New, returning staff joins school

The 8 a.m. school bell rings and class has begun. Everyone’s a little nervous to start their year, and that doesn’t just mean the students. Just as nervous, the teachers, especially newcomers, stand at the front of the class, ready to take on the year.

Quite a few teachers have joined staff this year, or have moved positions as faculty members, taking the place of teachers who have left.

Physical education (P.E.) and health teacher Nathan Towns joined the high school staff. Before coming to Augusta, Towns taught a year of P.E. in Garden City, as well as a year of Industrial Technology in Stafford.

Starting when he was young, Towns enjoyed sports. This led him to become a defensive coach for the football team.

“Well, ever since I was a little kid, I loved football. Football was my number one sport when I was a kid growing up … I always enjoyed defense the most,” Towns said. “With my physical size and abilities, I was a defensive back at the high school level and I did play a year of college as a defensive back. That’s basically where my expertise lays.”

With my physical size and abilities, I was defensive back at the high school level and I did play a year of college as defensive back,”

— Nathan Towns

Towns enjoys teaching at Augusta and feels it is his favorite school so far. The only problem he wishes he could change is how little he feels people are participating in football on the field and in the stands.

Health and physical science teacher Craig Thompson has returned to Augusta to teach.

“I was at Augusta for 15 years prior to leaving as a science instructor and also as an administrator. I was the Dean of Students and the Assistant Principal,” Thompson said.

Before leaving, Thompson taught physical science, as well as the health science. Choir teacher Jerrod McNutt was also one of Thompson’s students in the theater program during his first time in AHS.

“I left Augusta because I lived in Winfield, so I thought that would give me more time with my family, you know, not having that commute time in there. When it came where I wanted to get back in education there was no place I’d rather be than here at Augusta,” Thompson said.

Unlike other teachers, Thompson has seen Augusta change without being directly part of the experience.

Thompson faces new challenges coming back to the school, being that the school is more reliable on technology now.

When it came where I wanted to get back in education there was no place I’d rather be than here at Augusta,”

— Nathan Towns

“It’s me playing catch up now,” Thompson said.

In addition this year, the school has gained Travis Olive as the new athletic director. Before coming to Augusta, Olive worked as an elementary principal and then high school principal for St. John. St. John was significantly smaller than the larger schools, like Augusta, that he was accustomed to.

“I was looking for a new opportunity… I went to a bigger high school. It’s kind of what I’ve always been used to. I never envisioned myself in a smaller school where a hundred kids were your whole ninth through 12th grade,” Olive said.

Before going into administration, Olive was a coach for various sports, but at St. John, he still took on some of the jobs of an athletic director. For example, Olive helped in interviewing new coaches, as well as finding officials for the games.

Since becoming the athletic director, Olive has had to adapt to a different environment and get a feel for how the sports program runs.

“We have a lot more sports than I am used to. Where I come from, there was cross country, football, and volleyball. That was pretty much all of the fall activities,” Olive said.

In the upcoming years, Olive plans to continue the athletic programs the same way they have been run in the past and only plans to make changes if he feels they are necessary.

“I think probably the worst thing you can do is right off the bat is come in and change everything. I think you’ve gotta be around, get a feeling on how things are, and go from there,” Olive said.

Olive hopes that the students want to participate in the sports programs, whether it is on or off the field. He hopes that the students and community fill the stands and extend their support to the players of all sports teams.

English teacher Laura Caponegro has joined the language arts department.

“I was doing two things; well I’m still sort of staff in both, but I’m an adjunct instructor at Butler in the religious department. I was in the New Testament most recently, and ethics mostly.”

Caponegro decided to come to Augusta to have her first experience at a public high school. Instead of caving to the stresses of a new teacher, Caponegro finds her inspiration from a quote by poet John Henry Newman, “To grow as to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”

Unlike many of the other new teachers, Jennie Lary has changed positions in the high school. Though originally a special education teacher and then an English teacher, Lary has always felt that her calling was being a counselor.

“It’s kind of funny because students ask me, ‘Did you want to be a counselor? Did you want this job?’ and I’m always like ‘Yes, I did,’ ” Lary said. “I always wanted to be a counselor, but I always kind of found that along the way after I taught for a while, I really felt like it was my calling.”

I always wanted to be a counselor, but I always kind of found that along the way after I taught for a while, I really felt like it was my calling,”

— Jennie Lary

Instead of grading projects and essays, Lary worries more about getting students enrolled and into class.  Though Lary’s workload has begun to even out, she feels that every year, at the beginning, it will be stressful and busy.

“I know that every year it will probably be the most difficult or the most hectic time, just because I wanna make sure all of my seniors and all of my sophomores are getting all of their credits,” Lary said.

At the end of the previous school year, Lary expected to continue teaching English and told students to expect to see her this year. In June, she received a phone call from the school and was told the position had opened and was offered the position. Lary jumped on the opportunity.

“I had no clue that was going to happen. It was a really great surprise and so I felt kind of bad because I had told the students I would be their teacher again,” Lary said.

Overall, Lary misses seeing the students together, since she just sees them one-on-one. However, Lary loves the opportunity she has been given to connect with the students as individuals.

“I like that I just get to talk with the kids. I like that I just get to talk about things that I wouldn’t sometimes have time for in the classroom,” Lary said.