Three schools get new Deans

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Four educators stepped into the role of Dean of Students this year. 

These individuals are key to shaping and sustaining each of their school’s culture, providing leadership to the staff and overseeing the implementation of schoolwide discipline systems and procedures. 

Two of these educators will tackle the brand-new role of MHS Dean of Students. These two positions are funded through the emergency federal funds made available for schools to address the impact of COVID-19. 

David Maldonado will serve in the role of MHS Dean of Students for the freshman and sophomore classes. Mr. Maldonado has been a world language teacher and head wrestling coach at Merrillville High School for 19 years. 

“I see it as an opportunity to help our students here at MHS with other aspects of their academic career outside of the realm of Spanish,” Mr. Maldonado said. “Hopefully I can impact our students and school enough that I can help fill a void or be a strong liaison between students, teachers, administrators, parents, and our ‘Pirate’ community.”

He says he will bring a very firm but fair approach to the position of Dean of Students, as well as a strong ability to communicate and collaborate well with all parties who have an interest and investment in the academic careers and well-being of MHS students.

“My goal is to make the educational environment at Merrillville High School a better and safer place in order to create a positive, inclusive, and welcoming environment that will be conducive to learning for all students,” he said. “I want students to want to be here and take pride in their school and community!”

Mr. Maldonado attended Iowa State University and earned his Bachelor of Arts in Spanish language and culture with a teaching endorsement in secondary education.

“As a teacher, coach, and parent of students here at Merrillville High School, I have an enormous investment in our students, school, and community,” he said. “I always look to improve the character and reputation of our school. Our character is how we see ourselves, and our reputation is how others see us! 

“We have a lot of control over improving our character, but in improving our character we intentionally improve our reputation,” he continued. “It will take everyone in our community to accomplish this, but I look forward to being part of the journey of making our ‘Pirate’ Community a better place.”

Kristie Gore will serve as MHS Dean of Students for the junior and senior classes where she hopes to provide leadership, structure and strategic direction for students. 

Ms. Gore is starting her fourth year with the corporation. This Merrillville High School graduate has served here for three years as a Pierce Middle School PEP instructor. 

“This is my 16th year in education,” Ms. Gore said. “I started as an elementary math teacher, then transitioned into middle school math. 

“Being an educator for this long has allowed me to create strategies that assist me in connecting with students, which allows them to be successful in school and outside of school,” she continued. “It is about teaching them how to apply the knowledge gained.”

Ms. Gore earned two Master of Education degrees from Indiana University Northwest: one in curriculum and the other in administration. She also earned two Bachelor of Science degrees: one in elementary education with a middle school math endorsement from Calumet College of St. Joseph and the other in health service management from IUN. 

Alan Dickerson will serve in a new role as the Dean at Pierce Middle School this year. 

He has been a part of Merrillville Community School Corporation for more than 13 years as a teacher at Pierce. He has also served as a department head for three years and as a team leader for four years.

Mr. Dickerson’s background includes once serving as a classroom teacher and an ordained minister in a treatment facility program. 

“I have experienced the ups and downs of life and wish to help others to succeed,” he said. 

He is a graduate of Indiana University Northwest with a degree in secondary education. He looks forward to continuing to serve the parents and students of Merrillville in his new capacity.

Tammy Rassbach will start her sixth year with Merrillville Community School Corporation as the new Dean of Students for John Wood Elementary School. 

“Educating students in some capacity has always been my passion,” she said. “I love to see when the ‘light bulb’ goes off in their learning. 

“Getting to know students on a personal level is key in educating them,” she continued. “They need to feel loved and safe before learning can occur and knowing this is key in education.”

Mrs. Rassbach started her career in Merrillville as a second grade teacher at Iddings Elementary School after 12 years with another district. She became an instructional coach for both Salk and Wood Elementary Schools in 2019. 

“Over the past 18 years, I have taught a variety of grade levels: fifth, third and second,” said Mrs. Rassbach. “I briefly stepped out of the public school system to work as a consultant for an education company for a math intervention program that allowed me to coach teachers on this program. When I returned to the classroom, I landed here in Merrillville, teaching second grade at Iddings.

“This variety of experience, teaching and coaching, provided a good foundation for the Dean of Students,” she continued. 

Mrs. Rassbach is a graduate of Purdue University with a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and a Master of Science in educational studies and leadership. 

“Having my master’s in administration, I knew one day that I would transition from the classroom into a leadership role,” she said. “When the Dean of Wood became an open position, I knew this was my time to transition into leadership.”

She has been married 26 years to her husband Chris, who is a Pirate grad. 

“We have two grown children, Jared and Camryn,” she said. “Jared is a union electrician and Camryn teaches first grade at Salk Elementary School. We have three dogs that we love dearly: Harper, Aria and Brady.”

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