New year, new teachers at Unit 1

Photo by Ann Gill
THE UNIT 1 School District welcomes seven new teachers this school year. Last week the group gathered in the district administration center for new teacher orientation. The new staff members are [from left, row one]: Katie Aichele, Lilly Smetana, Robin Fincher and Tara Sweeney. Row two: Zach Edgar and Karria Marsala.


The Unit 1 School District opened its doors this week and is starting the school year with a few new faces.
Joining the faculty for the 2021-2022 school year are seven educators—five of them focused on special education.
KATIE AICHELE—Joins the district as a kindergarten/first grade cross categorial teacher at the early childhood center.
She previously served as a substitute in the district, and when an opportunity arose to join the staff she found it to be a warm and welcoming district to be a part of.
In her first year, Aichele reports her goals are to build strong relationships with her students and help them thrive educationally and socially.
When it comes to motivating her students she uses positive feedback and encouragement, and seeing their excitement when they succeed at a task is what motivates her.
Aichele, a resident of the Unit 1school district, holds a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education with an endorsement in special education from National Lewis University.
LILLY SMETANA—Joins the high school staff as a co-teacher and her interest in pursing a position was the ability to teach social studies.
It was a love of history that directed her path into education, and a love for her students that found her in special education.
A positive school culture is what motivates her and when it comes to motivating her students she strives to foster good relationships and communication, appeals to her students interests and provides a bit of humor.
Smetana holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois and obtained her master’s at Lewis University. She previously taught at Plainfield Academy.
A resident of Manhattan, Smetana and her husband are the parents of two young children.
ROBIN FINCHER—Will serve as a sixth grade co-teacher at the middle school and will oversee the school’s environmental club. She comes to Unit 1 having spent the past 14 years as a special education teacher in the Minooka School District.
Wanting to help students reach their goals and be successful individuals is what influenced her decision to go into the field of education.
In her first year at CCMS, Fincher’s goals are to build strong relationships with her students and collaborate with co-workers.
Getting to know students interests and likes is her way of motivating her classes. In turn, she is motivated “seeing the lightbulb on a students face when something clicks.”
A resident of Coal City, Fincher is the mother of two girls who she enjoys seeing perform on stage.
ZACH EDGAR—Can be found at the middle school as a cross categorical teacher and is serving as defensive coordinator for the high school’s junior varsity football team.
Edgar grew up in Braidwood, graduated from Reed-Custer High School and earned his degree at Eastern Illinois University.
Although a new teacher, Edgar is not new to the district as he completed his student teaching assignment at the high school in fall 2020 and when the opportunity to take a position in the district arose he took it due to his love of the teams he worked with and seeing the students drive to be successful.
A high energy approach and positive reinforcement is his method of motivation, and this school year he hopes to set a positive example for success for all different types of students.
A sports enthusiast, Edgar reports he loves talking about anything sports and enjoys watching Chicago sports team—especially the White Sox.
MICHAEL PFEIFER— Is a new kindergarten teacher at the early childhood center and has taken on the extra assigment of sixth grade baseball coach this fall.
Prior to his new position, Pfeifer taught second grade in St. Louis and 10 years at Mazon as a first grade teacher.
When a position came available in Coal City, Pfeifer said he wanted to bring his teaching skill set back to the community he lives in and in turn become more invested in the community.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Millikin University and he did some substitute teaching after graduating and that is when he found his passion for teaching and went back to school earning his certificate at Governor’s State and a special education enforsement from St. Francis University.
When it comes to accessing student progress, Pfeifer said he feels it important to collect a lot of different types of data to get the full picutre, and that includes social skills, organization, test scores, and participation among others.
A resident of Diamond, Pfeifer and his wife are the parents of three children. In his fee time he reports a love of playing sports, watching movies, cooking and playing games with his kids.
TARA SWEENEY—Joins the middle school staff as a sixth grade English/language arts teacher who will also oversee the school’s annual spelling bee.
Sweeney previously taught in Plainfield, Minooka and spent 10 years at Reed-Custer Middle School.
In coming to Coal City, Sweeney said she had heard great things about the district and wanted to be a part of it.
When it comes to motivating her students, Sweeney works to create meaningful relationships and inspire them to be successful. In turn, the progress of her students is what motivates her.
A resident of Minooka, Sweeney and her husband are the parents of three children. In her free time, she enjoys reading, traveling, camping and creating family memories.
KASSIA MARSALA—Is a new addition to the district’s student services staff.
Prior to accepting a position with the district, she interned at Kelvin Grove Elementary School in Lockport and Reed-Custer Middle School.
She starts her career in school social work this fall and looks to build trust, strong relationships and rapport with the students she works with.
Sports, reading and family are among her interests and her students might find it interesting that she has a 25 pound cat at home.