Your Story Matters at Mason City Schools

Your Story Matters at Mason City Schools

By Mason City Schools
About
Your Story Matters brings Mason's rich culture to life through story.
You'll hear stories from staff, students, and community members designed to celebrate diversity, passion, and purpose. Our stories weave our commUNITY together - let's listen and connect!
More places to listen
Your Story Matters brings Mason's rich culture to life through story.
You'll hear stories from staff, students, and community members designed to celebrate diversity, passion, and purpose. Our stories weave our commUNITY together - let's listen and connect!
masonohioschools.com

More places to listen

Fred Stemmler - “Our squadron lost better than 10 people. They parachuted out and froze to death. It was 40 below 0. Here you’re flying a single engine plane, first of its kind. You were scared.”
90-year old Fred Stemmler is a legendary advocate for the Mason Comets. In the 1990's he founded the Senior Citizens Pep Club at the urging of Dr. Kevin Bright and Coach Gerry Lachey  - a move to help give more community support to the district's female athletes. A Mason Dad and Grandpa, he is a Korean War Veteran who spent four years flying missions in the P-80 Shooting Star - the first jet fighter used operationally by the United States Army Air Forces.  Following his time in the service, he became an engineer at GE Aviation and in 1960 bought a home in Mason - primarily because it had air conditioning! Fred is a dedicated community servant, and has been an instrumental member of Mason Kiwanis and the Mason Presbyterian Church. 
15:54
November 10, 2019
Ashley Palac - “It was about a year after 9/11. I was 17 and I felt the call.”
Mason Middle School Spanish teacher Ashley Palac is multilingual.  The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she speaks Mandarin, Spanish and English - and is trying to raise her bi-racial children (who share a birthday) to appreciate their cultural heritage.  Before teaching, Ashley spent 7 years in the Army Reserves; enlisting at the beginning of the Afghanistan War.  The mother of two nearly gave birth to her son at MMS- further proof that this mama is tough! 
19:09
November 10, 2019
David Charpentier - “People look at veterans like they’re heroes. There’s another notion that they’re broken. For sure there are heroes. But largely we are like everybody else."
Mason Dad Dave Charpentier is an entrepreneur and executive coach for Conscious Dynamics - a company he founded to help people and teams with their social and emotional intelligence. The former Army Ranger credits his military service for helping to shine a light on how different people can struggle with different workplace dynamics. David is the Commander of the local American Legion Post 194, an active volunteer in his children and step-children's schools, and a yoga instructor.
28:39
November 10, 2019
Mili Nichani and her son Ishaan - “I wanted him to feel pride in his celebrations and culture.”
The Nichani family moved to Mason from Kentucky - primarily for the schools and the community’s rich diversity. Mili Nichani and son Ishaan recently shared their Diwali traditions with Ishaan's third grade classmates at Mason Elementary. Both Mili and Ishaan have grown up in the United States, and are proud of their Indian-American culture. 
14:24
November 4, 2019
Tracey Carson - “Giving up my plan turned out to be the best part of my life.”
Tracey Carson has led the district’s communication and connection efforts for 15 years as Mason City Schools Public Information Officer. As Mason’s lead for Big Rock 2: Inclusive Excellence, she shepherds the district’s work to deepen appreciation for diversity, and commitment to equity, inclusion, and justice. The mom and future mother-in-law of two MHS Class of 2014 graduates shares how being open to the opportunity that sometimes comes with a “shoulder shrug” has made a difference in her life.
20:32
October 28, 2019
Christine McCormick - “I knew I needed to live my truth.”
Mason City Schools Innovative Systems Officer Christine McCormick leads the district’s efforts to ensure that our systems and technology keep the people - the user - at the heart of what we do. As Mason’s lead for Big Rock 1: Culture, she shepherds the district’s work to build an engaging, inclusive, and positive culture. The mother of three shares the pivots in her professional and personal life that made her understand the importance of being herself.
20:42
October 28, 2019
Hakim Oliver - "I try to treasure my time here and treasure every interaction."
Mason High School Intervention Specialist Hakim Oliver has helped Mason students find their voice over the last 14 years.  After growing up in LA,  his family moved to Loveland, Ohio where he found that he loved school and wanted to be a teacher. Hakim is a member of the high school's Inclusive Excellence team, and has helped lead diversity and equity work at his church, Crossroads, and as an advisor for the MHS student group MIC (Mason Inclusion Club). 
