Middle School

Kim Lindsay, Math

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”—Albert Einstein

In 2016 I was invited to join the Terra Verde team, and I was thrilled to be a part of the development of the middle school program. Although I have been teaching since 1993, I took an unconventional route getting into education. I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. My first job after graduating was working for a non-profit education organization.  While there, I felt drawn to teaching. To solve the problem of a persistent teacher shortage, Dallas Public Schools was hiring college graduates to be a part of their emergency-certification program. I applied, was interviewed, background-checked, and hired.   After a summer of very intense training, I soon found myself staring into the eyes of a classroom full of fifth graders at an inner-city elementary school in Dallas. That first year of teaching truly was trial by fire, as I taught during the day and took classes at night. Although it was very difficult, I learned so much teaching this tough, wary group of wonderful students. I stayed for four years, looping up to sixth grade the last year I was there.

While in Dallas, I met my husband Chad, a diehard Sooner living in Texas. We married in 1996 and decided to move to Norman in 1997. I was offered a job at Kennedy Elementary, where I taught second through fourth grades. In 2003 my principal approached me about the prospect of interviewing for the math resource teacher position at Kennedy, a newly-created position. I love teaching math, so I jumped on the chance. While a math resource teacher, I was able to see the development of and connection among math skills from kindergarten through fifth grade. In 2013 my principal asked me to teach a section of sixth grade math to advanced fifth graders. I did, and it reignited a desire to teach a class of my own. I decided I wanted to teach math beyond the elementary level. In the fall 2014 I began my journey at Longfellow Middle School, teaching seventh grade math, pre-algebra, and algebra.

I strive to make my classroom one in which students can explore mathematical concepts by connecting to concepts they already know, explaining their thinking to others, and looking for patterns. By giving students the freedom to explore, mistakes are a part of the process. Some of the best growth comes through analyzing what does not work, which leads to the discovery of what does work. My classroom is a safe place in which students can take risks and in which mistakes are embraced. My greatest joy is when students are sharing strategies, and they are so involved and engaged, I can back out of the conversation, because they are teaching each other.

Outside the classroom I enjoy traveling, cooking, and writing.  My family enjoys going to Lake Arbuckle and can be found many weekends of the summer there. Our son, Tyler, graduated high school in May 2018 and is going to college. Our daughter, Carys, is a competitive soccer player, and our weekends during the school year are often spent traveling to regional games and tournaments.

Hunter Woolum, Social Studies

“It’s not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren’t doing it.” – Sir Terry Pratchett

Terra Verde invited me to teach Social Studies in 2016, and it has been an incredible experience! I graduated from the University of Oklahoma here in Norman with a Bachelor of Arts in Classics and Letters in 2015, and while teaching may be new for me, I have lots of experience working with kids of various ages, which I feel translates very naturally into the field of education.

The Liberal Arts, with the diversity and internal fluidity of its component fields, has always held my fascination, and the chance to impart a similar love of learning to the students at Terra Verde is an honor.

The middle school Social Studies curriculum, touching as it does on subjects as varied as geography, history, literature, sociology, and anthropology, is the way in which many children experience their first, in-depth exposure to the complexity and beauty of our world and its many, unique cultures. I believe it is my job as an educator to use that opportunity to encourage genuine intellectual curiosity, not merely through lectures and memorization, but by helping children learn to analyze socio-cultural concepts for themselves. And, lest all of that seem overly serious and academic, I also believe that true learning takes place while having fun, so expect your children to answer questions like: “What would your favorite fictional character (like Harry Potter or Princess Leia) look like if they came from feudal Japan?”

I live in Norman with my significant other and fellow life-long learner, Erika, as well as our two sweet cats, Zada and Boudica. I love to read (Terry Pratchett is my favorite author, mythology my favorite genre, and Batman my favorite comic book), and spend much of my free time conlanging (that’s making invented languages, for those not in the know). I am proficient in written and spoken French, as well as written and spoken Latin.

Every year brings new opportunities to teach the wonderfully bright students here at Terra Verde, and in equal measure, to learn a lot myself!

April McBride, Spanish

I am thoroughly excited to be back in the classroom, teaching Spanish, especially at Terra Verde! I have dreamed of teaching at a private school at some point but didn’t think it would come so soon. I feel blessed and thrilled to have this position!

I started taking Spanish in seventh grade and continued it through high school and university. While at Norman High I was inspired to pursue a foreign exchange experience. I lived in Argentina during my junior year of high school through the Rotary exchange program. I earned an undergraduate degree in Spanish and International Business from Abilene Christian University, and a master’s degree in Spanish from Rice University. After graduating, I taught Spanish at The University of Houston and Baylor University before moving back to Norman with my husband and twin babies to be a full-time home schooling momma.

My husband, Donnie, works in IT Security at OU. We have five children: John David, Julianna, Joshua, William, and Christy. We have home schooled them from the beginning and plan to continue through high school.

In addition to teaching at Terra Verde, I teach Logic, Spanish, Literature, and History to a group of home schoolers one day a week at the Alameda Home School Group.

My interests include church fellowship and service, classical education, working in my garden, reading, weight-lifting, racquetball, soccer, roller blading, yoga, and hiking.

