PAOLA — Today, Wednes-day, Aug. 14, is the first day of school for Paola USD 368 students, and there will be a lot of new faces greeting them when they walk into their schools.

There are 19 new teachers in the school district this year. The new teachers got more acquainted with the school district during an orientation day Thursday, Aug. 8, at the central services building.

The following is a list of brief bios for the new teachers.


Jessica Pearson

  • Kindergarten teacher

Jessica spent the first 18 years of her life in Gardner. She then attended Pittsburg State University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

This will be her eighth year of teaching. She spent three years teaching sixth grade and then fourth grade in Liberal, Kan., and four years teaching fourth grade in Parsons, Kan.

She and her husband have nine children, with three of them graduated and moved out.

Jessica said she is so excited to begin her new adventure as a kindergarten teacher, and she looks forward to meeting all of her students.

Alexis Kuharich

  • Kindergarten teacher and JV volleyball coach at PHS

Alexis is from Overland Park. She attended the University of Kansas and graduated in 2017 with degrees in Psychology and English. She received her Master’s of Arts degree in teaching from Kansas State University in 2019.

Alexis is a middle child and daughter to William and Betsy Kuharich. She said she is looking forward to meeting her students, players and their families.

Lindsay Johnson

  • Preschool teacher

Lindsay and her husband, Kyle, just had their first child and named her Charlotte but call her Charlie for short. She is 9 months old and always on the move. They also have three young dogs named Dawkins, Lexi and Fletcher. Lindsay was raised in the Overland Park area but moved to Gardner to start a family of her own.

She graduated from Pittsburg State University with a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Unified in May of 2017. After college, she worked for Bright Horizons as a lead teacher with younger children in Kansas City, Mo.

Lindsay said teaching brings her so much joy. She loves making an impact on every child who walks into her classroom. She is a strong believer in the saying that if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. She said watching children accomplish their goals and go beyond standards is what makes teaching so rewarding.

Desiree Rider

  • Kindergarten teacher

Desiree currently lives in Gardner with her husband and two children. She enjoys a good book and loves spending time with her family. She attended Emporia State University and graduated in December 2018.

Desiree said she looks forward to watching her students grow in both academics and as individuals.

Ashley Sullivan

  • Second-grade teacher

Ashley grew up in Olathe and moved to Paola 11 years ago after meeting her husband, Tom. Together they have two daughters, Olivia and Ainsley.

Ashley earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Emporia State University and her graduate’s degree in curriculum design and instruction from Baker University.

She spent the past 13 years teaching reading, kindergarten and first grade in the Gardner Edgerton School District.

She said she is looking forward to teaching in the community in which her family lives.

Rachel Gibson

  • Second-grade teacher

Rachel is from Nowata, Okla., which is a small town an hour north of Tulsa. She currently lives in Olathe and enjoys spending time with her friends.

Rachel graduated from Pittsburg State University, and her family includes her parents, an older sister and a twin brother.

Rachel said she is looking forward to beginning her teaching career in Paola, a small town much like where she grew up. She also is looking forward to working with a great group of colleagues and getting to know her students during this exciting year.

Courtney Boone

  • Interrelated teacher

Courtney is from La Cygne, and her family consists of parents Laurie and Richard Boone, as well as Kaleigh, Charlee and Cole. Courtney attended Pittsburg State University, and she said she is looking forward to her first year of teaching.

Ashley Blackman

  • Second-grade science and social studies at Cottonwood and third-grade science at Sunflower

Ashley grew up in the Louisburg school district until 2005, when she moved to Paola and graduated in 2011. She earned her BA in education and MS in curriculum and instruction with a minor in STEM from Emporia State University.

Her husband, Kyle Blackman, is also a Paola graduate. They have a 2-year-old daughter, Beckett, and are expecting a baby boy this January, Leland.

This year, Ashley said she is looking forward to starting an elementary Lego League. She taught computers at Cottonwood as well, so she is especially excited to see all the familiar faces of her students again.


Emily Alphin

  • Third-grade teacher

Emily is thrilled to be a part of the Sunflower team this year. She is originally from Gardner and moved back there this past summer with her husband, Jace. They both attended College of the Ozarks near Branson, Mo., where they graduated and were married.

Emily taught for two years in that area, teaching first grade at Kirbyville Elementary. She said she is so excited to meet her new students in Paola and get to know them. She thinks it’s going to be an amazing first year teaching in the Paola school district.

Chiann Miller

  • Fourth-grade teacher

Chiann grew up in La Cygne and then moved to Manhattan to attend Kansas State University. She graduated in May 2019 and then moved closer to home to begin teaching.

She is the daughter of Kevin and Kris Carothers, and she recently married her husband, Lucas.