15:54
October 20, 2019
Fairy Shokohee - " You don’t know how much energy I get when I walk by those people and see that smile, and a smile doesn’t cost a cent. "
Mason Early Childhood Center educational aide Fairy Shokohee has an optimism that buoys others' spirits. The native of Iran credits that attribute as one she admires in her biggest influence - her mother, whose glass half-full outlook is so strong she astounded medical staff by pulling through a difficult surgery.  A mother of a child with a learning disability, Fairy offers that her son taught her to be a better mom by giving her patience - a gift she uses with her students, too. She loves working at MECC, and says that being in a place where "inclusive excellence" is being lived out makes her feel less homesick. 
22:51
October 14, 2019
Andrea Hefferan - “Even though I live in America, I’m still Mexican and that’s still a part of me.”
Mason High School senior Andrea Hefferan has found her voice - in Spanish and English. The bi-lingual managing editor of the high school’s nationally-recognized student newspaper, The Chronicle, expresses her creativity as a dancer with the regional group, Cincinnati Baila. After being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease as a Mason Intermediate School fourth grader, she underwent a major surgery her sophomore year, and has learned to appreciate the gift of health. A National Merit Semifinalist, she shares that she’s excited to see some of the shifts that are happening in Mason to help students move away from a culture of comparison and embrace self-care.
19:44
October 6, 2019
Michelle Krugh - “My whole thing is to be in the moment.”
Mason Elementary School & Mason Intermediate School counselor Michelle Krugh always shows up for people - her colleagues, her students, her families, her friends. The mom of MHS twin girls has been supporting Comet kids for 21 years - and believes that today's children need more help learning to regulate their emotions.  A licensed family therapist, she helped design MI's AWARE program (All Working at Respecting Everyone) and is thrilled about the district's investment in additional mental wellness support this year. 
12:57
September 29, 2019
Tonya McCall - “I was used to being one of very few students of color in class.”
Mason City Schools Chief Talent Officer Tonya McCall leads the district's recruitment and retention efforts to keep Mason a destination district. She spent 20 years at the helm of Mason Middle School where she helped coin the school's motto of "Every Kid, Every Day." She was instrumental in bringing together teams of teachers and staff to plan the total renovation of the school - and MMS staff recently celebrated her contributions by christening their lounge "McCall's Staffeteria." :) A product of Toledo Public Schools, Ohio's desegregation efforts required that she leave her predominantly black elementary school classmates to be bussed to a junior high school that was predominantly white.  That experience gave her unique insight as she became a teacher and administrator in suburban southwest Ohio schools. 
26:49
September 22, 2019
Kaya Rossey - “I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and it’s so important for me to be [the help] for someone else because so many people have been there for me.”
Mason High School sophomore Kaya Rossey is a founding member of the high school's two-year old Hope Squad - a class of students who are trained to watch for at-risk students, provide friendship, identify suicide-warning signs, and seek help from adults. Like other Squad members, Kaya was chosen by her peers to be in Hope Squad because they saw her as trustworthy and caring. Kaya shares her own mental wellness journey, and credits family and teachers like Mason Middle School's Ricardo Grayer and Mason High School's Michelle Bruewer for recognizing her struggle and encouraging her to find her voice. Kaya hopes to one day be a child life specialist - a career path inspired by witnessing the impact these special people had on her friends - the Maya Collins family.  
21:33
September 16, 2019
Bob Cross - “You guys are burying our Father who I never knew, and we’re talking for the first time. And, [my brother] said it's a kind of cyclical - everything happens for a reason."
Mason City Schools bus driver Bob Cross's life reminds that some of the most important parts of our stories can come later. Growing up as an only child, Bob always knew he was adopted and that he was a Native Alaskan. He never knew very much about his culture, however, and didn't know how to find his family. That all changed at 65 - when he connected with his four siblings on the very day that they buried his birth father.
25:12
September 8, 2019
Amy Brennan - “Having a mom who was a Chinese-American immigrant certainly gave me a level of empathy when you're asked as a kid many times - ‘What are you?'"
