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New teachers, staff arrive in Galena to start a new year

Mr. Schwoch in his social studies classroom on the GILA campus. Photo by Emily Tomlinson.

Mr. Schwoch in his social studies classroom on the GILA campus. Photo by Emily Tomlinson.

By EMILY TOMLINSON, staff writer

The new social teacher on the GILA campus is Kevin Schwoch.

Mr. Schwoch teaches world geography, Alaska studies, and civics while teaching students to be respectful and responsible young adults.

Kevin Schwoch was born in Tacoma, Wash., on August 14, 1988. His parents are Jerry and Diane Schwoch.

He went to Pioneer Elementary School, Olympic Middle School, and Auburn High School, all in Washington state. In 2009, he went to Green River Community College.

In 2011, he went to Central Washington University for a bachelor’s in history teaching. After graduating, he worked as a substitute teacher and then worked for the Yukon–Koyukuk School District as a history teacher, spending several years teaching Allakaket.

Mr. Schwoch spent three years teaching in Togiak. In 2015, he enrolled at UAA in Anchorage and is currently working on a master’s in educational leadership with the goal of becoming a principal.

“I hope to make my classes fun and exciting as possible,” he said. “The biggest challenge for me is to balance my time in between collage classes and my students.”

He said that the school year is going really well.

“I’m am very impressed by the maturity of the students in my classes… I was happily surprised by how the students were welcomed to GILA,” he said.

Mr. Schwoch is the second oldest of five siblings. Mindy, the oldest, lives in Port Orchard, Wash., and works as a veterinarian tech. Kayla, 26, lives in Pullman, Wash., is currently schooling in France. Nicole, 22, lives in Auburn, Wash., and is going to college to become a veterinary tech. Samantha, 14, lives in Ravensdale, Wash., and is currently in junior high. Nick is in the sixth grade.

His eventual goal is to become a principal or assistant principal.


By London Keplinger, staff writer

Jack Von Thaer went from trucking, fishing and working as a ranger at the Grand Canyon to holding the position of assistant principal at the GILA campus.

Mr. Von Thaer said that he hopes to provide an environment for students to accomplish their goals, “I love how everyone comes from all over to make this work,” he said when asked about what he thinks about the school year so far.

Jack Von Thaer was born in November 1963 to his parents Jack and Barbara Von Thaer.

He has one younger brother, Richard Von Thaer, 51, who worked for a dish network putting satellites up before he had a back injury.

He lived in Warren, Ohio, until the age of 18 where he attended Laird Elementary, Lake View Junior High School, and Trumbull County Joint Vocational School for his junior and seniors years, where he graduated in 1982.

After graduating high school he joined the Air Force and was an air-to-ground operator for five years.
To prepare for his job as assistant principal, Mr. Von Thaer attended the University of Maryland overseas branch, which partners with the Department of Defense. He then finished at UAA with a bachelor’s in English and a master’s in secondary education and educational leadership.

He said he was surprised to see how spread out the campuses were. His biggest challenge was getting to understand the operational systems of the district.

Jack Von Thaer hopes to make this school year a good one. “I want the kids to get along with each other and be successful in their academic goals,” he said.


By Wassillie Gust, staff writer

The thing that most surprised the new academic support teacher at GILA, Shayla Schwoch, was “how great the dining hall food was.”

Mrs. Schwoch likes the school year so far because everyone is positive; she said she helps students to get their grades up while helping students be successful.

Mrs. Schwoch was born March 31, 1988, at Vancouver, Wash. Her parents are Cheri Padel and Jim Hilby.

She has three siblings, a 24-year-old sister named Avery, a 21-year-old brother named Erik, and a 9-year-old sister named Olivia. Avery is a school aide, Erick does train maintenance, and Olivia is in elementary school.

She went to Chinook Elementary, Olympic Middle School, and Auburn Senior High School. She graduated from high school in 2006 and got her bachelor’s at Central Washington University. She is currently working on her master’s degree.

