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Middle schools show off new look at open houses





For some parents, this was their first time at the parent open house in this particular school. On Tuesday, a lot of teachers knew how they felt.

Nine new teachers were introduced at a parent open house at Thomas More Prep-Marian Junior-Senior High School. And more than a dozen others have some sort of new responsibility this year.

Across town at Hays Middle School, there were only a few new faces among the teaching staff at its annual open house for parents. But HMS will have a new assistant principal in Shannon Demel, formerly a teacher at Washington Elementary School.

"When we left school last year, there were many unknowns," Principal Kathy Taylor told parents in an assembly in the TMP auditorium. "And it was pretty scary."

Four teachers with more than 143 years of experience retired from TMP following the 2012-13 school year, and Principal Bill DeWitt took another job in eastern Kansas in the spring.

His replacement -- Taylor, longtime counselor at TMP -- wasn't named until July.

But "the Holy Spirit got us moving," said Taylor, who hired four of the nine new teachers after DeWitt brought in five before he left.

One of the new teachers at TMP this year isn't new to the school by any means.

Jake Befort, a 1977 graduate of the Catholic high school, returned to his alma mater after retiring from the Larned public school system last spring. He enters his 33rd year in education as a math teacher at the high school level.

"They've lowered the ceilings; no more wood floors," he said, glancing at the tile-covered floor. "No more chalk, and they've got air conditioning now.

"But it's still the same," Befort added. "It's kids studying."

Two floors up from Befort's classroom, Judy Mitchell talked about her first-hour class in computer applications.

"I can honestly say I've never taught seventh grade," Mitchell told parents of TMP junior high students.

Mitchell, the business teacher at TMP, was one of those who agreed to take on a different role to help fill a need this year.

Barely into the second week of the school year, even veteran teachers still are getting settled into a routine.

"Part of the times I remember the names, and part of the time I don't," Teresa Shepherd, science teacher at HMS said as parents and children visited her seventh-grade classroom.