By SVERRE BAKKE
Six new faces and one familiar one greeted White Salmon Valley School District students Wednesday morning on the first day of the 2006-07 school year.
The new hires are Tiffany Denny and Beth Sauter at Hulan L. Whitson Elementary School; Katie Ortega at Wayne M. Henkle Middle School; and Dustin Hunley, Richard Polkinghorn and Ann Scott at Columbia High School. Back for his first full-year at Henkle Middle School is Josh Kingsley.
Following are brief biographies for each.
Tiffany Denny will teach first grade this year at Whitson Elementary School -- the same elementary school she attended while growing up in White Salmon.
Denny graduated from Columbia High School in 1993 and earned her degree in elementary education at Central Washington University. In August 1998, she married CHS alumnus Jeremy Denny.
Denny's first teaching job was in the Palm Springs (Calif.) Unified District -- a place she learned about after attending a job fair in Portland, Ore. She taught first grade in Palm Springs for two years.
But a desire to get back to the Northwest and experience its change of seasons led the Dennys to move to Vancouver, where Denny taught first grade for the past five years in the Evergreen School District.
Following the birth of her daughter, Sophie, Denny and her husband, who works for the realty firm Pacific Rim Brokers, "knew we wanted to live in White Salmon to be close to our family and friends."
Denny said she is looking forward to the first day of school in the town where she grew up.
"I am very excited to be back and feel privileged to be working with such a great staff at Whitson," she said.
Dustin Hunley is the new music director at Columbia High School.
Hunley is a pianist, vocalist, music director, composer and arranger who earned a Jazz Piano Performance degree from the University of Denver (Colo.). He has performed as a professional musician with a variety of jazz, popular, funk and commercial groups in Colorado, at the Bellaggio resort in Las Vegas, Nev., and on the Carnival Cruise liner MC Ecstasy, as a band leader/front man for the Dustin Hunley Sextet.
Prior to coming to White Salmon, Hunley taught band choir in Santa Fe, N.M., for four years. He has directed musicals such as Les MiserablŠs and The Beauty and the Beast to critical acclaim. Moreover, members of his instrumental programs received top honors in local and state competitions.
Hunley's wife, Karen, also is an accomplished pianist, specializing in chamber music and Argentine tango.
The couple's 4-year-old twins, Clara and Nathaniel, "are excellent musicians as well, and are just enough to keep us busy."
Josh Kingsley, of Lewiston, Idaho, returns in 2006-07 as Henkle Middle School's music director -- a position to which he was appointed last March on an interim basis.
Kingsley is a 2005 graduate of the Lionel Hampton School of Music at the University of Idaho. His degree is in Music Education (K-12 endorsement).
Katie Ortega, a native of the Columbia River Gorge region, will teach fifth grade this year at Henkle Middle School.
Ortega was born and raised in The Dalles, Ore., and attended Oregon State University, where she majored in Liberal Studies and minored in Spanish. She got her master's degree in education at George Fox University in Newberg, Ore.
Ortega taught at Peninsula Elementary School in Moses Lake from 2001-06. While there, she got experience teaching first-, second- and fifth-graders. In her last four years in Moses Lake, she also coached high school volleyball.
Outside of school, Ortega said she enjoys many athletic activities, such as playing volleyball, softball and golf, wakeboarding, snowboarding, and most recently competing in triathlons.
Some of her other interests include photography, reading, traveling and spending time with her family. Ortega and her husband, David, live in The Dalles with their cat, Bing.
"I look forward to teaching fifth grade at Henkle Middle School and am excited about being back in the beautiful Columbia Gorge," Ortega said.
Richard Polkinghorn, a native California's Bay Area, joins the Columbia High faculty this year as a mathematics teacher. He's also a member of CHS's football coaching staff.
Polkinghorn holds bachelor of arts degrees in Mathematics and Spanish from the University of Oregon, where he earned three varsity letters and competed in the NCAA Divison I Championships as a member of the U of O wrestling team. In 2004, he finished his master of arts degree in Educational Administration at California State University, San Bernardino.
Polkinghorn previously taught math at Hood River Valley High School (2004-06), where he also served as head coach of the school's wrestling program.
Before going to work in Hood River, Polkinghorn taught math and coached wrestling (1999-2004) at Cathedral City High School in Palm Springs, Calif. While there, he was voted "Teacher of the Year" by the student body in 1999-2000 and a "Top Ten Teacher of the Year" five times. In 2002-03, he was named Desert Valley League Wrestling Coach of the Year.
Polkinghorn and his wife, Heidi, a Columbia High alumna, live in White Salmon. They are the parents of two daughters, Hannah, born in 2004, and Jessica, born in June.
"In 2004, Heidi and I both finished our MAs in Educational Administration, and we had our first daughter. It was then we decided it was time to move out of the desert to get closer to grandma," Polkinghorn said, adding, "I am thrilled to get this opportunity to work and give something back to this fabulous community."
Beth Sauter brings a diverse educational and experiential background to her new position at Whitson Elementary School: special education teacher.
A native of the Columbia Gorge region, Sauter grew up in Cook and graduated from Stevenson High School in 1983. Five years later, she graduated from Central Washington University with a bachelor of arts degree in Leisure Services, which focused on commercial and outdoor recreation.
Sauter did an internship with Holland America Cruise Lines, then worked seven years for the U.S. Forest Service on the Mt. Adams and Wind River Ranger Districts as a firefighter and wilderness guard.
Her career path took a turn in 2002 when she was selected as an intern in the Educational Service District 112 Alternative Routes to Teacher Certification Program.
"This intensive one-year internship gave me the opportunity to do my student teaching at Whitson Elementary School," Sauter noted.
In 2003, Sauter graduated from City University with a second bachelor of arts degree, this one in Education. Over the past three school years, she has taught fifth grade at St. Mary's Academy in The Dalles, Ore., and special education at Stevenson Elementary School.
Sauter currently is working on a Reading Specialist endorsement and "excited to be teaching special education for ESD 112, and working with students at Whitson elementary."
She and her husband, David, are the parents of two children, Will, 11, and Hannah, 8. They live in Lyle. Sauter said her favorite activities include "attending my children's sporting events, reading, camping and singing."
Ann Scott, Columbia High's new special education teacher, comes to White Salmon from the Hillsboro (Ore.) School District, where she had been "working successfully as a special education case manager and teacher...until now."
Born in Iowa but raised on the East Coast in both New York and New Jersey, Scott graduated from Moore College of Art in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1982, with a bachelor of Fine Arts degree in jewelry/metals.
Scott said she made her living as a "studio jeweler" while living in the Rehoboth Beach, Del., area.
"I spent my time designing, producing and showing my contemporary jewelry on a national and international basis to galleries, shops and museum stores," she said.
Then, in 1990, "I had this crazy calling to move to the Pacific Northwest."
In 1994, she drove across the country "like a modern-day pioneer woman and moved to Hood River with my daughter, Molly, in tow."
Scott said she fell in love with the Gorge but moved the next year to Aloha (Ore.), where she gave birth to another child, Grant, now 10.
During her time in Aloha, Scott said she experienced major changes in her life, "the result being a complete career change where I have been able to take all of my creativity from my art career and combine it with my insight and intuition to work with and help young people who face adversity in their own lives."
In 2003, Scott received a master of art degree in Special Education from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore. Her first teaching job was in Hillsboro.
Today, Scott lives in Stevenson with Molly, a freshman at Stevenson High School, and Grant, who attends a private Christian school in Beaverton, Ore.
When she's not working, Scott can be found "windsurfing, making jewelry, gardening or hanging out at home looking at the river."