The White Salmon Valley School District began the 2002-03 school year with five new teachers, a new high school counselor, and a new middle school principal.
Candy Fetsch, Omar Sankari and Matt Whitmire have joined the staff at Columbia High School.
At Whitson Elementary, one-time aide Maria Venero has been made a full-time member of the faculty.
Henkle Middle School, meanwhile, welcomed new staff members Lorraine Hernandez and Jeff Lindstrom, and new principal Rick George.
Born and raised in White Salmon, Fetsch graduated from Columbia High School in 1980 as Candy Dollar. She returned to White Salmon this year after living the past nine years in Spokane.
Fetsch will teach physical education at CHS. She replaces the late Debbie McNamara, for whom she played volleyball in the late 1970s.
Fetsch earned her bachelor of arts degree at Eastern Oregon State College, La Grande.
She taught science in Milton-Freewater for a year, and later worked as a substitute teacher in Montana, Oregon and Washington while she and her husband of 15 years, Brent, raised two children: son Dalton and daughter Allie, now ages 10 and 8.
When she's not teaching or tending to the needs of her family, Fetsch said she enjoys gardening, running and horses.
George succeeds Mary Alice Wagner as principal at Henkle Middle School.
He comes to White Salmon from the Lynden School District, where he served as an assistant middle school principal the last seven years. Prior to that, George taught language arts from 1982-95.
George is married with two children, ages 19 and 13.
He graduated magna cum laude from Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., and later received his master's in education from the University of Portland (Ore.).
Hernandez brings a wealth of experience and expertise -- as a teacher of and mentor to migrant students -- to Henkle Middle School's bilingual education program.
She most recently ran the bilingual education program for 10 years in the Crook County School District in Prineville, Ore., and served as the instructor of a human development mentor course at Central Oregon Community College in Bend from 1999 to the present.
A 1991 graduate of George Fox University in Newberg, Ore., Hernandez got her master's in education and endorsements in Spanish and ESL/Bilingual from Lewis and Clark College, Portland, in 2001.
She said her career objective as an educator is "to provide the best possible learning experiences for all students."
A recent graduate of Portland's Concordia University with a BA in education (social studies endorsement), Lindstrom will teach eighth-grade Pacific Northwest history and Essential Learnings at Henkle Middle School.
The past eight years he coached football, wrestling and girls fastpitch softball at Washougal High School.
This fall, he is serving as an assistant seventh- and eighth-grade football coach at Henkle. He said he is "looking forward to future coaching assignments in the school district."
Lindstrom and his wife, Kellie, are the proud grandparents of Taylor Ann, the daughter of their son Christopher and his fiance', Kamani.
When he's not teaching English classes, Sankari can be found instructing CHS students in the basics of keyboarding.
Sankari, who grew up in Skamania County and graduated from Stevenson High School in 1986, now lives in Hood River with his wife and two young children, a 3-year-old son and a 3-month-old daughter.
A 1990 graduate of the University of Washington, Sankari received a bachelor of arts in English "with distinction." In 1997, he got his secondary language arts certification and master of education degree from Portland State University.
Between 1998 and 2002, Sankari taught under temporary contracts and intermittently served as a substitute teacher, primarily at Hood River Valley High School.
He also has worked seasonally for the U.S. Forest Service on the Gifford Pinchot and Mt. Hood national forests since 1987, mostly as a wildland firefighter and wilderness ranger.
Sankari said he enjoys all kinds of outdoor activities, including hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing and snowboarding.
A native of Santander, Spain, Venero traveled far and wide before going to work for the White Salmon Valley School District in 1999, as an aide in its bilingual education program.
This year, she has been promoted to a full-time certified teaching position in Whitson Elementary's bilingual education program.
Venero finished her college education in her homeland before moving to London, where she spent four years as a kindergarten teacher.
In 1983, she moved to Mexico and taught children with special needs for four years. After living three years in Washington state, she relocated with her family in 1989 to Hawaii, where she worked as a Montessori teacher for six years.
Over the years and throughout her experiences, she said she continued to receive additional certifications as required.
And, though she now calls the Columbia River Gorge region home, she said she "still enjoys traveling when time permits and spending time outdoors in the beautiful gorge with her family and friends."
Whitmire, lately of the Pe Ell School District in western Washington, takes over the counseling duties at Columbia High School.
He also is serving as an assistant football coach at CHS this fall and will coach seventh-grade boys basketball at Henkle.
At Pe Ell, he was counselor for grades K-12; head varsity football and baseball coach; coach of the seventh-grade boys basketball team, and staff adviser to the middle school's community service-oriented Builder's Club.
Whitmire graduated from Iowa State Univerity, Ames, in 1991 with a bachelor of science degree in psychology. He did his graduate work at St. Martin's College in Lacey, and received a master of arts in counseling psychology with an emphasis on school and therapeutic counseling, in 1994.
Whitmire was a prep All-American quarterback and all-state baseball player at Tenino High School in the late 1980s before playing quarterback for three years at Iowa State on athletic scholarship.
He is married to the former Kari Robinette, an accountant who played on UCLA's 1995 NCAA national champion fastpitch softball team.
Whitmire's hobbies include bird hunting, fishing, reading, movies, athletic events and dogs (especially their five-year-old Brittany Spaniel, Cody).
He said he chose to come to White Salmon because "the parents of the district are renowned for their positive involvement in their children's education, and that certainly has been proven in my first two weeks on the job."