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BEA welcomes 15 new teachers this year

BEA also hires directors of curriculum and instruction and transportation

By Fiona Edberg - Staff Writer | Sep 5, 2021

Above are Blue Earth Area Schools’s new teachers gathered in front of Blue Earth Area Elementary School. Standing to the left of the sign, from left to right, are Kristie Rolling, Blake Boran, and Cody Sukalski. Kneeling in front of the sign, from left to right, are Danielle Johannsen, Morgan Franklin, Gianni Alm, Brittany Eckhardt, and Naseem Shahrivar. Standing to the right of the sign, from left to right, are TJ Schmidtke, Kali Erichsrud, Megan Sukalski, Jennifer Kafka, and Elta Sparks. Not pictured are Jade Foth and Kelsey Zbaracki.

After a school year full of twists and turns, Blue Earth Area School District is looking forward to returning to a slightly more normal 2021-22 school year. Part of the district’s plans include welcoming the talents of 15 new teachers when classes commence on Sept. 7 for high schoolers and on Sept. 9 for elementary students.

The large crew of new teachers includes Gianni Alm, Blake Boran, Brittany Eckhardt, Kali Erichsrud, Jade Foth, Morgan Franklin, Danielle Johannsen, Jennifer Kafka, Kristie Rolling, TJ Schmidtke, Naseem Shahrivar, Elta Sparks, Cody Sukalski, Megan Sukalski, and Kelsey Zbaracki.

Gianni Alm

Alm will be Blue Earth Area Elementary School’s Title I teacher.

Alm received a B.S. degree in elementary education from Crown College.

She has previously taught third grade at Granada-Huntley-East Chain School, as well as serving as their K-5 Title I teacher. She also taught fifth grade at the Minnesota International Middle School.

Alm and her husband, Mitch, have two daughters: Mila and Sofi.

Blake Boran

Boran will be teaching fourth grade at Blue Earth Area Elementary School.

He graduated from St. John’s University with a degree in elementary education. He went on to teach fourth and fifth grade in the Kimball and Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton School Districts. He was also the athletic director/community education director at Staples-Motley School District, and taught 9-12 health and physical education at Waterville-Elysian-Morristown School District.

Boran and his wife, Katelyn, recently celebrated their marriage on July 17 this past summer.

Brittany Eckhardt

Eckhardt will serve as a part-time chemistry teacher at Blue Earth Area High School.

Eckhardt received her degree in biochemistry from MSU, Mankato, in 2015. She is also working to receive her Masters of Art in teaching from MSU, Mankato.

Eckhardt has previously taught in undergraduate biology labs. She did her field experience at Blue Earth Area High School.

She married her husband, Dan, in 2018.

Kali Erichsrud

Erichsrud will teach fifth grade at Blue Earth Area Elementary School.

She attended MSU, Mankato, to receive her degree in elementary education.

She has taught for nine years, spending some time in the Fairmont, Maple River, Cherry School, and St. Louis County districts. This will be her third year teaching fifth grade.

Erichsrud and her husband, Dustin, have a 15-month old son, Coy.

Jade Foth

Foth will serve as the Blue Earth Area Jumpstart lead teacher.

She graduated from Blue Earth Area High School in 2018, and attended Bethany Lutheran College for early childhood and elementary education.

This will be Foth’s first year of teaching. She is excited to get to know her students and their families.

Morgan Franklin

Franklin will teach elementary art at Blue Earth Area Elementary School.

Franklin graduated from Blue Earth Area High School in 2016, and then received her teaching degree in art from MSU, Mankato.

She substitute-taught during the spring of 2021 in Blue Earth Area School District. She also student taught in the district in the fall of 2020.

Franklin’s family is also from the area. Her mother and brother are both Blue Earth Area graduates.

Danielle Johannsen

Johannsen will teach second grade at Blue Earth Area Elementary School.

She received her degree at University of Sioux Falls.

Johannsen student taught kindergarten at Pettigrew Elementary School in Sioux Falls, and also subbed as a paraprofessional and teacher in Minnesota last spring.

Her mother, Kereen, currently works in Albert Lea and also serves on the Wells ambulance crew. Her boyfriend, Chris, also works in Albert Lea. Her sister, Erika, is a senior this year at USC.

Jennifer Kafka

Kafka will teach K-12 ELL and sixth and seventh grade communications.

She received her degree in social science, with a minor in psychology, from Upper Iowa University, and her degree in social studies teaching from MSU, Mankato.

Kafka has taught special education in the past, and she has also taught advanced world history and United States history at Albert Lea High School.

She and her husband, Paul, have four children.

Kristie Rolling

Rolling will serve as a K-7 special education teacher.

She has received her degree from MSU, Mankato, and also has a Master’s degree from Grand Canyon University, in Arizona.

Rolling has 12 years of teaching experience in both K-12 special education and administration.

She and her husband, Keith, have three grown children, and two grandchildren.

TJ Schmidtke

Schmidtke will teach second grade at Blue Earth Area Elementary School.

He has degrees in K-6 elementary education and 5-8 social studies from SMSU, Marshal.

He spent two years as an emotional and behavioral disorder teacher, and one year as an alternative learning center teacher. He also spent 10 years as a fourth grade teacher.

He and his wife, Stacy, have three children: Koby, Ella, and Gibson.

Naseem Shahrivar

Shahrivar will teach middle and high school special education.

She studied art at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Shahrivar has substitute taught at Blue Earth Area Schools previously.

She has one son, Taelib, and two cats, Noodle and Sushi.

Elta Sparks

Sparks will teach first grade at Blue Earth Area Elementary School.

She received her Bachelor of Arts in music and also has an ABCTE Initial Teaching certification.

Sparks worked with Minnesota Reading Corps for three years as a K-3 literacy tutor. She also taught third grade for four years in Idaho, and third and fourth grade virtually last year.

Sparks’s family lives in Mankato, and she is glad to be close to them again.

Cody Sukalski

Sukalski will teach 8-12 health and physical education at Blue Earth Area High School.

Sukalski received his Bachelor of Arts from Gustavus Adolphus College in health and physical education.

This will be his tenth year of teaching. He has taught for nine years previously in Anoka-Hennepin School District.

He and his wife, Megan, have two sons: Easton and Grayson.

Megan Sukalski

Sukalski will teach fifth grade at Blue Earth Area Elementary School.

She received her bachelor’s degree from MSU, Mankato, and then received her Master’s degree from Concordia University in St. Paul.

She is married to fellow new teacher, Cody, and has two children with him: Easton and Grayson.

Kelsey Zbaracki

Zbaracki will serve as the band director for Blue Earth Area School District.

She received her degree from St. Mary’s University.

She graduated from Blue Earth Area High School, and credits the late Mark Frahm for inspiring her to become a music teacher.

Zbaracki and her husband, Matthew, have a son named William, and are expecting a second son in August.

Additional New Staff

Also joining Blue Earth Area Schools this year are new staff members Allison Schmidt and LeAnne Scholl.

Schmidt will serve as the district’s director of curriculum and instruction. She has a bachelor’s degree from St. Cloud State University, and a Master’s and specialist degree from MSU, Mankato. She has served as both a teacher and administrator. She and her husband, Barry, have two dogs.

Scholl will serve as the district’s transportation director. She has many years of bus driving experience. She and her husband, Brad, have two children: Dan and Bethany.