Mason City Schools Deputy Superintendent Amy Brennan's educational journey was prompted by a question. As a high school student growing up in St. Paul Minnesota, she was concerned that her diverse classmates weren't represented in the honors courses she was taking. Her question became a mission to see public education's promise fulfilled - and to witness the special connections that happen inside a community with great public schools.  
24:53
September 2, 2019
Krissy Hufnagel - “I am a single parent and that has been incredibly challenging at times, and incredibly rewarding at times.”
Krissy Hufnagel has been influencing Mason students and staff for 25 years. Three years ago, she left the classroom to take a role as an innovation coach, and this year she is helping lead the district's Personalized Learning efforts in her role as a Learning Experience Supervisor for grades PK-6. The daughter of a German immigrant, Krissy reflects on the values she learned as a child, and how she has tried to grow a culture of empathy and optimism within her own two children.
20:21
September 2, 2019
Shanna Bumiller - “I had a younger brother who was very, very troubled. He didn't play school well.”
Shanna Bumiller is on a mission to bust the myths around personalized learning. Mason’s Learning Experience Supervisor for grades 7-12, her passion is personal - and rooted in wanting to create better experiences for students like her brother, who struggled in school.
34:14
September 2, 2019
Rebecca Bate - "“I was that child with ADD, I wasn’t supposed to be able to sit still.”
A veteran bus driver and safety trainer, Rebecca Bate is beginning her 19th year at the wheel in her hometown. A Mason grad, Rebecca shares the joy in raising her own Comet, how being in the Wm. Mason High School Marching band shaped her, and some of safety measures the transportation department takes to make sure students get to school and home safe and sound.
20:08
August 25, 2019
Jim Fox - "It's always been a great place to grow up and raise kids, but it's just become the best."
Jim Fox never stops learning. Following retirement, the former Mason City Councilman began working at Mason High School as a study hall monitor and recently published a book. The MHS Class of 1969 grad shares how Mason educators shaped his journey, and his pride in what Mason has become as it grew - both in numbers and cultural diversity. 
23:25
August 25, 2019
Hannah Humes - "I don’t need easy or optional - just opportunity!”
Hannah Humes is a trailblazer.  She was the first student with Downs Syndrome  to be a member of the high school’s Teaching Academy, to work in the Comet Zone [the school store], and to be inducted into the Young Women’s National Honor Society. Hannah and her mom, Marcy Humes, share their experience in Mason, and what they are looking forward to as Hannah enters her senior year at Mason High School and prepares for life after high school. 
18:15
August 18, 2019
Mariah Norman - “I really learned the importance of losing that day. There are always going to be people smarter than you, taller, prettier. It taught me to run my own race.”
MHS junior Mariah Norman has been using her voice to stand up for herself and others since her first grade teacher, Mrs. Jarmon, told her that she was a great communicator. A Mason Inclusion Club (MIC) board member, Co-President of the Fashion Club, and member of the track and field team, Mariah is also an Instragram ambassador who works with the platform to medicate the toxicity that can sometimes be found on social media. She plans to pursue Constitutional Law after high school.
24:51
August 18, 2019
Rishika Jeyaprakash - “It’s OK to judge a book by it’s cover, just don’t judge a human by their cover.”
Mason Middle School 8th grader Rishika Jeyaprakash founded "Little Helpers" when she was nine. Since that time, the group has performed over 50 service projects, donated more than $5,500 dollars, and provided over 2,000 new toys to the Cincinnati Children’s hospital and thousands of smiles. Rishika is President of the MMS Kiwanis Builders Club, and is excited about starting eighth grade after a year of being a 7th grader on the MI campus during the middle school's renovation. This spirited Comet loves school and serving others, and hopes to practice space medicine in the future. Rishika's Transcript
24:57
August 18, 2019
Owen Smith - "Dads can help, too!"
Mason Intermediate fifth grader Owen Smith attended nearly every reIMAGINE Mason session last spring. He's excited to explore ways to make our large schools feel small, and appreciates the strong academics and diversity that are key ingredients in Mason.  He shares how Buddy Benches and Hero Dads are two efforts that make a difference for students. Owen hopes to become an animator.  Owen Smith's Transcription
18:51
August 18, 2019
Katie Lin - "Does he understand that mommy and daddy don't really look alike?"
