Pinedale Middle School welcomes new staff


Katie Barngrover, math paraprofessional

at Pinedale Middle School.

What attracted you to a career in education?

“I love seeing the spark of excitement ignite

in a student’s eyes when they learn a new

concept. I became a teacher because I wanted

to see that spark again and again and I wanted

to help shape the next generation’s beliefs

about mathematics.”

What path did you follow to become an

educator?

“I attended Westminster College in Salt

Lake City, Utah, earning a bachelor’s degree

of science in mathematics. I attended Western

Governors’ University online for my

Lesieli Dexter, special education

teacher at Pinedale Middle School.

What attracted you to a career in education?

“It is cliché, but wanting to make a difference

in the lives of kids that have gotten

a rough start in life is what attracted me to

education.”

What path did you follow to become an

educator?

“I was born and raised in Tonga, a Pacific

Island. After graduating from Tonga

High School, I went on to BYU-Hawaii and

graduated in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree

in teaching English as a second language.

graduate degree, earning a master’s degree

of arts in mathematics education. I attended

various institutions for the coursework required

to achieve an additional certification

in grades six through 12 biology, and I have

completed the rigorous process of obtaining

my national board certification in adolescence

and young adulthood mathematics.”

What is your favorite thing about working

with young people?

“Young people inspire me. They have a

love of life and learning that many seem to

lose as we age. Their enjoyment in the little

things and their emotional variance as they

deal with the ups and downs of life keeps me

engaged in my own life and helps me maintain

perspective on my own challenges. I am grateful

to work with such amazing students in the

Pinedale School District.”

What are you looking forward to this

year?

“I am super excited to be working with the

awesome math team at the middle school. All

three teachers are committed to seeing success

and improvement in our students and to

be part of such a commitment is an honor. We

are working hard to ensure that all students are

reaching their potential and I am excited to be

part of that plan.”

What are you doing to get ready for winter

in Pinedale?

“My family is getting our skis dusted off,

the snowmobiles tuned up and the firewood

piled up so we are ready to play this winter.”

Lesieli Dexter, special education

teacher at Pinedale Middle School.

What attracted you to a career in education?

“It is cliché, but wanting to make a difference

in the lives of kids that have gotten

a rough start in life is what attracted me to

education.”

What path did you follow to become an

educator?

“I was born and raised in Tonga, a Pacific

Island. After graduating from Tonga

High School, I went on to BYU-Hawaii and

graduated in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree

in teaching English as a second language.

I took a different path and ventured into

sales as a territory manager for a physician

staffing company in Utah. I enjoyed

the fast pace of sales and meeting deadlines

for nine years before staying home

to raise three kids, for five years. I went

back to work for the same company for

a year before moving with my family

to Hawaii. While in Hawaii, I enjoyed

being a court language interpreter and a

substitute teacher before deciding to go

back to school for a teacher certification

in special education at the University of

Hawaii-Manoa. We made the move to Pinedale

about two years ago and I am in my

final stretch in a master’s program in special

education at the University of Wyoming.

I have worked at Skyline previously

and am a ‘newbie’ teacher working with

sixth- through eighth-graders here at the

Pinedale Middle School.”

What is your favorite thing about

working with young people?

“Seeing young people figure out who

they are, growing into themselves and

witnessing all the quirkiness that goes with

that is amazing.”

What are you looking forward to this

year?

“I’m looking forward to a lot of

growth.”

What are you doing to get ready for

winter in Pinedale?

“It can’t be winter yet, school just

started!”

Marcus Helland, sixth-grade math

teacher at Pinedale Middle School.

What attracted you to a career in education?

“I really enjoy working and coaching kids.

They can absorb so much and it’s really fun to

watch them grow and discover new things.”

What path did you follow to become an

educator?

“I spent my undergrad years at Minnesota-

Duluth and Wisconsin-Superior then taught

for three years in Wisconsin. From there I

went to England to play basketball and get my

master’s degree in education. My wife and I

taught in Alaska the previous two years.”

What is your favorite thing about working

with young people?

“It’s awesome when they discover something

new and they show the ‘I get it!’ look.”

What are you looking forward to this

year?

“Meeting and getting to know all the staff

and students.”

What are you doing to get ready for winter

in Pinedale?

“My wife and I are trying to finish up the

exterior work on our house.”

What attracted you to a career in education?

