New Staff 2023-2024

As the leaves begin to change colors and the school year settles into a comfortable rhythm, it’s the perfect time to introduce the vibrant additions to our school. Solomon Unified School District has had the pleasure of welcoming a group of dedicated and talented individuals who have joined our staff and family. Each one of them plays a crucial role in shaping the educational experience for Solomon students, and we are excited to introduce them to the community. 

In the elementary school, Abigail Depperschmidt from Topeka, KS is enjoying her first year teaching 4th grade students. Depperschmidt graduated from Kansas State University in December of 2022. During her younger years, her passion for school was unmistakable, and she knew this was her calling. She reflects, “Growing up, I would come home from school and I would get siblings and neighbors together to play more school where I was the teacher.” In her classroom, kindness, respectfulness, and responsibility are emphasized through a reward system for students. A game board hangs on the classroom wall, and students can only progress through good behavior. The class voted on donuts as a worthy prize and diligently worked together to complete the game board. Deppershmidt will soon attend the National Science Teaching Association conference in Kansas City, to present on behalf of K-State for first-year teachers, where she will discuss how her college experience helped her prepare for her career. She emphasizes, “Not many preservice or student teachers get to go to these types of conferences, so we want to advocate for [them] to be able to attend.”

Another addition to the elementary school is Andrew Capsey. Although new to teaching, he is no stranger to the area. He shares, “I grew up in and around Solomon, both my grandparents and mother went to Solomon, and I attended Solomon.” Capsey teaches STEM, a few physical education and weight classes, as well as coaches football. When asked why he decided to teach, Capsey stated “I know I wasn’t always the best student, but I had teachers who believed in me and never gave up on me. They shaped what I wanted to do, and now I think it's time to pay that forward for these kids.” In his classes, Capsey acknowledges the importance of technology but also strives to use a hands-on, collaborative approach to his content. Beyond the classroom, Capsey takes pleasure in outdoor activities with his dog, and of course, football. His dedication to the sport is evident through the countless hours he spends on the field. When discussing work-life balance, Capsey said “My balance is the sports. One of the highlights of my day is being able to go out and be around the team at practice.”

Heather Livingston, originally from Ell-Saline, has also been welcomed to the elementary school staff. In her first year as an educator, Livingston brings with her 13 years of experience assisting young children in their educational preparation at Heartland Early Education in Salina. Livingston believes that the first years of a child's education can have a profound impact on the course of their educational journey. She emphasized, “I want them to have a positive starting experience so that they have a good view of school from the very beginning,” she said. It's no surprise that this age group holds a special place in her heart, given that learning at this stage is inherently rooted in play. “I love play-based learning. Kids at this age are going to pick up on things much faster if they are learning through play rather than sitting at their desks,” she said. In addition to her teaching duties, Livingston is about to embark on an educational journey of her own, enrolling in the Transition to Teaching program at Fort Hays State University. This program accommodates individuals with bachelor's degrees, enabling them to take additional educational coursework while simultaneously teaching in the classroom. In anticipation of her academic commitments piling up, Livingston devotes her leisure time to sharing moments with her husband and two daughters, often cooking and camping together. 

Candy Johansen has been another asset to the elementary school this year. Although she is not new to education, this year has presented her with a new experience. She is currently working as a paraprofessional in pre-kindergarten. After her three sons grew up, she stumbled upon an opportunity to start writing articles for her local newspaper in Hiawatha, KS. Soon after, she decided to return to school to study journalism and communication, ultimately, earning a master's from Kansas State University. After years of teaching at the college level, her desire to be closer to her family led her to work with much younger students at Solomon. Stating, “With preschoolers, I just want to love them and want them to feel comfortable going to school. They want to feel secure away from mom and dad, and my goal as a teacher is to give them security and comfort away from home.” Outside of the classroom, Johansen prioritizes organization, especially when balancing her role as an online college instructor and managing her two small businesses. Johansen considers her life experiences and passions to be her greatest assets as an educator. “I feel like I can bring so much to the kids because I have experienced so many things in life, good and bad. I can honestly tell them [whatever they may experience], it’s going to get better.”

Another new middle school staff member is Graci Thompson. Thompson is originally from Valley Center and graduated from Fort Hays State University in 2022 with a degree in elementary education with an endorsement in special education and secondary English. When asked about the inspiration behind her choice to become a teacher, Thompson shares that her love for reading, learning, and helping people shaped her decision. Although working in the middle school wasn’t what she initially planned, she seems to have found a true passion in her teaching. She reflects, “I always planned to start in elementary school and work my way up eventually. I decided to give [middle school English] a try, and I loved it.” In the classroom, Thompson incorporates interactive activities that encourage student movement and subjects that connect to real-world applications. But first and foremost, Thompson focuses on getting to know her students. “I am a teacher who believes in connections over content, I really try to prioritize the relationship-building aspect over anything I can teach.” In her free time, Thompson enjoys quality time with her friends and family, including her beloved pets.