 Hollis Pearsall, Language Arts

Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” – Aristotle

To teach at Terra Verde is seriously a dream come true. After completing my first year, the families, staff and students have confirmed how truly special is to teach in such a special environment.

My passion for teaching began as a child. While most kids were playing house or video games, I was taking attendance and reading short stories to my stuffed animals. Equipped with old school textbooks, I’m confident in saying I had the smartest Cabbage Patch Kids around. Fast forward to high school where my Norman High English teacher, Mrs. St. John, became the biggest influence for my career choice. I admired how she cared deeply and treated each of us as critical thinking individuals. Knowing I wanted to follow in her footsteps, I majored in English Education at the University of Oklahoma and received my degree in 2004.

After student teaching at Whittier Middle School in Norman, I joined the faculty as an 8thgrade English teacher. Since we are lifelong learners, I continued for my Masters in Instructional Leadership in 2008 and went through the process of attaining National Board Certification in 2010. For eight years, I experienced teaching 8thgrade English and Yearbook, co-sponsoring the Community Service Involvement Club, leading my core team for six years and 8thgrade team for two. I also had the honor of being Whittier’s Teacher of the Year in 2010 and a finalist for the district. Most importantly, I spent time with amazing teenagers. Whether it was finding the right novels to hook struggling readers or guiding advanced students with writing short stories and entering contests, I found extreme joy in making connections with each student. Together, we learned about the changing world around us and our roles within it. I cherished that time and look back on it fondly.

I believe in building a learning community cooperatively where the students and the classroom dynamic are the architects. I am a firm believer in Love and Logic where together, we can create an atmosphere which is safe to make mistakes and learn from them. I enjoy creating lessons involving class discussion, independent work and small group work to accommodate different learning styles and to build upon social skills.

Outside of the classroom, my family is my world. In 2010, I married my best friend, Josh and since then, we’ve welcomed to the world two adorable little gifts, Alayna and Joseph. I must admit, I know I’ve said I never had favorite students, but these two have claimed that role permanently. Being able to stay home with them during their formative years has been so rewarding; I’m beyond grateful for those treasured times. In my (rare) free time, you can find me reading, crocheting, searching for the best mocha, gardening, working on remodeling our house, or watching football (huge Steelers fan here).

Alexander Konieczny, Latin

My name is Alexander Konieczny, and this fall I will be joining the Terra Verde faculty in the position of middle-school Latin instructor. For now, I would just like to express how excited I am to become a part of this school’s excellent community, and to let you all know a little bit about myself.

Having grown up here in Norman, I can sympathize with the Terra Verde school’s ethos of community—I can certainly appreciate the role that educational institutions play in tying our city together. In 2016 I graduated from Norman High School, and as of this fall I will be starting my junior year as a student at the University of Oklahoma. I am currently pursuing a degree in Classical Languages with a minor in Linguistics, although my experience with the Latin language includes study at both the secondary and collegiate levels, as well as extensive reading of Latin literature. During the previous year I worked as a research-assistant for the Department of Classics’ Digital Latin Library, an online project to, among other things, aid in classical education and scholarship by improving the digital organization and availability of critical Latin texts.

As someone with a long standing enthusiasm for knowledge, I am excited at being given the opportunity to help see fostered in others the same love of learning. Teaching at Terra Verde will be a new experience for me, but I believe that this school will be the perfect environment for me to become the best teacher I can be. Before having the chance to visit the Terra Verde school, I couldn’t have imagined a better setting both for encouraging students to open their minds to worlds of diverse knowledge and for helping them to shape themselves into future citizens and leaders.

I am looking forward to getting to know everyone in the Terra Verde family, and I know that this will be an excellent school year.

Steve Gunnels, Science

My scientific journey began at Texas A&M University. My Bachelor’s degree is in Bio- environmental Science. My degree plan consisted of a wide collection of science courses like soil microbiology, microbial ecology, environmental remediation, and many more. During college I was employed at the Texas A&M Water Laboratory. where I helped set up the lab (inventory and safety equipment) and run experiments for Master’s and Doctoral students. I enjoy watching the Discovery Channel, NOVA and other similar programs.

Before graduation I interviewed and accepted an offer from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality in the Water Quality Division. I spent the next 15 years working in the industrial waste water pollution enforcement section. I saw fascinating industrial processes across Oklahoma.

The 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years were spent as an 8th grade and 6th grade science teacher for Irving Middle School here in Norman. Teaching has taught me about the patience and planning needed to encourage students to want to succeed. It has also shown me that there is not one template for learning or evaluating students. Terra Verde offers me different challenges and I am excited to begin my 4th year of exploration and discovery in science.

I am married to Dr. Randa Shehab, who is an engineer by training and the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs for the College of Engineering at OU. We have two sons, Cooper and Mason. Cooper is a junior at Norman High and Mason is a 7th grader here at Terra Verde.

In addition to teaching, I am the Terra Verde Cross Country coach.  Together with Alcott and Irving Middle Schools, we are part of the Norman Junior High Cross Country team.  This program offers our students a unique opportunity to make new friends from Alcott and Irving before they head to high school.   In my free time I enjoy running, playing guitar, and writing songs. My teams are Texas A&M Aggies, Detroit Tigers, Red Wings, Lions, and the Terra Verde Owls!