“Working in education allows me to

Cyle Talley, language arts paraprofessional

at Pinedale Middle School.

learn something new every day and affords

me the opportunity to indulge my

intellectual curiosities wherever they

might take me. I can’t imagine anything

better!”

What path did you follow to become

an educator?

“My path to becoming a teacher has

been a bit circuitous. I went to school at

the University of Oregon as a music performance

major before falling hard for

literary theory and changing my major to

rhetoric/composition. After graduating, a

friend of mine who was teaching at a small

private high school recommended me for

a position teaching literature. I taught

there for two years, eventually becoming

head of the department and then became

assistant head of school. I then moved to

a charter high school as an inclusion specialist

working with faculty and students

to find ways for students to thrive in their

classes. I also coached Little League and

varsity baseball.”

What is your favorite thing about

working with young people?

“It’s a bit cheesy, but I find the earnestness

and sincerity of students to be both

refreshing and disarming. They haven’t

yet made any decision about the world

and are open to everything and everyone.

Working with young people reminds me

to try and be likewise.”

What are you looking forward to this

year?

“The nature of my position as a reading

interventionist requires me to wear a

number of different hats on a day-to-day

basis and I enjoy the flexibility afforded

me to serve students and faculty alike.

I’m looking forward to collaborating with

faculty on ways to deepen our students’

academic experience and getting to work

with students on a daily basis.”

What are you doing to get ready for

winter in Pinedale?

“Scheduling a spring break that will

take me to a warmer climate.”

Taylor Helland, librarian at Pinedale

Middle School.

What attracted you to a career in education?

“My mom had her degree in education

and physical education was always

my favorite class in school, so I thought

it would be a great profession to go into.

Currently, I am really enjoying my job

as the librarian at the middle school and

learning so much.”

What path did you follow to become

an educator?

“My path to becoming an educator has

come from many different schools and

places. I received my undergraduate degree

from Utah Valley University, a master’s

in education from Durham University,

and a master’s degree in secondary education

from the University of Alaska Southeast.

Prior to moving to Pinedale, I was a

physical education teacher in Metlakatla,

Alaska.”

What is your favorite thing about

working with young people?

“My favorite thing about working with

young people is their excitement. There’s

always something the kids have to be excited

about. It’s never a dull day working

in the middle school.”

What are you looking forward to this

year?

“This year I am looking forward to

learning more about the ins and outs of

the library, and meeting new people in this

community.”

What are you doing to get ready for

winter in Pinedale?

“Gathering up some warm clothes ... I

hear it gets pretty cold!”

Eric Makelky, principal at Pinedale

Middle School.

What attracted you to a career in education?

“Being an educator is a family gene and

there’s no better job than working with students.”

David Thrash, assistant principal and

activities director at Pinedale Middle

School.

What attracted you to a career in education?

“Having the opportunity to work with children

and teach the skills needed to learn and be

What path did you follow to become

an educator?

“I earned my bachelor’s degree from

Rocky Mountain College in Billings,

Mont., and then started teaching language

arts and social studies. Then I

earned by master’s degree from Rocky

Mountain College and started administration

as the principal of Skyline

Academy and the assistant principal at

Pinedale Middle School.”

What is your favorite thing about

working with young people?

“I enjoy working with middle school

students because they are never boring!”

What are you looking forward to

this year?

“I’m excited to see how our new and

veteran staff members work together

to keep improving Pinedale Middle

School.”

What are you doing to get ready for

winter in Pinedale?

“I’m always trying to get one more

day of fishing in before the water freezes

over.”

David Thrash, assistant principal and

activities director at Pinedale Middle

School.

What attracted you to a career in education?

“Having the opportunity to work with children

and teach the skills needed to learn and be

a productive and contributing member of any

community. Along with the obvious – all the

opportunities to act like a kid.”

What path did you follow to become an

educator?

“I moved to Wyoming to attend the university

and there I met my future wife. The

rest fell into place and I received a sixthgrade

teaching position in Gillette. I worked

within that for four years, then transitioned to

technology until I was offered this position

as assistant principal and activities director

here.”

What is your favorite thing about

working with young people?

“Watching the connections and success

of grasping a concept or the ‘light bulb moment.’”

What are you looking forward to this

year?

“Working with a great staff and community

while I navigate the administrative side

of education.”

What are you doing to get ready for

winter in Pinedale?

“Taking it one day at a time.”

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