Familiar faces, new faces in classrooms at Pleasanton

Updated: Sep 5, 2021


New math teacher Sydney Dent will be a familiar face to students and staff at Pleasanton High School this year. She graduated from the school in 2016. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)


When school began in the Pleasanton USD 344 on Wednesday, Aug. 25, there were two new staff members teaching in Pleasanton Elementary School and four in Pleasanton Junior//Senior High.


Sydney Dent

Algebra 1 and 2, geometry

Sydney Dent should be a familiar name to the Pleasanton community. The daughter of Rob and Melinda Dent, she is a 2016 graduate of Pleasanton High School returning this year to the high school to teach math.


After graduating from PHS, she earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with an emphasis in secondary education from Pittsburg State University in 2019. The next two years she spent teaching at the junior/senior high school in Fredonia, Kan.


She said she is looking forward to making an impact in her hometown and working with her new coworkers, some of whom were her teachers just a few short years ago.


Dent said she’s “excited to be back in Linn County and be close to my family. My mother teaches at the high school as well and my older brother is a substitute teacher and it will be fun to work with them both.”


Sarah Hendricks

Third grade

Sarah Hendricks will return to PES after being a student teacher in the third grade last year. Her experience also includes working as a paraprofessional and substitute teacher.


A graduate of Kansas State University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, Hendricks graduated from Olathe South High School.


A newlywed, she married Blu-Jay football coach and physical education teacher Caleb Hendricks this summer. “I love going to football games to cheer on my husband and the Blu-Jays on Friday nights,” she said.


“I am looking forward to getting to know my students and build relationships with them!” Henricks added. “I’m excited to be learning alongside with them and to create a home away from home for my kids. I can’t wait for our class to feel like our second family.”


Raquel Tolentino-Robinson

Elementary special education

Raquel Tolentino-Robinson is a new special education teacher with 15 years of teaching experience in middle- and high-school math for both regular education and special

education learning environments.


A native of Manila, Philippines, Tolentino-Robinson came to the United States to teach under the International Teacher Exchange program in 2006. She earned a bachelor’s in civil engineering from Bulacan State University in her homeland.


But once she was in the states, she earned a master’s degree in teaching and learning at Avila University in Kansas City, Mo. She went on to collect an educational specialist degree from Arkansas State University and also a building-level administration certification.


“One of my goals as a new teacher in the school district is to bring fun to fundamentals,” she said. “I will incorporate teaching and learning strategies that can inspire our students while they study the fundamentals.”


While striving to bring more excitement to the classroom, Tolentino-Robinson also wants her class to model kindness and compassion. “We, as a whole class will focus on our invisible bucket that we fill together with acts of kindness throughout the year.”


She also believes in good communication and collaboration among the staff. “I believe that a better way to start the new school year is by dedicating my time and effort to help my fellow teachers through connection at least once a month to discuss any hurdles that we may need help clearing or strategies that worked well,” she said.


Although she is far away from her family, Tolentino-Robinson values the friends she has made here.” I also enjoy the companionship of my two Australian Shepherds,” she said. “They are Mr. Willow and Mr. Maximus Decimus. I got their names from my two favorite movies; Willow and The Gladiator.” She also loves gardening and traveling.


Shelby Karst

Social studies

Shelby Karst will be teaching seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade social studies, and she said she is very excited to get involved in the school. She comes to Pleasanton after teaching eighth-grade social studies at Hadley Middle School in Wichita.


After attending Andover High School in a Wichita suburb, she graduated from Wichita State University with a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in marketing. After graduating she returned to WSU to get her teaching license through the Transition to Teaching program.

“I am looking forward to getting to know my students and their families,” Karst said. “I have a lot of fun activities planned for the class and want to give students a chance to get creative and think outside the box."


This is the first time she has lived away from Wichita, and she said she is excited to get to know everyone and learn about the community. “I am a creative, crafty person which I hope will show in my classroom.


“I like sewing and crafting in general and my favorite food is any kind of homemade soup/chili. New experiences always excite me and I love to travel. I have visited all over the United States and even gone overseas a couple of times. I am also a licensed scuba diver.”


The other new teachers are wife and husband, Karen and Matt Cochran.


Karen Cochran

Fifth grade

Karen Cochran grew up across the state line in Appleton City, Mo. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and junior high/middle school with a mathematic minor at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Mo. She also holds a master’s degree in library science from UCM.


A 29-year veteran in the classroom, she comes to Pleasanton from Adrian, Mo., where she taught for 26 years. While she has taught second grade, fourth grade, fifth grade, sixth grade and junior high math, the last 14 years of her career were spent as a library media specialist.


“I would like to get to know the staff, students and community members in Pleasanton this year, and I expect to have a great year,” Karen said. “My goal is to help my students see their worth, their potential, and learn how to think critically and observe the world around them.


“I’m hopeful that by having a small group of students in my classroom, I will be better able to achieve my goals.”



Matt Cochran

Elementary physician education, junior/senior high school activities director

Matt Cochran has also been a teacher for 29 years. He also comes to Pleasanton from Adrian, where he spent the last 24 years teaching, coaching football basketball, track and wresting. He grew up in Windsor, Mo.


His teaching assignments have included fifth grade, sixth grade, middle school math, and pre-algebra. He has also sponsored math teams for several years.


He earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary and junior high/middle school education with a minor in English from UCM. He began his college studies at Central Methodist University as a freshman, where he was on the football team before transferring to UCM his sophomore year.


Like his wife, he said he wants to get to know the people of Pleasanton. “We are really looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead,” he said. “I think I just really want to get a feel for Pleasanton and help the school/community any way I can.


The activities director said he wants to help develop Pleasanton’s sports programs into something great – something that the students, coaches, and community can look forward to and be proud of.


“I also want to help instill a winning culture and help kids be their best as students and as athletes,” Matt said. “I want students to have an expectation of success in everything they do in the classroom or on a team. “


The Cochrans have resided in Butler, Mo., since 1999, but plan to stay in Pleasanton during the week. Married 29 years, the couple have three boys. Their oldest son, Drew, lives and works in Chicago and will be married this fall.


Their second son, Adam, just graduated from college (both graduated with master’s degrees in accounting from the University of Missouri) and is moving to Denver. And youngest son Aaron will be starting his first year of college this fall.


“He will be attending Avila University this fall working towards a finance degree and wrestling for the Eagles,” Matt said.

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