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This page is dedicated to learning more about all the great employees of District 484. We love our TEAM!
Mark Gruber, District Head Custodian
I’m Mark Gruber, Head Custodian for the Pierz schools. In my job I oversee the maintenance of all of the district’s buildings and grounds, and schedule busing for field trips and extracurricular activities. In my free time...just kidding. What free time!?
I like my job because it gives me the opportunity to do something different each day. I like problem solving, and with two large buildings with various additions, there are plenty of opportunities to tackle issues that arise. These challenges keep me on my toes—I’m glad I got to know the system piece by piece! A lot of people think that because the teachers have the summer off, we do too. Summer is one of our busiest times as it gives the custodial staff the opportunity to clean each classroom and make necessary repairs and upgrades.
My wife, Gwen, and I raised our family on a farm that has been in my family for nearly one hundred years. We have five adult children: Stacey, Kristine, Bob, Paul, and Jack; three in-laws: Scott, Connor, and Beth; and nine grandchildren: Felicity, Noah, Lilah, Maggie, Gavin, Miles, Camille, Kaitlyn, and Eli. Read Mark's Full Bio
JD Folger, Custodian at Pioneer
Hi! I’m J.D. Folger, custodian at Pioneer Elementary. I grew up in a small town and wanted the same experience for my kids. Pierz Schools was a big part of moving here.
I am the youngest of seven. I attended grade school in Lowry, Minnesota and high school in Glenwood, Minnesota. I then went to vocational school in Pipestone for meat cutting. I have since worked in m any meat departments including Coborn’s, Meyer’s Meats, Thielen Meats and Pierz Foods. I was then hired as a custodian at the elementary school and have worked here for over 15 years. Read J.D.'s Full Bio
Patti Block--Para, High School
Hi! My name is Patti Block. I am in my 18th year as a Special Education Para at the High School. As a para I love going to to different classrooms with the different kids and constantly learn new things. One of the best things about Pierz Schools is the people. I can honestly say that I love my co-workers. They make the good days great and the bad days better!
As the youngest child, I grew up on a farm just northeast of Pierz with my parents, Joe and Pat O’Neil, 4 brothers and 5 sisters. Yep! 12 of us in one house, and only one bathroom! How did we all survive? I attended St Joe’s Catholic School (Holy Trinity) as a kid. My brothers, sisters and I spent a lot of time outside. Whether it was doing chores, picking weeds in my dad’s massive garden, playing games or playing ball--we were outside. Read Patti's Full Bio
Kelly Pohlkamp--Media Assistant, Pioneer Elementary
I am Kelly Pohlkamp, and I work in the media center at Pioneer Elementary. I enjoy the day to day contact with the students….whether it be in the computer lab and seeing their excitement as they work through puzzles in coding and the BreakOut EDU Escape games or in the library and helping them find a book that they will enjoy and is a good fit for them.
I attended Pierz Healy High School (go class of ‘82!) and was a member of OEA (Office Education Association), a flutist in Band, Student Council, Drama and a cheerleader for Football, Basketball and Wrestling.
After graduation, I went to school for Interior Design and Architectural Drafting. Although I no longer work in that area, I still love to read about and shop for home décor.
When my children, Zachary and Alexandra were young, I started spending time volunteering in their classrooms. Over the years, that turned into subbing and then a job as a paraprofessional in the classroom. About 10 years ago I took a position in the Computer Lab/Media Center and have been here ever since! Read Kelly's Full Bio
Becky Ruprecht, Title 1 Teacher - Holy Trinity and Pioneer
Hi! I am Becky Ruprecht, and I am a Title 1 teacher (alongside Tanya Thielen and the rest of the amazing speech, reading and special education teams!) at Pioneer Elementary. I love helping children learn, especially those who struggle. I was in title in 1st and 2nd grade and remember that special teacher, Mrs. Peach, who helped me learn to read. Her patience and hard work inspired me to volunteer with her during high school and I went on to become a special education and elementary teacher.
