Custer School District welcomes new staff

Ron Burtz

There are many new faces in Custer School District this fall, including teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians and other support staff.
Newcomers to the certified teaching staff at Custer Elementary School (CES) include Katie Brotherton who will serve as a temporary sixth grade math and science teacher, filling in for Nathan Frisch who is on sabbatical, and Jessica Haug who will teach grade four.
Brotherton grew up in Pierre and received her teaching degree from Black Hills State University (BHSU). She is in her 13th year of teaching and comes to Custer from Wolf Creek School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  
She is a member of a set of identical twins and also has a younger brother. She loves spending time outdoor activities at the lake and hiking, as well as reading and crafting. She likes to play softball, volleyball and enjoys bowling.
As a 2010 graduate of Custer High School (CHS), Haug is no stranger to to CES. Having graduated from BHSU this May with a degree in elementary education, she is in her first year of teaching.
After high school, Haug attended Western Dakota Tech in Rapid City where she received her pharmacy technician certification, then she worked for Monument Health for five years. There she was surrounded by supportive co-workers who encouraged her to go back to school to pursue her true dream of teaching.
She and her husband, Jason, have a 2-year-old daughter, Everly. As a family, they love camping around the Black Hills and Haug stays active by chasing after Everly, cooking, baking, reading, going for walks and talking.
In addition to having a new building and a new principal in Forrest “Frosty” Paris (See a separate profile on him elsewhere in this edition of the Chronicle), there are eight new certified staff at Hermosa School.
School counselor Keersten Graveman is originally from the Lead-Deadwood area. She has an undergrad degree in human services from BHSU and received her master’s degree in school counseling from the University of North Dakota. She has experience as a residential counselor and drug and alcohol prevention educator.
Graveman is passionate about working with youth to bring light during challenging developmental times.
“I try to take a positive spin on situations and see the best in everyone,” said Graveman.
A recent newlywed, Graveman said she is a “zealous cat-mom” and loves to work out. She also enjoys boating and riding motorcycle with her husband.
Gabriel “Gabby” Lewis will temporarily teach first grade this year at Hermosa. Born and raised in Spearfish, after graduating from high school in 2016 she attended Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., and studied elementary education. After college graduation in May 2020, she moved back to Spearfish where she worked as a substitute teacher last school year. She has also worked as a reading tutor and taught science camps through the summer months.
“I’m so excited to start at Hermosa for my first year and build relationships with all the students and staff,” said Lewis. “I’ve been with students in grades first through fifth and I love first grade so much!”
The incoming third grade teacher at Hermosa is Molly Wonnenberg who is originally from Hill City. She said she is grateful to be able to return to the Black Hills. She graduated in May with a bachelor’s in science from South Dakota State University (SDSU) with certification in elementary education from Dakota State University.
“I spent the last four years working in an out-of-school-time program for kindergarten and working in the early childhood education department at SDSU,” she said.
She is most excited about exploring the world with her students and teaching them how topics can connect.
Jacqueline “Jacque” Hagen is the new fourth grade teacher at Hermosa and hails from Rapid City where she graduated from Central High School.
Hagen was working for a local, family-owned company in the payroll/HR department when she heard her calling to become a teacher. She enrolled as a student at BHSU and  “never looked back.”
“I have coached many youth sports and have a passion for teaching children how to be happy, healthy individuals,” she said. “When I am not at school you can find me hiking with my dog, Max, or coaching fitness classes at the small business I co-own. I am excited to be a part of the community and look forward to an amazing school year!”
Erica Venhuizen teaches fifth grade English language arts and social studies at Hermosa this fall. A graduate of New Underwood High School, she continued her educational journey at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell where she graduated in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education.
She started her teaching career at Black Hawk Elementary where she was a special ed teacher for two years. She is pursuing a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction through BHSU.
This summer she has worked on the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology campus with the American Indian Services Pre-freshman Engineering Program where she spent six weeks teaching problem-solving and engineering to a group of middle schoolers.