Katie Lin's professional life hasn't strayed too far from what she always imagined. The Mason Middle School teacher is in her 12th year teaching Mason eighth graders. And, as a 2003 graduate from Mason High School who was inspired by legendary educator Annie Helwig, she hopes she's bringing some of the same self-deprecating humor and love to her students. But personally, as the wife of a Chinese-American man with whom she's raising a two-year old bi-racial child, Katie admits she's learning a lot about what it means to live out inclusive excellence authentically. Transcript for Katie's podcast.
26:06
August 12, 2019
Litty Mathai - "That's your name, that's important, that’s your identity, and that matters."
Mason Intermediate School fifth grade teacher Litty Mathai has a heart for children and their teachers. As a first generation Indian-American, she was inspired by the love of caring educators who saw her as more than a student with limited English, and she pushed back on pressure to go into STEM so that she could become a reflective, risk-taking teacher inspiring a generation of kind, knowledgeable citizens. The mom of two shares the joys of parenting, and the importance of loving on kids. Transcript for Litty's podcast.
21:52
August 12, 2019
Kristen Lazuta - "You know, none of this is meant to be perfect."
Mason Elementary School third grade teacher Kristen Lazuta makes conscious choices to find joy  in life's small, imperfect moments. The Mason mom of two reflects on her own upbringing as a military family making lots of moves, tells how she's learning through the grief of losing her best friend - her younger brother, and shares what it's like to get the call from school that something hasn't gone quite right for your child. Transcript for Kristen
23:31
August 12, 2019
Soroya Smith - "I made up in my mind having moments like that, I wanted my students (and really anybody that I encounter) to feel big, to feel seen, feel important."
Mason Early Childhood Center second grade teacher Soroya Smith makes a conscious choice to stand up to bias - for her four children, for her students, for herself.  As a black child growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood, she felt the duality of being unseen and yet also hyper visible. As an adult, she embraces an identity of being a "box cutter", and is seeing the growth that happens when we stop pursuing perfection. Transcript
23:38
August 12, 2019
Jonathan Cooper - "There are difficulties and crucibles along the way, but those are the moments that really shape you."
Jonathan Cooper is entering his second year as Mason City Schools Superintendent. The father of four shares how his early learning struggles shaped his perception of himself, how he tried to run away from education, and how he found his calling with the help of people who spoke truth to him.
24:11
August 4, 2019
Bobby Dodd - "Let's not just talk about things, let's make it happen."
Mason High School Principal Bobby Dodd is beginning his second year at the helm of Ohio's largest high school. But his journey to Mason (and to education) wasn't a straight shot. Hear about his pivots along the way, and the advice he gives to families about the importance of letting students take time to decide their post-high school options rather than simply defaulting to a four year university.
19:57
August 4, 2019
Lauren Gentene - "Do I need to be HERE doing this?"
What's it like to be tapped to lead one of Ohio's largest and highest performing middle schools at the age of 29? Lauren Gentene reflects on her journey from being a student who didn't like "playing school", to growing up the daughter of a rock star educator, to lessons from mentors (including former teachers and students and colleagues), and how her faith guides her. 
29:00
August 4, 2019
Eric Messer - "You can never be afraid to embarrass yourself!"
Mason Intermediate School Principal Eric Messer wears his heart on his sleeve - and leads the way in forging caring relationships with his students, staff and families. Hear about this Mason dad's dreams for education, what he learned from his mom who died during his first year of teaching, and how he navigates the difference between healthy competition and cutthroat competition. 
20:41
August 4, 2019
Javaris Powell - "Your kind won't do well in a 4-year university."
Javaris Powell will be leading a brand new school for Mason's 3rd and 4th graders - Mason Elementary which is located on the Mason Intermediate Campus. The Mississippi native shares crucial educational moments that shaped his journey, what its like to embrace 'nerding out', and the impact of Mason's Big Rocks.
23:25
August 4, 2019
Melissa Bly - "School was always a safe place for me."
Mason Early Childhood Center Principal Melissa Bly shares what it was like to grow up poor in Mason, and the teachers who made a difference by seeing past labels. The Mason Mom shares how important it is to admit you're not always right, and gives strategies for how the Bly's carve out family time.
20:08
August 4, 2019
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