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Published September 18, 2023
UW graduates make up nearly half of K–12 educators and administrators in the state.
By Micaela Myers
Teachers hold one of the most important roles in society: educating and guiding youth from preschool to adulthood. University of Wyoming College of Education alumni form the backbone of the K–12 and community college education system in Wyoming. The Wyoming Department of Education reports that UW graduates make up nearly half of K–12 teachers and administrators. Not only is the college tasked with producing trained educators, but it also is helping to address the rural teacher shortage and issues of turnover with new educational offerings, mentoring programs and more. Meet a number of state educators who share what they love about their careers and advice for current students.
Rylee Berger, Uinta County School District 1
Rylee Berger grew up in Evanston. After earning her secondary biology education degree in 2021, she is now a colleague with her former teachers at Davis Middle School, where Berger serves as a seventh grade life science teacher.
“I love my job,” Berger says. “I couldn’t have imagined a better fit for myself. UW provided me with all of the tools that I need to be a successful science teacher and helped me to develop the confidence I needed to become the educator that I am today.”
Berger also loves working in her hometown, where the local community is incredibly supportive and her family is nearby. “I have been able to make great friends because of the new teachers who have come to work and live in our town — all of them graduates of UW,” she says. “The state of Wyoming is just an incredible place to live — with friendly people, beautiful landscapes and close-knit communities anywhere you go.”
She urges other students to give Wyoming a chance after graduation: “It is a great feeling to know that you are giving back to the rural communities that have already given so much to you and your education.”
Chawna Wiechmann, Washakie County School District 2
Chawna Wiechmann grew up in Fromberg, Mont., relocating to Wyoming after meeting her now-husband. Already a credentialed teacher, she was teaching math when she saw a flier for UW’s master’s in school counseling degree — a hybrid program with weekend intensives in Casper that allowed her to continue teaching.
“It was such a blessing,” Wiechmann says. “I was able to have my income and do the courses outside the work week. It was an amazing program.”
Wiechmann graduated in 2011, teaching until she landed her dream job in 2015 as a school counselor in Ten Sleep, where one school serves just over 100 K–12 students. This allows her to work with all ages of students — from teaching social skills to kindergartners all the way up to helping high schoolers plan for their next step.
“It’s awesome to see the whole spectrum of students,” she says. “This is my eighth year, so the fourth graders when I started are now graduating. Living in a small community, I know their parents and grandparents. I know them at a deeper level, so I can better help them having that breadth of information.”
Wiechmann also enjoys raising her two children in Ten Sleep.
“Wyoming is amazing,” she says. “The amount of resources and the culture are much deeper than what I’ve experienced elsewhere, whether school or community.”
She loves the Cowboy way of life and culture.
“UW supports that culture concept, the Cowboy way and get-’er-done attitude,” she says. “Pushing that integrity and hard work is something I really appreciate about Wyoming.”
Mattni Becker, Mental Health Counselor
Mattni Becker of Casper combined her UW degrees in animal science with an equine science concentration (B.S. 2018) and mental health counseling (M.S. 2022) to specialize in animal assisted therapeutic modalities at her mental health counseling practice in Douglas.
“I have two therapy dogs and five therapy horses,” she says. “Being around animals decreases anxiety and promotes feelings of safety. When a client feels safe, they are more willing to look at the difficult things that brought them into therapy.”
Becker also runs Revived Spirits LLC, which focuses on promoting full body wellness for horses and their riders. She is certified in multiple therapeutic modalities to assist equine athletes including pulse electromagnetic field therapy, sports massage, kinesiology taping, raindrop therapy, thermal imaging and rehabilitation training.
UW helped Becker bring together her love for horses and desire to assist others on their healing journeys. She always knew she’d stay in Wyoming and encourages current students to think outside the box. “Wyoming is in need of individuals who want to keep our cowboy culture alive and contribute to everything that makes this state great.”
Coralina Daly, Central Wyoming College
Not only do UW graduates form the backbone of K–12 education, but they also play a key role in the state’s community colleges. Coralina Daly moved to Wyoming from Freeport, Maine, nearly 20 years ago and earned her higher education administration doctorate from UW in 2019. She now serves as vice president of student affairs at Central Wyoming College in Riverton.