Principal Tom Otte on Becky's work to improve literacy at both Pioneer and Holy Trinity: "Becky has a unique position as both a special education teacher and a Title I teacher. She spends her mornings at Pioneer working with children in Title I and our SUCCESS program and she spends her afternoons providing special education and Title I services to children at Holy Trinity. She is also a building literacy leader and works with grades 4-6 as our building expert on STAR assessments. This means she schedules the STAR benchmark monitoring and works with the data to help teachers make sense of it and implement instructional adjustments to meet the needs of children. Becky has also worked as a play director and assistant for a number of years. Becky's schedule is challenging, yet she approaches every day with grace, confidence, and skill." Read Becky's Full Bio
Jill Hoheisel - Special Education at Healy - "We are very fortunate"
Hello! I’m Jill Hoheisel, one of five Special Education teachers at the high school. In addition, I teach the elementary Extended School Year (ESY) during the summer months, oversee the Pierz Alternative Program (PAP), chaperone many of the extracurricular activities after school, and assist with the concession stands.
I was raised in the Hillman area on a family dairy farm. Growing up on the farm with my three sisters and brother, my Mom and Dad pushed us to work hard. Together we shared many responsibilities including milking cows before and after school, feeding calves, baling hay, and picking rocks. I’m grateful not only for the childhood memories that this time left me with, but for the lifelong lessons that were instilled in me. Growing up on the family farm taught me the importance of family, working together, respect, faith, and the true meaning of hard work. Little did I know at the time, I would later apply all of these skills to a career where my education once started!
I attended and graduated from Pierz Healy High School. While attending high school, I participated in basketball, Student Council, yearbook, band, and pep band. When I was a junior on the basketball team, we were the first girls team to make it to state and bring home a 3rd place trophy. It was so exciting! Read Jill's Full Bio
Sara Underhill - Art Teacher, World Traveler, Student-Focused
I’m Mrs. Sara Underhill, the high school art teacher. I have been teaching art in Pierz for 8 years. Prior to working in Pierz, I was the middle level art teacher in Milaca. When I started college, I actually thought I was going to be a chemist. It turns out that I’m not very good at chemistry!
I think being an art teacher is the best job ever. I enjoy being able to try new materials and help students problem solve and be creative. Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” My goal as a teacher is to make artists. When I say “make artists,” I don’t expect every student that leaves my class to produce art as a profession or even as a hobby. I want my students to be reflective, committed young adults that are able to think critically, collaborate productively, communicate effectively, and be creative. That’s the artists I want to create.
The activities I was involved with helped to shape me into the person I am today - in swimming I practiced persistence and dedication. My art classes helped me practice focus and pushed me out of my comfort zone so that I would try new things. One of the biggest things I see with my Art Club students is just having a place to fit in. Everyone is different and unique and needs a place to be themselves. I found that and I hope that Pierz students are able to find that as well. That’s why activities matter. Read Sara's Full Bio
Kim Horning - Healy Graduate, Loving Pierz Schools for Her Own Children
¡Hola! Me llamo Kim Horning (Hi! My name is Kim Horning), and I am the Spanish Teacher at Healy High School. I am also the Spanish Club Advisor and Junior High track coach. You may be more familiar with my maiden name, Zimney, my sisters, my dad and I have all enjoyed many years at Pierz Schools!
While attending Healy High, I played volleyball, basketball and ran track. I was a cheerleader and danced. Some of my time was spent with the jazz band, pep band, choir, yearbook, drama club and student council. Being in all these activities taught me so much -- how to work with others, how to be a good teammate and employee, it taught me compassion and empathy, and how to set a goal and follow through to accomplish it.
I chose to become a teacher because I love school. I love learning and I want to share that enthusiasm with others.
Read Kim's Full Bio
Georgina Kowalczyk - Around the World and Teaching in Pierz
My name is Georgina Kowalczyk, also known to my students as Mrs. Kowalczyk, Ms. K or sometimes just, “Hey.”