After college, she was a secretary and a filing clerk. She said that she learned patience while working as a receptionist.

A little fact that she wanted us to know is that her huskies Nisha and Rose are her “kids.”


By Kaitlyn Hendrickson, staff writer

Tiffany Tal, the new GILA field representative, said that she does not look forward to the cold and the darkness of this coming winter.

Ms. Tal is a field representative dealing with every students’ papers and information. This is her first time in Alaska. Before she came here, she was in a tax agency and worked as an assistant manager for a business.

Tiffany was born on May 14, 1993, in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Moche and Angelica Tal, who now live in New Jersey. She has two brothers and one sister, Nathaniel, 20, Ethan, 20, and Ariella, 9. Tiffany attended Dugan Elementary School, Marlboro Middle School, and Marlboro High School, graduating in 2011.

Afterward, she wanted to travel around the world, but went to college instead, spending three years at Rutgers University in New Jersey and one year at Arizona State University, where she got her Global Studies bachelor’s degree in 2015.

She said that has learned from her past jobs to get to the job she has now. In her job, she gives interviews to incoming students and prepares their paperwork. Tiffany is hoping to travel all around Alaska and get more experience in her new job, but she is still adjusting to Alaska and its winters.

Ms. Tal likes how the students and staff are all nice, cool, and funny, especially her bosses, Mr. Von Thaer and Mr. Riddle.

She was also surprised at how Galena was small and doesn’t have a lot of people. She went to the liquor store, as people said it was the main store they go to, and she said that she was not used to it and was not expecting it to be so small. Anyways, she is excited and she likes it here.


By Megan Patsy, staff writer

The new SHS elementary teacher, Rachel Wied, said that she loves the new school year. Rachel Wied teaches elementary classes at Sidney C. Huntington School.

She moved here from her last teaching job in Montana.

She said that she has wanted to teach from a young age.

Rachel is 36 years old and was born in Titusville, Florida. She attended English Estates Elementary School and Greenwood Middle School, and graduated from Lake Mary High School in 1999. Her parents are Carol Polk and Dale Polk Jr.

She has three brothers. Dale the third, her oldest brother, works in marketing. Alex, her younger brother, works in accounting. Matt, her youngest brother, is a law student. She began her course of action in teaching at UAF, earning her bachelors in education and then getting her masters in leadership education at Western Governor’s University.

When asked what she wanted to do after she graduated from high school, she said, “Go to school to become a teacher.” The jobs she had after graduating was the teaching job in Montana, then she moved here to teach. To prepare for her job now, she said she “studied hard in school and listened to my mentor teacher. Lots of dedication and believed in myself to do it.”

In her job here at SHS, she said she teaches and encourages young minds to believe in themselves. She hopes her students are “well prepared for their next year of school and that they find enjoyment in school.”

She thinks her greatest challenge of the school year will be “getting to know students and how to encourage them.”

Her take on this school year so far: “Love it”.

One thing she lists as a surprising thing about Galena is “how much there is to offer.”


By Aaron Susook, staff writer

“I think it’s a pretty good year so far. It’s had its ups and downs,” said Zacari Pomrening, the new special education aide for the elementary students of SHS. Mr. Pomrening recently graduated from Galena and hopes that the kids he’s helping reach their goals.

He is from Marshfield, Wisconsin and has attended six schools over the course of his 18 year life. He was born on April 20th, 1999. Schools Mr. Pomrening has attended were Athens Elementary School, Johnny Oldman School, Athens High School, Three Lakes High School, Pelican High School, and Sidney C. Huntington School.

“So I follow kids around and make sure they’re doing what their supposed to,” he said, and he also said he’s happy he got the job as a special education aide. The young man was previously a cashier at Sweetsir’s. “The biggest surprise is how much I’m getting along with these teachers.”

Zac said that he wanted to attend AVTEC after graduating high school, but ended up getting the job here in Galena, where he follows in the steps of his mother, Dawn Pomrening, who is the junior high as a teacher.