“The thing I love most about my job is being an advocate for students — particularly for students who are more vulnerable — and being able to create a team of people to make sure all our students are well served,” she says.
Completing her doctorate while she worked in the community college system allowed her to directly apply what she was learning — from Title IX compliance to change management.
“We were undergoing major initiatives during the first couple of years of my program, so I was able to research them, write them out and then implement at the same time,” she says. “The program was really beneficial.”
Daly loves that positive changes can be quickly implemented at Central Wyoming College and enjoys working closely with members of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes.
To UW students who also want to stay and work in Wyoming, Daly says: “It’s not always going to be about the money. It’s much more about quality of life, the people you work with and finding a place where your contributions are valued. In Wyoming, you get to be a big fish in a small pond. You can make a difference more easily than a larger community.”
Bailey Headrick was born in Jackson Hole and raised in Big Piney, enjoying all the state has to offer. During her time in the elementary education program at UW, Headrick worked at the UW Early Care and Education Center and completed her student teaching in Green River. After graduating in 2016, Headrick accepted a job as a fifth grade teacher at La Barge Elementary School.
“I am proud to have gone to UW and am thankful for all of the experiences that I had,” she says. “I work at such a great school with incredible people in an amazing community. I love how small it is and how everyone is so caring and supportive of others. I constantly say how thankful I am to be teaching in Wyoming.”
She also loves living in the state with its hard-working people and all the outdoor opportunities.
“You can always find my family and I outside hunting, snow machining, camping, etc.,” Headrick says. “My family owns a ranch just north of where I live. I grew up with so many great experiences of being outside and working with animals. I am now very thankful that I get to do the same with my daughters. Wyoming is a great place to live and raise a family.”
To UW students hoping to stay and work in the state, she recommends working hard and never giving up: “Sometimes it takes a little while to get where you want, but if you keep pushing, then you can accomplish anything you want and so much more.”
Jason and Staci Horsley, Lincoln County School District 2
When Jason and Staci Horsley were deciding where to settle down and raise their family, they knew they wanted to stay in their home state of Wyoming. They made a list of their top five towns, which included Staci’s family’s hometown of Afton. Luckily for them and Lincoln County School District 2, that’s where they landed.
Jason grew up in Wamsutter and earned a bachelor’s in secondary math education (2000) and a master’s in education leadership (2005) from UW. He now serves as assistant superintendent of the district.
“As the director of education, I have the opportunity to wear a lot of hats,” Jason says. “I get to work with teachers, administrators and policy makers. I love being an educator. Creating opportunities and programming for students to prepare for an ever-changing world is awesome. I am confident our young people are being prepared to answer the challenges for their day.”
Staci earned her special education elementary education degree from UW in 2000 and her master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts. She spent 18 years consulting with districts around the state but is now based full time in her district as a board-certified behavior analyst and autism behavior specialist.
“I love providing ongoing training and support for members of educational teams as they troubleshoot and implement interventions for some of the more challenging cases,” Staci says. In addition, she has worked as an instructor in the College of Education and for UW’s ECHO Autism and Behavior Support Networks.
Jason started refereeing college basketball at UW, a hobby he continues today. Both are thankful they received a solid education and made lifelong connections at UW.
“I was fortunate to have caring advisors and professors,” Jason says. “So much of my professional network of amazing people started in Laramie.”
Staci adds: “I felt very prepared entering into positions in education. I also feel like many of the relationships and connections made there allowed me to pursue higher-level professional goals.”
They wanted to raise their kids enjoying the many opportunities Wyoming offers, including outdoor recreation from fly fishing to golf.
“We have been able to give them deep roots and a love for the unique opportunities this awesome state provides,” says Staci, who grew up in Riverton.
“I get to live and work where most people plan their vacation,” Jason adds.
To young people hoping to stay in Wyoming, Staci says: “Continue to put yourself in a position to connect and associate with others in your field of study. Do not limit yourself to being willing to only go to one location. Many opportunities and locations can provide similar experiences anywhere in the state.”