latona stated, “ Here I’ve seen more nice people than I have in a long long time. The kids are great and everyone is just so nice and welcoming.” He wants his students to learn and gain life lessons. His wise words for students are, “It’s going to be something you never forget and I always say, kids in high school right now want nothing but to get out of here, 3-4 years after the fact you’re going to say, ‘I wish I was in high school.’ So my advice is to always have a smile, always have fun, but remember it’s a stepping stone to the rest of your life.”

Mrs. Kyleigh Roberson – Art

Mrs. Kyleigh Roberson, who is the new art teacher, grew up in Baldwin. She now lives in Olathe and has a degree in Secondary Education and in Art. She was drawn to Gardner because of the small-town feel. Roberson’s favorite thing about the high school is the staff and students. She hopes to one day coach track and field at the high school. 

Mrs. Angie Irwin – Speical Ed

Mrs. Angie Irwin went from subbing at the high school to becoming a teacher. This is Angie’s first year teaching and she really enjoys it. She used to be a social worker, but later realized that it wasn’t her calling. Irwin said, “It’s never too late, just finish what you start. Life will take you in all kinds of directions. Just enjoy the ride, enjoy every experience. Be open to whatever comes your way.”

Mrs. Linda Stringer – Spanish

Mrs. Linda Stringer is a new member of the Spanish teaching community at GEHS. Mrs. Stringer has been teaching for about three years, she was born bilingual and wanted to share her culture and heritage with others. She loves every single one of her students and wants them to learn the material the best they can. Stringer said, “Don’t put yourself down if you don’t know the material, keep moving forward.”

Mrs. Holly Holder – Transition Coordinator

Mrs. Holly Holker is a new transition coordinator at GEHS. She is very impressed with the classes the high school has to offer. Her goal is to help students achieve their dream for the future. Mrs. Holker said, “Every day is a new day, you can achieve your dream, nothing is out of reach, nothing is impossible. So if you can dream it, you can achieve it.”

Mrs. Naomi Pickens – FACS

Mrs. Naomi Pickens grew up in Olathe and has been teaching for 15 years. She was driven to teach FACS because she wanted to teach students skills that they will need as they grow. Her favorite thing about the high school is the students, she says they have a lot of grit and determination to get things done. Pickens said, “Find out who you are and be that, even if that means you have to be alone. Sometimes it’s better to be alone and who you are than trying to be something you aren’t.”

Mr. Brandon Shellenberger – Math

Mr. Brandon Shellenberger has been teaching math for two years. His goal is to give all of his students a set of problem-solving skills that they will be able to use later on in life.  “Stay calm, don’t freak out. It is a long road, but you’ll be able to pass it all and succeed,” Mr. Shellenberger said. 

Mrs. Heidi Gunderson – Orchestra

Mrs. Heidi Gunderson is the new orchestra teacher here at the high school, but students might recognize her familiar face as she used to work at Trailridge Middle School. She has been teaching for 19 years. Gunderson has always enjoyed music and hopes that the students she teaches will love it too.  

Mrs. Sarah Runner – Social Studies

Mrs. Sarah Runer graduated from GEHS in 2008. She has been teaching for eight years and has lived here most of her life. She wants her students to gain content and skills that they can use in the real world. Runer’s wise words are, “Your teachers have been there, they have done that. They do understand, remember teachers are human.” 

Mrs. Staci Berger – ELL

Mrs. Staci Berger has lived in Gardner for 16 years and has been teaching for nine. She loves the community and her students. She wants her students to learn and know that they are cared for. “Stick with it, don’t give up. Things might get hard but keep going because it will all be worth it in the end,” Mrs. Berger said.

Mrs. Rebecca Radiel – Business

Mrs. Rebecca Radiel grew up in Johnson County, and was previously teaching at Topeka West High School. She has been teaching for 8 years. Radiel’s favorite thing about the high school is her students. 

Mr. Ben Fleer – Special Ed

Mr. Ben Fleer is from Olathe and has been teaching for about 10 years. “What really inspires me is all of you [students] and how driven you are to accomplish goals that you set for yourself,” Mr. Fleer said. As the interview continued, Fleer talked a lot about how his students inspire him and how he enjoys when his students make connections with what they learn to what they already know. “I want to give them tools, knowledge, and equipment so that they have some control about what they are doing in life and that way they are living a life that is purpose-driven and that makes them happy,” he said. His wise words for the high school are “People are not problems, people encounter problems, people have problems. Problems make it difficult for people, but people in of themselves are not problems.”