EM Area School District welcomes six new teachers for 2017-2018

By Cara L. Dempski

ELK MOUND — Young Mounders will see a few new faces around school this fall after the district welcomed five new teachers for the upcoming school year.

Abby Opatz, Zach Stephens, Emily Pikal, Kathleen Peterson and Hailey Ribich all joined the district late last month for professional development and in-service work prior to the school year’s start. Joanne Bentz was hired last week after the district discovered another instructor was needed for the incoming kindergarten class.

All six teachers were sent profile questionnaires to complete for publication in the newspaper. Four profiles are listed here, and the final two will be provided as soon as they are received.


Abby Opatz

Opatz is a 2012 graduate of White Bear Lake High School in Minnesota. She attended UW-Eau Claire where she studied middle childhood and early adolescence education with a minor in mathematics. She graduated as a Blugold in December 2016.

The former Minnesotan served as a substitute teacher in Chippewa Falls this past spring, but student taught at Elk Mound for one quarter. 

“I loved it. Not only did the school draw me in, but the community did as well,” Opatz said. “It’s like a family here. Everyone tries to help everyone be successful, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”

Opatz will be teaching seventh- and eight-grade math.

Emily Pikal

Pikal comes to Elk Mound as the district’s new fifth- through 12th-grade general and vocal music instructor. She completed her Bachelor’s of Music Education at UW-Eau Claire in the spring of 2017 with a choral emphasis.

The new music teacher graduated from Eden Prairie High School in 2013, and chose to apply at Elk Mound because she has relatives in the area, and really enjoys the location.

Kathleen Peterson

The district’s new Spanish teacher comes to Elk Mound after four years as Arcadia’s high school Spanish instructor.

Peterson graduated from Neenah High School in 2008 before attending UW-Eau Claire. She graduated in 2013 with a double major and licensure in middle childhood and early adolescence and Spanish teaching. 

When asked why she applied for the position, Peterson said “After teaching an hour away for four years, I was ready to work closer to home. When I saw the opening for Elk Mound, I knew I had to apply, as it is such a highly-rated district.”

Zach Stephens

Stephens is Elk Mound’s newest sixth-grade teacher. He previously worked for the School District of Somerset. 

He graduated from Rice Lake High School in 2005 before attending UW-Eau Claire. He finished his Bachelor’s degree in Special Education and Elementary Education in 2010. 

Stephen’s wife is from the Eau Claire area, and he indicated the couple wanted to live closer to her family. He has heard great things about Elk Mound, and is excited for the opportunity to work in the community. [/emember_protected]