Thirteen new faculty/staff members have joined the Rockhurst community for the 2021-22 school year, but many of them are familiar faces. Between alumni, past faculty members, and former Alumni Service Corps (ASC) volunteers, several of them are returning to a familiar home.
The new members are: Tyler Baker, Matt Beirne '14, Doug Bruce, Alex Coffey, SJ, Jane Cory, Judy Diamond, Sarah Dunn, Mikhail Faulconer '16, Antoinette Ishmael, Tom Kruse, Shawn Schmelzle '88, AJ Taylor '16, and Billy Thomas.
Tyler Baker is the new STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) Director of Experiential Learning. Mr. Baker has been in the field of education since 2006, most notably at the campus of Operation Breakthrough, where he was a key thought architect, researcher, and partnership coordinator for the MakerCity and soon-to-open Ignition Lab. Through innovation, growth mindset and leadership, he was helped transform the local non-profit into a center of education for children in the heart of Kansas City. He has expert knowledge of the STEM community and has been in education administration for the past seven years. He has presented at national conferences on the topic of developing STEM programming and authentic assessment and local conferences on trauma-informed care. Prior to his work in Kansas City, Mr. Baker attended the University of Kansas, receiving his Masters of Curriculum and Instruction from the School of Education in 2008 and has taught in Portland, OR, Naples, Italy, and Lawrence, KS. A life-long runner and nature enthusiast, he is looking forward to starting a new journey at Rockhurst, and integrating his passion and experience into the good work being done.
Matt Beirne '14 joins the Rockhurst faculty as a full-time member after volunteer teaching last year. He graduated from The Rock in 2014 before heading to Colorado State University, where he earned his BS in Mathematics. Mr. Beirne is currently enrolled in the Masters of Math Education program at Rockhurst University. This school year, he will be teaching Algebra I and coaching sophomore football. Mr Beirne says he looks forward to bringing "good times and positive vibes" to the Rockhurst community.
Doug Bruce '67 returns to Rockhurst, with which he is very familiar. Coach Bruce graduated from The Rock in 1967 before earning his Bachelors from Benedictine and Masters from Northwest Missouri State. He immediately entered the education and coaching world in 1971, including stops at Bishop LeBlond High School and Bishop Ward High School prior to coming to Rockhurst in 1978. He was a Math teacher, head basketball coach, and athletic director from 1978-2007. And from 2007-2020, he taught and coached at Vail Christian High School in Edwards, CO. Now in his second teaching stint at RHS, he will be teaching two College Algebra classes. He is excited to cheer on the Hawklets again, and also to be closer to his nine grandkids.
Alex Coffey, SJ, has been missioned to Rockhurst High School for a three-year commitment of his Jesuit formation called Regency and will join the faculties of the Theology and Science Departments. Mr. Coffey, 28, was born and raised outside of New Orleans and attended Jesuit High. After a couple of years of university studies, he entered the Society of Jesus at the novitiate in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, in 2015. In 2017, Mr. Coffey professed his First Vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience, and spent the next four years at Saint Louis University where he earned a BA in Philosophy and a Master of Theological Studies. He is “excited to join the community of Rockhurst High School!”
Jane Cory enters Rockhurst's School Counseling Department as the new part-time Administrative Assistant. She has more than 30 years of experience at SS&C (formerly DST Systems) holding a variety of roles in the financial services sector. Mrs. Cory comes well-qualified in the areas of data management, employee care, and customer care from her professional experiences. Since COVID, she has served as a substitute teacher at St. Teresa’s Academy and she’s also an alumna from Rockhurst University. Her son, Joey, will be a freshman at Rockhurst High School this fall. When asked what she is most looking forward to about working at Rockhurst, Mrs. Cory's response was “working in a high school environment with young adults and meeting new people.”
Judy Diamond is Rockhurst's new part-time Administrative Assistant for the College Counseling Department.
She has more than 20 years of experience as a Legal Administrative Assistant at Shook, Hardy & Bacon, working directly with partners, management, and attorneys, in addition to other positions as well. She is well-versed in the areas of planning, coordination, juggling many high-pressure demands. Mrs. Diamond has also served in Kansas City Public Schools, helping with volunteer coordination and public relations areas, and is an advocate volunteer for CASA in Jackson County. When asked what she is most looking forward to about working at Rockhurst, Mrs. Diamond's response was “I am looking forward to working closely with the Director of College Counseling, staff, and the students and having the opportunity to work in the educational field, where my social skills, work ethic, leadership, and academic profession would be a great asset to the department and the school.”
