Updated: Aug 22
Tiffany Akins, left, and Alecia Henderson are two of the new faces in the Jayhawk USD 346 district that are tied to Oopa!, the district's new food service contractor. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)
MOUND CITY – When school begins for students at Jayhawk USD 346 on Thursday, Aug. 18, there will be several new faces to greet them every day. Students, and their parents, will have had the opportunity to meet both new and familiar teachers during a conference on Tuesday.
Many of the new faces have to do with the school’s contract with Oopa! Food Management Inc., a St. Louis-area company that provides foodservice management for school districts.
Nicki Traul, who stepped away from the classroom for a few years after being an elementary and junior high teacher, is making her return to education by teaching math and English in the junior high.
But she will also take on the job of being an intervention instructor in the high school with the goal of helping students improve assessment scores.
A graduate of Pittsburg State University –where she earned her bachelor’s, master’s and educational specialist degrees – the Blue Mound resident said she was excited to be back in the classroom. “I have missed working with students,” she said.
Her husband, John Traul, already teaches at JLHS, and the couple’s daughter, Jaci, attends Northwestern Oklahoma State University on a rodeo scholarship. She said she enjoys reading and running.
Stepping in to teach third grade at Jayhawk Elementary this year is Haley Brown. Brown, who hails from Phenix City, Ala., which is located just across the border from western Georgia, graduated from Fort Hays State University last year.
Now living in Fort Scott, she said she is looking forward to providing a positive learning environment for JES students.
She said she has always loved working with children and from a very early age wanted to be a teacher.
“I can’t wait to watch my students learn and grow,” she said.
A 2021 graduate of Kansas State University, Annie Humbolt grew up in Mulvane, Kan., and attended high school there. As the new agriculture teacher and FFA sponsor, she will teach exploratory agriculture for junior high students as well as animal science, ag leadership, agriscience and horticulture at the high school level.
She said she was fortunate enough to have great teachers at Mulvane High School and she wants to be a part of a program that provides that same opportunities for Jayhawk-Linn students.
“I chose to become a teacher because I want to support students through their educational journey,” Humbolt said.
One of the most important jobs in education is the school secretary, and Amanda Williamson has been hired to help run the front desk at Jayhawk Elementary School. She is looking forward to taking on the challenge of keeping students and staff in line after long-time secretary Keitha Brown retired in June.
A lifelong resident of Prescott, she is a graduate of JLHS. She said she loves to travel with her husband. And while she said she likes to travel anywhere, she particularly loves hanging out on a beach and listening to the ocean waves come rolling in.
Tiffany Akins is the new director of nutrition services with Oopa! A Belton (Mo.) High School graduate, she lives in Fort Scott and has a year’s experience in foodservice.
She said she loves to cook and is very knowledgeable in food safety and nutrition. Students and staff alike will like to know that Akins’ goals are to make tasty meals and make sure that students don’t leave the lunchroom hungry.
“I am super excited to get this school year started and work with the district and staff,” she said.
Like Akins, Alecia Henderson works for Oopa!, and she is the kitchen manager for JES. A Fort Scott resident, she has taken courses at Longview Community College, Johnson County Community College and the University of Phoenix.
She said she is looking forward to working with the Oopa! Team, the district staff and the community in providing a fun and positive food experience for the students.
Henderson said she loves to cook. She also said she is creative in the kitchen when it comes to making food that is fun for students. She said she expects working at JES will be a very rewarding experience.
A paraeducator for the Jayhawk district for several years, Wendi Baldwin is not a new staff member. However, her position with the district has changed.
This year she will be a foodservice authorized representative, a challenge she is excited about.
If that isn’t exciting enough, though, her other job will help get the fans at school athletic events pumped up. She will be the sponsor of the cheerleading team this year.
Students in the classroom won’t be the only people who are learning this year. Malcolm Cox, who graduated from Pleasanton High School this year, plans on doing a lot of learning this year as well.
Cox is the new maintenance assistant, and his job will take him from rooftops working on HVAC units to the floors. He said he applied for the job because he was interested in maintenance work and it seemed very interesting. An added bonus, he said, was getting considerable work experience.