News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

SMS adds new staff

A local, a couple, a world traveler, and a Pacific Crest Trail through-hike completer are among the seven new certified staff members at Sisters Middle School for the 2021-22 school year

The new staff come as a result of retirement, maternity leave, adds, and moves, according to first year principal Tim Roth.

All of the new hires mentioned the draw to Sisters including the sense of community, the support of education here, and the love of the outdoors.

One name familiar to the Sisters community is Hattie Tehan, who spent last year working as a paraprofessional at the school. Hattie grew up in Sisters and is beyond grateful to be able to land a job in her hometown. She graduated from Sisters High School in 2009.

Tehan, a graduate of Prescott College where she earned degrees in Spanish and multicultural education while also minoring in adventure education, holds licenses in language arts and Spanish. She is teaching language arts, a Spanish elective, and a sewing and baking class.

Tehan has taught in a variety of settings over the past years, including at Cascades Academy, and adventure-based schools in McCall, Idaho and Chile. She is very glad to be back home.

“There are a lot of things that have drawn me back to my hometown, the first being family,” she said. “My parents and my siblings are still based out of Sisters and are very involved in the community. After 10 years of traveling throughout the West and South America, it feels like I am landing back in a huge community of friends and family. Going to Folk

Festival assemblies, running into my own old teachers in the hallways, and helping out on IEE trips or Seed to Table, reminds me of why I’m here — because Sisters offers some of the best public education and programs of any school I have known of or worked for.”

Another new hire, Cailen McNair, also has strong ties to Sisters. His wife Anna (Summerfield) grew up in Sisters and McNair worked for one year at Sisters Middle School before he and Anna decided to join the international teaching community. The McNairs worked in a variety of countries including China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and most recently South Korea.

McNair is working as the athletic director and is teaching health and physical education. His philosophy includes the belief that “school should be a safe place to make mistakes while learning personal and social responsibility so students enter the world understanding how to challenge themselves while taking responsibility for their actions.”

Melissa Stolasz, who has lived in Sisters since 2018, jumped at the chance to teach her in town. Her three children attend Sisters High School. She and her 17-year-old daughter Sasha hiked the entire 2,600 mile Pacific Crest Trail over the late spring and summer.

Stolasz, who left her science and math position at Ridgeview High School to come to Sisters said, “Teaching in Sisters has always been my dream and I am so happy to be here!”

She is teaching sixth grade science, which has taken her back to her roots, since she started her teaching career at the middle school level. When asked about the ‘why” of being a teacher she said, “I love to inspire kids and make them think about their own potential differently. I love applying math and science to real life.”

Amy and Berit Dart say they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work at the same school and are embracing the move from the Willamette Valley to a small property off of Edgington Road that allows them some space for raising their two and a half-year old son and a menagerie of animals that include three dogs, one cat, a rooster and a pig.

Amy is focused on working with small groups as a reading specialist and teaching some physical education, while Berit, a ten year veteran teacher who grew up in Bend, is instructing special education students.

Amy describes her goal as a teaching being about “nurturing a child as a whole person — to build up their self-confidence, to be a person that shares mutual respect and empowers students to be their best selves, to treat them with kindness and empathy, to help them find their inner fire, to find what drives them and moves them forward.”

The couple have felt very welcomed at Sisters Middle School and the community as a whole.

“We are just so thankful to the community of Sisters for embracing our family and making us feel so welcomed. We have already met many neighbors, families, and individuals that have gone out of their way to introduce themselves and get to know us,” she said. “The neighbors even drop by and share food scraps with the pig!”

Emily Surgeon, a Bend native, is teaching sixth grade social studies, and is a strong believer in quality relationships being the key to successful education.

“I believe that the environment created in smaller schools lends itself to building connections within the school,” she said. “When I see students in the hallway, I want to be able to know and say all their names.”

Matthew Hilgers grew up in Redmond, which is one of the reasons he and his wife Brittney, who is teaching at Sisters High School, left their jobs on the Oregon Coast to return to Central Oregon. He is teaching eighth grade social studies.

“We have always wanted to move back to Central Oregon. When we saw the job postings that both my wife and I qualified for we felt it was the right time for our family of four to make the move.”

Amber Tollerud has a head start on knowing the students at SMS after doing student teaching at the school last year and volunteering with the high school cross country team in 2019.

Tollerud, who is teaching seventh grade social studies said, “I could not be happier that I landed here in Sisters. From the small class sizes to the amazing community buy-in, the tight-knit town of Sisters makes SMS an amazing place to work. I have always wanted to be part of a community that truly cares about each other and the beautiful wilderness around it.”

Another new teacher, Steven Livingston, is teaching music and other electives.

Principal Roth says the new crew is already proving themselves in what he describes his teachers as “the kind of staff any principal would be proud to work with.”


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