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Six Teachers Thriving in First Year At NHA’s Newest School

Six teachers at Mill Creek Academy entered the year in a unique situation. They were first-year teachers at a brand-new school. Olivia Piatek, Kayla Warner, Ashley Swihart, Sarah Parson, Ashley Grenz, and Makenna Powell all are in their first year as full-time teachers.
This phenomenon for six of Mill Creek’s classroom leaders is a positive for one of NHA’s newest schools. Principal Joseph Sellenheim felt confident in their abilities and believes the knowledge this group brings to the table is valuable as the school grows.
“When you hire a brand-new teacher, they might not have the same experience, but they typically have the strongest and freshest knowledge base,” Sellenheim said.
Fresh knowledge of educational trends gives these fresh faces an upper hand in some ways. According to Parson, a lot of the best practices she learned in college were also a part of her experience at National Heritage Academies’ New Teacher Summit.
“It was cool and reassuring that the things I learned in college are being applied to my job,” Parson said. “When I saw that, I felt more comfortable. The transition was seamless.”

Ms. Parson lesson planning
First-year teacher Sarah Parson prepares the lesson plans for her fifth-grade class before the start of the school year at Mill Creek Academy.

While the transition was smooth from a knowledge standpoint, the newest crop of teachers at Mill Creek had some natural nerves heading into the year. They were comforted by the leadership team of Sellenheim and Dean Kimberly Sadowski.
The first-year teachers said they felt like their voices were heard in the process of coming up with classroom policies and procedures.
“It has also been cool to see the process behind it all,” Warner said. “You usually go into school and everything is done for you, but it is kind of nice I get to be a part of the decision making. I’m in a unique opportunity where we can all share our opinions and not get told ‘No because that was how stuff was done for years.’”
Ms. Warner talking to another teacherMill Creek kindergarten teacher Kayla Warner, right, talks to fellow kindergarten teacher Amanda Tenwinkel during lesson planning. This is Warner’s first year teaching.

For some, this aspect of classroom customization was a reason they applied to work at Mill Creek. For others, additional factors were a major part of starting their career at Mill Creek.

Parson said after hearing about Mill Creek’s opening for the 2023-24 school year, she researched more about the school and NHA. She was impressed with NHA’s Moral Focus character-based curriculum.
“It felt like Mill Creek Academy was very aligned with what I was looking for in a school,” Parson said. “I really appreciated the Moral Focus curriculum. That’s something that is a huge part of a teacher’s role but isn’t always given the time it deserves in other school systems. That was a big thing for me.”
Congratulations and keep up the good work!
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About Mill Creek Academy
Mill Creek Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Waukesha, Wisconsin, serving students in all-day 4K through fifth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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