Superintendent of the year says award is ‘about all of us’
Teahons chose Gothenburg as destination.
Mike and Kelli Teahon traveled to Gothenburg months before Mike was hired as school superintendent in 2001.
The couple had identified seven Nebraska communities as good places to raise their four children.
“Gothenburg was at the top of our list,” explained Dr. Teahon.
On their visit, they were impressed that a bond issue to build a new high school had passed, on a 2 to 1 vote, and that the town was so clean and its people so friendly.
Also high on their list was the fact that the high school sweethearts, and their children, would be close to family in Custer County.
“And people talked positively about the school and the community,” Teahon said.
Teahon has shared that school and community pride and enthusasium with residents for the past 12 years and it likely factored into his selection as superintendent of the year last Friday.
The Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association gave Teahon the award during the organization’s spring conference in Kearney Friday.
The 50-year-old was quick to note that the award isn’t just about him but about the students, staff and community.
“We have a great student body, school board, staff and community,” he said.
What makes him tick as a superintendent is a desire for the district to be as excellent as possible.
“Kids have only one chance and we need to help them take advantage of that chance and set the stage for them to do whatever they do in life,” Teahon said. “We do everything we can to make sure all kids reach their potential.”
That desire goes hand in hand with a philosophy he adopted that was shared by a mentor.
“He told me that a school system gets better or falls back,” Teahon said. “If it’s not improving, then others will pass you.”
Teahon strives to stay in the forefront, focusing especially on effective instructional practices and the use of data in driving decision making.
“That’s been the biggest change in the district,” he said, noting that technology is a tool in the instructional model.
His doctoral disseration, entitled “The Perceptions of Nebraska Administrators Regarding The Transition From STARS To NsEA And Its Perceived Influence On The Implementation Of A Balanced Assessment System,” fits right into the use of data and effective teaching.
NsEA is a state-developed test while STARS were local assessments that measured student performance.
Teahon thinks Nebraska schools need a balanced testing system such as NsEA, MAPS assessments (a measure of student’s progress or growth in school) and classroom-based testing.
“The challenge is tying these into the constraints of time, money and teacher time,” he explained.
Early dismissal of students monthly is used for teachers to examine test data, align the information for improvements and collaborate with each other.
“The staff is dedicated and understands the importance of looking at and doing what’s best for kids,” Teahon said.
Interestingly, the Arnold High School graduate began his first year at Kearney State College majoring in architecture before switching to math and history education with endorsements in coaching and computer science.
“I found out I couldn’t draw,” Teahon said with a laugh about changing majors.
He taught and coached in Osh-kosh and for Trumbull Public Schools and was principal at Sandhills Public Schools before accepting a superintendent position at Amherst Public Schools.
While in Oshkosh, he and Kelli bought the franchise, Complete Music, and deejayed events and managed personnel for several years.
In fact, the couple and their children moved to Ft. Collins, CO, for a year to run the business that at one time had 25 employees in Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming.
Operating the business, Teahon said, gave him as much experience for becoming a superintendent as did teaching and administration.
When Teahon was hired as superintendent for Gothenburg Public Schools, he was involved in the final design for the new high school and construction.
Since then, he has spearheaded three other major building projects:
the building of a new high school track and stadium improvements
an addition to and renovation of Dudley Elementary
the renovation of the cafeteria and other improvements to the Community Building
Teahon and Kelli, who teaches business and woodshop classes at Cozad Public Schools, have four children: Heather is married to John Blecha and teaches at St. Bernard’s Elementary School in Omaha; Joel is finishing up an electrician degree at Southeast Community College; Heidi is a high school senior; and Jaci is an eighth grader.