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Gallant, Ehlert named WDC 'Superheroes of the Week'

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Mandy Gallant - Kindergarten Teacher

How many years have you been teaching at WDC Elementary?

This will be my 17th year teaching at WDC. I taught fourth grade my first year and then a combination of gifted/talented and junior kindergarten the following year. I did junior kindergarten for another five years and then had my first kindergarten class in 2006. This will be my 10th year in kindergarten.

Why did you want to be a teacher? Anyone influence you?

I think I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I remember my favorite thing to do when I was a little girl was to play 'school.' I had a desk, a pointer, a chalkboard, lots of books and art supplies - everything I thought a teacher needed. My kindergarten and second-grade teachers were pretty special, too. I remember Miss Cherney singing and playing the piano and Mrs. Austad instilling a love of reading as well as helping us to develop our creative side through art. All of my teachers from kindergarten through college have really been an influence in one way or another.

Do you think today's kindergartners are learning more than, say 15 years ago?

Things have certainly changed in the past 17 years that I've been teaching. I do feel like kindergarten today is really the 'first grade of yesterday.' Before I was teaching primarily letters and sounds, and now kindergartners are expected to be readers early on. I think it is critical that those working with younger students remember to be developmentally appropriate in their teaching. Kids still need to squish playdough to develop their fine motor skills, play games to learn how to take turns and play fair and just play to learn how to share and get along with one another. With the advancements in technology, now more than ever we need to learn how to socialize and communicate with each other.

What makes WDC a great school?

I think we have a dedicated and caring staff that take the students' best interest to heart. I've always liked the quote, 'Students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.' Personally, I work really hard on establishing those positive relationships early on in the school year. From there we can do anything.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in Thief River Falls and graduated from Lincoln High School in 1995. Go Prowlers! In 1999, I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Bemidji State University. In addition I hold both kindergarten and early childhood licensures. In 2005, I earned my Masters in Education through Southwest Minnesota State University. My husband, Norm, is the Activities Director/Dean of Students at WDC. He also coaches wrestling. We have two children, Grace and Madelyn. Grace is in sixth grade and Madelyn is a fifth grader. Both girls are at the middle school this year. Our girls are our biggest accomplishment and we just love watching them grow and learn. We feel so fortunate that our jobs have allowed us to be in the schools with them as well as freed up time for us to do things in the summer as a family. Life is good!

Any pastimes or hobbies?

I do spend a fair amount of time at school, but when I do get some time to myself I like to be with my family. We love to travel and take short road trips. I also enjoy time away with other teachers at scrapbooking retreats.

What makes you laugh?

My kindergartners! Did you know kids say the darndest things? I just love my job and the kids I get to work with every day. Their innocence and enthusiasm for life and learning keep me young at heart!

Tori Ehlert - Sixth-Grade Teacher

Since you are a new teacher at WDC this year, tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up on a farm near Battle Lake. I am the baby of the family, with two older brothers and one older sister. I have four nephews and two nieces. I attended Battle Lake High School and then went to college at Concordia-Moorhead and played basketball for four years.

Why did you want to be a teacher? Anyone influence you?

Ever since I was in ninth grade, I wanted to be a teacher. I was influenced by my third-grade teacher and volleyball coach, Mr. Johnson. Another huge influence was my professor/coach/friend Bob Kohler from Concordia. Mr. Kohler always had staff and students in his office 24/7 and I wanted to be someone like that. I wanted to be a positive influence and build relationships with people the way he did.

What do you enjoy most about teaching to sixth-grade students?

What I love most about working with the sixth-grade students is seeing their personalities shine. The more I get to know them, the more they surprise me with who they are. Their energy level definitely keeps me on my toes, too.

What has impressed you most about WDC so far?

I've been very impressed with how helpful and inviting everyone has been. Everyone I've met and have worked with have made it a great experience so far and I'm very happy with my decision to become a part of this community.

Any pastimes or hobbies?

I love being on the lake as much as possible in the summer. I'm a huge fan of music and movies. I like to be active and try new things, including traveling when I can. My family is a huge part of my life and we spend a lot of time together.

If you could be any sports figure for a day, who would that be and why?

There are a lot of sports figures I'd love to be for a day, but the first one that pops in my head would be UCLA men's basketball coach John Wooden. The amount of wisdom he had for on and off the court amazes me. The people he influenced and the lives he touched is something I truly admire.