When she is not working, Venhuizen volunteers with her hometown church and the Feeding South Dakota organization. She enjoys spending time outdoors with animals at her parents’ ranch.
Taylor Henwood is the new middle school (6-8) social studies teacher at Hermosa. She is a 2021 graduate of BHSU with a bachelor’s in social science education. She has participated in summer and school year youth programs, lifeguarding and teaching swimming lessons.
“I am excited to join the Hornet family and build relationships with this great community of educators, students and parents along with developing a fun and interactive take on subjects in social studies,” said Henwood.
She loves being active and doing anything outdoors which includes running. She will run two half-marathons this year.
Cyndi Simpson and her family lived in Rapid City before going on a three-year adventure where she taught in the Twin Cities of Minnesota and Memphis, Tenn. Now she is the 6-8 special education teacher at Hermosa.
“I learned so much working in a variety of public and charter schools,” said Simpson. “Each student I had the opportunity to work with taught me invaluable lessons. I look forward to learning just as much from my new students.
“My favorite thing about being a teacher is the relationships,” she said. “I like to see students gain confidence as they learn new skills and then use their understanding to teach others. There is never a boring day in teaching!”
Simpson said she loves spending time with her husband, Paul, her two adult daughters, Brittany and Chloe, both of whom live in Minnesota, and her youngest daughter, Lucy, a fifth grader at Hermosa. Some of her favorite activities include walking the family dog, Benny, reading, cooking and writing and sending postcards.
Personnel changes at CHS have resulted in some familiar faces in new places. Former family and consumer sciences teacher, Tiffany Newman, has taken on the role of jr./sr. high guidance counselor. Replacing her in the classroom is Jenna Frederick who previously taught in Wyoming.
In her fifth year of teaching, Frederick has a passion “to educate today’s youth because they will be our future leaders.”
“I strive to teach my students skills they will use now and when they move on from high school,” she said. “I have seen the impact a good teacher and role model can have on students and I strive to be that for mine.”
Frederick received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from SDSU and will also replace Newman as the Family Career Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) sponsor. She coaches junior high volleyball.
Frederick brings her three children to the community and district as well and said her family enjoys going to church, concerts, sports, movies, staying home “and, of course, exploring the beautiful Black Hills.”
Alexa Winkler is the new business and computers teacher at the jr./sr. high. She recently moved to Custer from Nebraska and is in her third year of teaching.
“I am happy to be in the beautiful Black Hills,” said Winkler, “and excited by the opportunity to be a part of Custer’s community.”
In addition to teaching, Winkler will coach the high school’s C team in volleyball. She enjoys hiking, snowboarding and spending time with her husband.
Teaching physics, physical science, astronomy and geology at the jr./sr. high this year (as well as coaching competitive cheer) will be Virginia native Sheri Deatherage.
Deatherage, whose husband will soon retire from 22 years active duty with the U.S. Army, has spent the last few years teaching in Washington where her husband was stationed at Fort Lewis.
Deatherage said, with her husband’s upcoming retirement, last winter they began considering where they wanted to live and raise their two young children.
“That’s how we ended up in Custer,” said Deatherage. “He wanted to move to South Dakota.”
Deatherage brings with her a 4-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son who she says “is a proud second grader at Custer Elementary.” She also has a 20- year-old who is a college student in Georgia.
A familiar face as co-head coach of the varsity volleyball team for the past several seasons and last year’s high school distance learning facilitator, Jill Hohn moved into a new position as high school Spanish teacher.
Hohn moved to Custer in 2012 because her husband, Jared, previously a smoke jumper in Boise, Idaho, got a job with the U.S. Forest Service here. Hohn went to high school in the East River town of Scotland (Jared is from Hill City) and said the couple moved here to be closer to family. Hohn got involved with the school system right away after the move. She began coaching eighth grade volleyball in 2013 and started substitute teaching in 2015.
Hohn has a minor in Spanish from the University of South Dakota and said “The Spanish job is really suiting me. I’m enjoying putting that to use.”
The new English teacher at CHS is Sydney Hickman. Originally from Southern California, she moved to South Dakota in 2014. Hickman loves reading and writing and hopes to share that appreciation with her students.
“I am beyond thankful to join the community and be a Wildcat!” said Hickman.

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