With the start of the new school year, Plevna School officials were still working this month to hire more teachers, including the hard-to-fill area of music.
By Angel Wyrwas
With the start of the new school year, Plevna School officials were still working this month to hire more teachers, including the hard-to-fill area of music. “I am pleased to have such wonderful teachers join our school. It’s going to be a great year and I’m looking forward to it,” said Plevna Superintendent Jule Walker.
Marcia Oberlander, a 2000 graduate from Baker High School, will be teaching second grade. She attended Miles City Community College for one year right after high school. That is where she met her husband Jason.
“After we were married,” said Oberlander, “we transferred to Western Nebraska Community College. My husband’s father was working there so we took advantage of the discounted education. But we were both raised in Montana and wanted to come back.”
Oberlander graduated from Montana State University-Billings with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. “I have always loved working with kids,” said Oberlander.
Her family moved to Baker about six years ago and moved in with her parents for a year until they could find their own home. Oberlanders moved to Plevna and Marcia began a preschool. “I had been doing preschool in my home so I could be home with my kids,” she said. “Then I was able to have a room to operate the preschool out of in the Plevna school.
Oberlander always knew when her three boys, now ages ten, eight and six, were all in school she would start her teaching career. “When the second grade teaching position came open it was perfect timing,” said Oberlander. “I’m a little nervous because I’ve been out of school so long but I’ve been taking continuing education courses and I’m super excited to get teaching. I already know who the kids are and love to be with them, watching them grow.”
Science is her favorite subject. “I love to be outdoors, fishing, hunting, hiking and gardening,” said Oberlander. Her family attends Emmanuel Evangelical Free Church in Plevna. “I always prioritize my life with God, family and education. It is who I am,” said Oberlander.
Carol (Peabody) Spencer will join Plevna School as the new fifth grade teacher. She grew up in Ekalaka, participating in rodeo and working as a tutor in high school. “My mom was the FCS teacher for 23 years,” said Spencer. “My dad was ranching and was always coaching rodeo people in our arena. I was around teaching all the time so it was just natural that I would go into education.”
After high school Spencer attended college in Glendive and was part of their rodeo team, participating in breakaway and team roping, goat tying and hazing for the bulldoggers. She followed rodeo to the University of Montana in Dillon where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education.
Spencer student taught in Glendive and stayed to teach first grade the following year. It was during this time that she met her husband Rusty. “His best friend from high school was my best friend in college,” said Spencer. “Rusty was working in the oilfield at the time. When the field went bust we moved to Utah where he was from.”
Spencer got a job teaching for a charter school in Ogden. “I taught a combined classroom of first and second graders,” she said. “It was an incredible experience. They had adopted a learning style called expeditionary learning. It’s a very hands on approach to learning. We went on at least eight fieldtrips a year. Every month the teachers went to conferences or education opportunities were brought in to us.”
“I’m so excited to bring that experience back here,” said Spencer. After being in Utah for two years the Spencers decided to move back to Montana. “We love spending time on my parent’s ranch and like the idea of starting a family here.” They are expecting their first child in December.
“I’m looking forward to more individualized teaching. Even though I will have the largest class in school, it is smaller than my past classes,” said Spencer. She has always taught younger children. “It’s amazing what their brains can take in,” said Spencer. “Fifth grade will be an adventure for me.”
Stephanie (Stickney) Robertus graduated from Plevna in 2001 and will be returning to her alma mater this year to teach FCS and Math classes. “I’ll teach Family Consumer Science classes in the afternoon this fall while I’m taking classes to be certified for FCS,” said Robertus. “It will be nice to ease back into teaching with half days.” She will also be the FCCLA advisor.
Robertus attended the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota for one year and played basketball for them. Then she transferred to Montana State University in Bozeman where she graduated in December 2005 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics with teaching option. “I wanted to be a teacher,” said Robertus, “but I thought a degree in Mathematics would give me a few more options if I ever needed it.”
She married her husband Jeremy in 2006 while working at Huntley Project School. Robertus taught junior high and high school math and coached basketball for two and a half years.
Robertus’s moved to eastern Montana in 2009. “I taught for half a year at the Norton country school,” said Robertus, “before having our first child.” Now there are four children ages seven, five, three and ten months. “When people talk about having hobbies I don’t understand. I have four small children, I don’t have time for hobbies,” joked Robertus.
She stayed home to raise her children and help her husband farm. “When the opportunity presented itself for me to teach in Plevna it seemed like the right time to return to teaching,” said Robertus. “I’ve kind of been doing family consumer science for the last ten years of my life. My mom taught in Plevna for 45 years including FCS and FCCLA. I’m going to have a great resource in her.”
Robertus will add math classes to her workload in the spring. “I’m excited and glad to be doing this,” she said. “FCS classrooms are a lot different than math classrooms. It will be an interesting combination.”
Becki Wagnon recently retired from teaching music in Illinois to become the new music teacher in Plevna. “I spent the last 13 years teaching junior high music in Joliet, southwest of Chicago,” said Wagnon. “My husband Lamar and I have been vacationing in Montana the last several summers. We were in Butte and I just happened to Google music jobs available in Montana and Plevna came up.”
Originally from a small town in Illinois, the idea of relocating to Plevna was appealing. “It all happened quite fast,” she said. “We talked about finding a nice little community that needed a music teacher. We feel like God was leading us here.”
Wagnon earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Eastern Illinois University, her Master’s degree for vocal performance from Illinois State University, and her PhD in business from St. Regis University. Wagnon is currently on standby staff at Global International University.
She taught music for ten years right out of college. Then Wagnon changed careers after having her daughter Marci. “I needed more flexible hours to be available for our daughter,” said Wagnon, “so I was a real estate broker for 30 years.” Music talent seems to run in the family. Marci is now a professional opera singer.
Wagnon has also been actively involved in church music throughout her career. The last three years before she went back to teaching full time the Wagnons were missionaries in Kenya. “We lived there during the winter term from Christmas-April,” she said. “I taught advanced business math, worship and public speaking classes at KIST.”
The Wagnons have been married for 39 years and have four grandchildren they will be visiting from time to time in Illinois.
“I’m very excited about starting a fresh program,” said Wagnon. “I have some fun things planned and look forward to teaching smaller, more personal classes.”