Chiann said her favorite part of teaching is getting to nurture children’s confidence and showing them that they are valued and important. She is excited to get to work with the great students, parents and faculty of the Paola school district.


Rosalyn Smith

  • Vocal music teacher for Paola Middle School and Paola High School

Rosalyn (Rosie) is a fresh graduate of William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in K-12 Music Education and Secondary Education. She grew up in Independence, Mo., with her parents, Steve and MaryBeth, six siblings, two dogs and four cats. She got to take one of those cats, a tuxedo named Clyde, with her when she moved out, and he will be her trusty roommate this school year.

She said she is excited to begin getting to know her students and creating beautiful music with them. She plans to be showcasing their talent at a variety of concerts this year, and she encourages everyone to attend.

Gayle Sullard-Gray

  • Functional skills level 3 special education teacher

Gayle is a 1985 Paola High School graduate. She received her bachelor’s in elementary education from Emporia State University, master’s in school leadership/administration from Emporia State and master’s in special education from the University of Kansas.

She taught Chapter I reading and special education K-8 in Paola for two years, as well as teaching kindergarten, fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms and K-8 special education in Shawnee Mission schools for 20 years. She also was a private school principal at Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy for five years, and her mom, Sandy Sullard, worked at the high school for 35 years.

Gayle has two grown children, and she said she is looking forward to getting back to her roots in Paola and special education. She said she’s excited to meet her students and get the year rolling.

Angela Johnson

  • Sixth-grade mathematics and science teacher

Angela was born and raised in Hutchinson. After graduating from Hutchinson High School in 2015, she moved to Manhattan, where she attended Kansas State University. She recently graduated Summa Cum Laude from the KSU College of Education in May, and she is excited to spend her first year of teaching in Paola.

Her mother, Joy Mae, is a newly retired educator, and her father, Skip, is a retired Presbyterian minister. Her older sister, Taylor, is also an educator, currently teaching in USD 232.

Along with teaching sixth-grade math and science, Angela also will be an assistant coach for the middle school volleyball team this fall. She said she can’t wait to meet all of her students and players and watch them grow throughout the school year.

Amber Yohe

  • 6-8 STEM teacher and assistant high school volleyball coach

Amber grew up in Paola and attended Hillsdale Elementary. She received degrees from Haskell Indian Nations University and Baker University. She has two sons, Carter, 5, and Kole, 1.

Brad Long

  • Eighth-grade SPED teacher

Brad grew up in Louisburg, and he said it is nice to be closer to home. He went to college at Emporia State University and traveled before starting teaching. He taught at Dodge City High School and Wyandotte High School before coming to Paola Middle School.


Tony Brummer

  • Interrelated teacher

Tony earned his bachelor’s from Fort Hays State and his master’s from Emporia State. He has been with the COOP for the past 20 years. He spent 17 of those years at Trojan Elementary in Osawatomie. Prior to the COOP, he taught for three years in his hometown of Great Bend, Kan.

Tony and his wife and kids have lived in Paola for seven years. His wife works at Miami County Medical Center. His oldest daughter will be in thrid grade at Sunflower Elementary, his oldest son will be in first grade at Cottonwood Elementary, and his youngest son will be in kindergarten at Cottonwood. His 3-year-old daughter is in daycare.

Tony is new to PHS but not to the district. He has been an assistant wrestling coach since the 2003-04 school year, and he has been a part of the high school baseball team as a coach since the 2004-05 school year.

Tony said he is excited to get this school year underway. There will be many things different going from elementary to secondary, but he said that means new challenges, new ideas, new relationships to build and a bunch of learning to take place. He said he’s ready to begin.

Jessica Ward

  • Language arts teacher

Jessica is from Shawnee but has lived in Lawrence the past few years. She attended the University of Kansas and earned her degree in secondary English education. This school year, she said she is most excited to get to know all of her students and watch them grow in their reading and writing skills.

Lori Joiner

  • Counselor

Lori is a graduate of Allen County Community College, Kansas State University and Emporia State University. She taught science for six years at Prairie View High School and then worked as a school counselor for four years at Prairie View Middle School and five years at Clark Middle School in Bonner Springs.

She moved this summer from Basehor to Spring Hill with her husband, John, and their 3-year-old son, Brooks.

Lori said she is very excited to return to the high school level and be in a rural community. She looks forward to getting to know the students and families of PHS.

Kayce Bruce

  • Family and Consumer Sciences teacher

Kayce grew up in Olathe and attended Olathe North High School. She studied Family and Consumer Sciences Education at Pittsburg State University. She is married to Shawn Bruce, and they have a daughter who just turned 1 over the summer.

Editor and Publisher Brian McCauley can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or

(2) comments


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