Ever since I can remember, I have loved to read, go to school and learn new things. This would explain why I became a teacher...I get to read, go to school and learn something new everyday! I have a BA in International Business, Spanish and French from SCSU. And through the Study Abroad program at SCSU, I studied at the University of Toulouse in France - UT1.
Read Gina's Full Bio
Pat Tax Brings Passion for Agriculture, Learning to Healy Students
I grew up on a 70 cow dairy farm in Mayhew Lake and remember watching as my dad poured milk into cream cans and then as we progressed, into a step saver to a bulk tank. I married Chuck Tax in 2002 and began a second career as a dairy farmer. In 2016, Chuck and I leased our operation to another young couple trying to get into the dairy industry and our lives as dairy farmers changed drastically. We still shudder at the thought of thawing drinking cups and dealing with frozen beaters on the manure spreader in these cold winter days.
I am so proud to be a member of the staff at Pierz schools. I am humbled by how hard and how much time staff will take to ensure students’ successes. Read Pat's Full Bio
It's All in the Family for Marcus and Tracey Artner
It is with great pleasure that I can introduce myself as the business manager at Pierz Public Schools. My name is Tracey Artner and I joined the team in August 2017. I was born and raised in Hillman, MN. I graduated from Onamia High School in 2000, and went on to receive a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management from Rasmussen Business College. I have worked in a school district setting for
15 years, the last five years in the business office.
My husband Marcus works at Healy High as a math teacher and coach. We have an 8 month old daughter, Addison. When I’m not at work, I enjoy gardening, fishing, spending time with my family, and attending school events. I feel very fortunate and excited to be part of the school community. I look forward to getting to know more families in the Pierz community. Please feel free to stop and say hi! Read the Artner's Full Bio
Pierz Schools Fortunate to Have Speech Language Pathologists on Staff
Most districts have a hard time finding and keeping one Speech Language Pathologist on staff full time- and if they do have one, many times they have to share the practitioner with another district. In Pierz, we are fortunate to have not one but two! Meet our SLPs and their families and find out how and why they came to call Pierz home.
My name is Maria Andrea and I am a Speech-Language Pathologist for the Pierz School District. I am originally from Brainerd where I graduated from high school in 2009. At that time, I considered a career path in the mathematics, teaching, or engineering fields and had never heard of “speech-language pathology.” Following a job shadow experience of a school-based SLP, I decided to change course and major in speech-language hearing sciences. I was anxious and excited for a career helping individuals of all ages with communication and swallowing disorders and the flexibility to practice in either a medical or educational setting. I received my Bachelor of Science in Communication Disorders in 2012 and Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology in 2014 from Minnesota State University Moorhead. I moved to Pierz in 2014 when I married my husband, Josh, and began the first few years of my career as an SLP working in the Brainerd and Little Falls School Districts. I am now a full-time SLP for the Pierz School District, a highly rewarding job which has allowed me the balance of maintaining my SLP career with family life (we welcomed a baby boy in May!) I currently service Pierz students in the elementary and high school settings. I look forward to continuing my work as an SLP and raising our son as a Pierz Pioneer!
I’m Jessica Teske, a speech-language pathologist (SLP) in the Pierz School District. This is my fourth year working in Pierz. I primarily work with preschool through 3rd grade students who have communication needs, including speech/articulation, language, fluency (stuttering), and voice disorders.
I grew up on my family’s dairy farm near Perham, Minnesota. My two younger brothers, who both received speech services in elementary school, inspired me to look into the field of speech-language pathology. During my senior year in high school I worked with the SLP in my school district and instantly knew I found my calling. I attended Minnesota State University - Moorhead, where I earned my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Speech-Language Pathology.
Why Pierz? My husband, Rich, has taught science and coached in the district since 2009. From his experience, I was able to witness the support and stability the district offers employees. Also, I was impressed with the opportunities offered to students. In 2014, I was lucky enough to become part of the “Pioneer Family” and quickly realized what amazing and caring staff work in our district! Rich and I look forward to watching our sons, Andrew (3) and Zeke (1), start their education in the Pierz School District.