Teachers and Staff

Elly Hixon
Elly Hixon - NDLC 50% Kindergarten Grade Teacher and 50% Reading Specialist

Elly taught 4 year old kindergarten in Kaukauna for 7 years before joining the NDLC team.  Obtaining her Master's Degree in Reading Education from UW-Oshkosh has greatly impacted her experience in working with our youngest readers.  Elly has been to several reading and writing trainings at Columbia University's Teacher's College in New York. She believes young learners are incredibly intriguing and motivating and looks forward to instilling a love of learning in each one of her students. Working in a collaborative environment while learning from colleagues and creating a community of teachers, learners and families are just two of the things Elly is most looking forward to this year at NDLC.

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Molly Santkuyl
Molly Santkuyl - NDLC Kindergarten Grade Teacher

Molly Santkuyl recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point with a major in Early Childhood Education. She also received minors in Special Education, Spanish, and Teaching English as a Second Language.  Having grown up in the Fox Valley area, Molly is happy to be back and is thrilled to be teaching Kindergarten next school year!  She looks forward to working collaboratively with NDLC staff and families to create the ideal opportunities for her students and provide for their needs in the best possible way.

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Samantha Schmalzer
Samantha Schmalzer - NDLC 1st Grade Teacher

Samantha is so excited to be a part of the NDLC family! She went to St. Norbert College in De Pere, WI and majored in Early Childhood/Elementary Education.  She has taught for the past four years (kindergarten, third grade, and first grade) and is THRILLED to be teaching first grade again next year! Samantha enjoys spending time with family and friends, being active, reading, and cheering on the Brewers and Packers! She plans to enjoy a relaxing summer outside, but is looking forward to a year full of lots of learning and adventure.  She can't wait to see what the year has in store for her and her class!

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Kathy Van Offeren
Kathy Van Offeren - NDLC 1st Grade Teacher

Kathy was a reading specialist at Electa Quinney Elementary where she collaborated with and suppored teachers in literacy instruction in their classrooms. She received her Master's Degree in Reading Education from UW Oshkosh and recently received National Board Certification in Literacy: Reading and Language Arts. Kathy has attended several reading and writing institutes at Columbia University (NY). Before becoming a Reading Specialist, Kathy taught 1st and 2nd grade. Together with her colleague Autumn Steif, she has provided numerous professional development trainings to teachers within, as well as outside of the Kaukauna Area School District. She believes that students reach their greatest learning potential when they are a part of a supportive community where their ideas are valued and their voices are heard.

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Molly Mares
Molly Mares - NDLC 50% Kindergarten Teacher

Molly comes to NLDC from LEARN Charter School Network in Chicago. It was there that Molly fell in love with the concept of a charter school being a school choice for families. Molly has attended multiple reading, writing, and coaching institutes at Columbia University in New York and is in the process of obtaining her Master's Degree from UW-Oshkosh in Educational Leadership.  She values meeting each student's individual needs to help them grow and exceed expectations at their own level. She enjoys being involved of a community of learners as she continues to learn from her students each day. Molly is excited to work closely with her students, families, and colleagues to create the best learning experience for each child.  Molly previously taught kindergarten at NDLC and is thrilled to partner with her colleague, Kathy Van Offeren, in co-teaching first grade.

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Kimberly Olson
Kimberly Olson - NDLC 4K Teacher

Kim is thrilled to join NDLC as a second grade teacher.  Her previous teaching experience includes teaching kindergarten for six years in Oshkosh. During that time, she acquired valuable experience in developing early literacy skills and served for several years as a model classroom for best practices in literacy instruction.  As a passionate lifelong learner, she also completed my Master's degree in Applied Leadership in Teaching and Learning from the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay and was awarded a grant to travel through Asia to learn about the Hmong culture.  Kim looks forward to continuing to grow her knowledge and skills at NDLC and collaborating with colleagues and families to help each child reach his or her full potential. 

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Lisa O'Brien
Lisa O'Brien - NDLC 2nd Grade Teacher

Lisa has worked with the families of Kaukauna for the past 15 years at both the 2nd and 4th grade levels. She is strongly committed to integrating literacy across the curriculum and in providing opportunities to differentiate instruction for students based on their abilities, backgrounds, learning styles and interests. She believes that each child is a unique individual who needs a secure, caring, and stimulating atmosphere in which to grow and mature emotionally, intellectually, physically, and socially. It is her desire as an educator to help students meet their fullest potential in these areas by providing an environment that is safe, supports risk-taking, and invites a sharing of ideas. Lisa believes that a positive attitude is contagious and she strives to build upon the unique qualities of each of the students in her classroom.

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Emily Linton
Emily Linton - NDLC 3rd Grade Teacher

Emily is looking forward to becoming a part of the NDLC team. She is from Fishers, Indiana and a graduate of Indiana University. In her classroom, she is excited to share her love of learning with her students. One of her favorite things to do is curl up with a good book! One she recently enjoyed was "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio. She also likes to hike, run, and swim in her spare time. 

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Courtney Kabara
Courtney Kabara - NDLC 3rd Grade Teacher

Courtney Kabara is very excited to begin her journey as a third grade teacher at New Directions Learning Community. She grew up on a dairy farm in Pulaski, WI as part of a large family. Courtney loves being outside, reading, creating new projects, and watching the Packers.  Her family instilled a love and passion for helping others learn. Courtney can't wait to help each child at NDLC grow as a learner and to learn from them as well. She loves the family involvement at NDLC and can't wait to work with all of you! She is so excited to become a part of NDLC and the Kaukauna Community.

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Stephanie Streck
Stephanie Streck - NDLC 4th Grade Teacher

Stephanie has had experience teaching 2nd and 4th grade. Stephanie feels that 9 and 10 year olds hold more excitement and wonder about real life situations than anyone she knows. Teaching 4th graders is always a treat! Stephanie is excited to be a part of a charter school that focuses on the individual child.  Seeing each child grow at their pace is very rewarding for her. She plans to foster students independence and curiosity through hands on learning in every subject area. Stephanie plans to work hard with her students to develop the skills needed to become lifelong learners. Stephanie is originally from Kimberly, but moved to Kaukauna a few years ago with her husband, Kraig, their daughter Lyla, their son Kole and a yellow lab named Trigger.

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Barbara Graunke
Barbara Graunke - NDLC 4th Grade Teacher

Barbara brings 16 years of teaching experience to NDLC. She taught first grade, Kindergarten and Pre- K. She believes that students can learn from each other. She consistently encourages her students to "think outside the box" and provides them a safe environment to explain their thinking. She feels strongly that growing and learning as a teacher enables her to nurture students and challenge them to always do their best. Barbara is trained in reading, writing and content-area workshops through the Teachers College at Columbia University. She has also attended coaching training and looks forward to continued professional development opportunities at NDLC.

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Autumn Steif
Autumn Steif - NDLC Reading Specialist

Autumn has taught 2nd and 5th grade before getting her Master's Degree in Reading Education from UW-Oshkosh. She was a Reading Specialist at River View and then a 3rd grade teacher at NDLC.  She is currently a Reading Specialist where she works with teachers and students to lift the level of reading and writing instruction and learning. Autumn has been trained at Columbia University (NY) in Reading, Writing, and School Reform. She has been instrumental in developing both reading and writing curriculum and facilitating teacher training for the Kaukauna Area School District. Autumn has had the honor of collaborating with her colleague, Kathy Van Offeren, to not only train teachers within the District, but also around the state through workshops, academies, and conferences. She believes that literacy is at the core of everything we do and that children benefit most when their teachers constantly seek to outgrow themselves professionally.

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