Sarah Dunn joins the Social Studies Department at Rockhurst High School. She was born and raised in the Kansas City area, and graduated from Bishop Miege High School and the University of Mississippi; next year she will also be graduating from Avila University with a Master of Education degree. Mrs. Dunn spent two years at Holy Cross Catholic School in northeast Kansas City teaching 6th–8th grade Religion, English, and Social Studies before moving to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. During her three years in Pennsylvania, she taught U.S. History, Civics and Government, IB History of Europe, and IB History of the Americas. She is “very excited to be joining the Rockhurst team this fall and [is] looking forward to a great 2021-2022 school year.”
Mikhail Faulconer '16 is back at The Rock after spending the 2020-21 academic year as a volunteer, mentor, and coach in the 30th cohort of the Jesuits' USA Central & Southern Province Alumni Service Corps. In 2020, Mr. Faulconer graduated summa cum laude from Saint Louis University with a BA in History and Spanish. An accomplished musician from a line of musicians, he is proficient in the instruments of trumpet and guitar, as well as a former-player-turned-coach for the Rockhurst Hockey Team. As a past intern at both the World War I Museum and Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, Mr. Faulconer is “thrilled” to join the Modern and Classical Languages Department as a full-time teacher, with the possibility of working in Social Studies, as well.
Antoinette Ishmael is welcomed to the English Department faculty. She graduated with a BA from Rockhurst College and then with an MAT from Webster University in 2006. Mrs. Ishmael has taught English/Language Arts for 26 years, including 14 years at St. James Academy in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. She is a published author of several short stories and sent her three sons to Rockhurst: Patrick '02, Anthony '05, and Dom '08. Antionette is “very excited to be back at RHS!”
Tom Kruse was a regular at The Rock last year as a football and basketball coach, and will now fill the role of Super-Substitute Instructor. He has been in education for the past 28 years, most recently as the Activities/Athletic Director and Head Football Coach at Raymore-Peculiar High School, where he spent the last 20 years. While at Ray-Pec he was named the Kansas City Metro Athletic Director of the Year in 2016. He was also the Kansas City Football Coach of the year in 2004 and 2005. He was inducted into both the Missouri Football Coaches Association and the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association Halls of Fame in 2020. Prior to being at Ray-Pec, he taught three years in the Park Hill School District and five years in the Harrisonville School District. Coach Kruse received his Bachelors Degree and Masters Degree from Northwest Missouri State University. He and his wife Kim have been married for 29 years and they have two children, Cole and Cassie.
Shawn Schmelzle '88 returns full-time to his alma mater after serving as a football and track & field coach last year. Now a member of the faculty, he will teach English and continue to coach varsity football. He has been teaching English at Blue Springs South High School for the past 28 years. Born in Kansas City, KS, Coach Schmelzle's family moved to the northland midway through elementary school. From St. Therese Parish (Parkville), he entered Rockhurst as a freshman in 1984. After graduating from Rockhurst, he earned his B.S.E and M.A. in English at Central Missouri State University where he played football for four years. At Blue Springs South, Coach Schmelzle taught every grade and ability level, from freshmen taking remedial courses to seniors earning AP credit. He held a variety of leadership positions, including English Department Chair. He also coached football, wrestling, and track & field. “The tradition of excellence is what I am most excited about. From the pastoral work to the academic mission, I am so grateful to serve the community that provided such a solid foundation for me.”
AJ Taylor '16 also returns to his former high school in a teaching position. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a BS in Communication Arts with an emphasis in Film, TV, and Radio. Back at The Rock, Mr. Taylor will teach Introduction to Broadcasting, Broadcasting II, and Honors Newspaper II, while serving as the Prep News moderator. In addition to his classroom duties, he will also coach in the football and track & field programs. Coach Taylor was an All-American running back while at Rockhurst and holds the fourth most rushing yards in a season (1,721) and third most points scored in a season (132) in program history. He went on to have a stellar career at Wisconsin as a wide receiver, where he caught 89 passes for 1,316 yards and 10 touchdowns. "I'll bring my knowledge and experiences working on films, working on commercials, and working with/competing against some of the top athletes in the nation."
Billy Thomas joins Rockhurst's Physical Education Department, as well as working as the Head Basketball Coach and Associate Athletic Director. Coach Thomas is a graduate of a high school once sponsored by the Jesuits in Shreveport, Louisiana, as well as from the University of Kansas. He spent the last 11 years at The Barstow School as Head Varsity Basketball Coach and Associate Athletic Director. Prior to his coaching career, he enjoyed an impressive professional career. After playing for four years at the University of Kansas, Coach Thomas played professional basketball for 11 years: In the NBA, NBA Development League, CBA, and IBL, and also played on teams in the Philippines, Argentina, Italy, Serbia, and Greece. “It’s an absolute honor and privilege to be chosen as the next head basketball coach at Rockhurst. I was drawn to the overwhelming reputation for success throughout all of its sports programs, as well as the chance to become more devoted to my faith.”