Bailey Whitson has also been welcomed to the middle school as the 7th and 8th-grade math teacher. Originally from McPherson, KS, Whitson pursued junior college at Hutchinson before furthering her education at Kansas State University. After working at an elementary school a few years back, she recognized her enjoyment in working with students and decided to pursue a career in education. “I have always wanted to work with students in the older grades, but I also love the littles, so my heart pulls in two different directions.” Although she didn’t plan on teaching math, she is steadily finding her footing and learning what works best for her students. “In math, it's hard to instill a sense of curiosity. Building relationships with students has helped create an environment that students want to learn in. Those relationships help the students want to perform and do well in class.” Like any dedicated teacher, even during weekends, Whitson finds her thoughts often gravitating towards her students. She humbly acknowledges, “You are always going to worry about certain kids, but I remind myself and know that during school hours I do what I can.” When she’s not at work, her favorite activities are getting outdoors, going on hikes, playing and watching sports, and reading.

Jacob Johansen also joined the Gorilla Family as the 5th and 6th grade English Language Arts teacher. After growing up in Hiawatha, KS, Johansen went to Highland Community College and then proceeded to Kansas State University. His passion for sports and desire to coach played a pivotal role in leading him towards a career in education. He reflects, “I knew I wanted to coach, so that brought me in, but I also really enjoy being around kids and acting crazy with them, getting the opportunity to help them grow into good adults.” Despite being an adult, he humorously admits “I am a middle schooler at heart,” a quality that enables him to make connections with the students. One of his favorite activities in the classroom is sharing stories that incorporate life lessons, saying that hearing them laugh while knowing that they are learning is one of the best things a teacher can experience.  Looking ahead, he contemplates returning to school, possibly to study communication or coaching, recognizing the potential benefits of relating to students and engaging them. Outside of school, Johansen coaches middle school football, and enjoys hunting, golfing, and spending time with his wife and three young daughters.

Solomon is also lucky to have Kelly Glanville teaching English Language Arts in the high school. Although she is new to Solomon, her extensive experience spans 18 years in education. She started her career in education as a paraprofessional, before transitioning to teach special education. More recently, she has been involved in teaching a wide array of subjects and grades, having worked in White City, KS, and Chase County, KS. From a young age, Glanville recalls having a natural instinct to want to be a teacher. She shares, “I really like teaching older students, being able to have conversations with them, hearing their perspectives and perceptions on things. They make me energized.” Before joining Solomon, she was already familiar with the school, its administration, and the familial atmosphere. Her commitment to the school is evident in her daily commute of over an hour to get to Solomon. In her classroom, she prioritizes teaching students respect, the importance of self-advocacy, and the ability to communicate their needs effectively for success. Stating, “I think that if students self-advocate in an appropriate manner, they are going to get so much further in life than just knowing what is in a book or on a page.” Outside of teaching, her hobbies are reading, playing golf, and keeping up with her two teenage daughters. 

Last but certainly not least, Tina Jacquart is a new school counselor. A significant portion of her career in education was dedicated to teaching special education before she transitioned to counseling. She is currently pursuing her second master's degree in school counseling. Jacquart's motivation to pursue a counseling career stemmed from her son, who has special needs, and her parents, who were resilient in overcoming life's challenges. She recalls, “After working with Central Kansas Mental Health and different therapists in the area, I realized there are services for students who suffer academically or social-emotionally that the world isn't aware of. It has just become a very passionate part of my life to help people meet those needs.” Her mission as a counselor is to instill a sense of pride in the students she interacts with. She emphasizes, “So many people want to hear that others are proud of them. I say to a lot of them ‘I can be proud of you, but I want you to be proud of yourself because you are the only person who is going to determine where you are going to go in life.’” 

Every new staff member acknowledges the profound influence of the educators who inspired them to pursue careers in teaching. Gratitude is extended to all educators who make a lasting impact on students worldwide. A special note of appreciation is directed towards Beth Pesnell, Kjell Nordgren, Kerry Benson, Amy Schaffer, Jason Shelangouski, Angela Frankenfeld, Dana Sprinkle, Barbara Kern, and Suzie Carazo for their inspirational role in shaping the new staff members' journey toward becoming exceptional educators at USD 393.

Photo from left to right: Jake Johansen, Andrew Capsey, Bailey Whitson, Kelly Glanville, Abby Depperschmidt, and Graci Thompson. 

Not Pictured: Tina Jacquart, Heather Livingston, and Candy Johansen.