Towles Intermediate School Meet Our New Tech Staff

TNT Staff

Meet our School Principal: Tim Captain

Mr. Captain is a native of Bluffton, IN, where he graduated from Bluffton High School, and he and his wife currently raise their three children. He graduated from Ball State in 1998 and started working for Fort Wayne Community Schools as an elementary teacher. He decided to become a teacher because he was a student that would have slipped through the cracks if not for his parents, and he wants to ensure that no students here will slip through the cracks. Prior to becoming the principal at Towles, he was the first Director of Towles New Tech and led the program for 3 years. The thing he is most excited about Towles is that students are fun and no two days are the same. When Mr. Captain is not being our fearless leader, he is at home working on his farm and spending time with his family.
 
Meet our Assistant Principal: Jennifer Witzigreuter
Mrs. Witzigreuter is a native of Fort Wayne and a 1990 graduate of North Side High School. She is married and has six children, all of whom have attended Bunche and Towles. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Dakota and her Master’s degree from Western Governor’s University.

Prior to coming to Towles as the Assistant Principal, she was an Administrative Intern at Lindley. Before that, she was a District Instructional Coach, Classroom Teacher, Interventionist, Reading First Coach, and Reading Recovery Teacher. She first became a teacher because it “combines two things she loves - school and children.” She has always loved learning and “when you are a teacher, you continue learning everyday!” According to Mrs. Witzigreuter, she is “excited to learn more about New Tech and the authentic applications of the learning that occurs.” She is looking forward to seeing the products students create during their projects that demonstrate their active learning. An interesting fact about Mrs. Witzigreuter is that she and her family are Disney fanatics!

 

Meet our New Tech Director: Derek Leininger

Mr. Leininger is the Director of Towles New Tech.  A 2002 graduate of Columbia City High School, Mr. Leininger received his Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education from IPFW in 2007 and his Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from Ball State University in 2014.  He is currently working on his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership through Indiana State University.

Mr. Leininger has spent his entire professional career with Fort Wayne Community Schools.  He has taught at both the middle school and high school level.  He spent most of his career teaching Social Studies, but he also taught Developmental Reading and Business Education.  He coached high school cross country and track for twelve years, and for nine years was the head coach at Snider High School.  Mr. Leininger served as a district administrative intern at the Anthis Career Academy prior to coming to Towles New Tech.

Mr. Leininger loves the New Tech model of project-based learning and is excited to be part of the Towles school community!  He enjoys running and spending time with his wife and daughter. 
   

Meet our Counselor: Joyce Paige

Meet our Counselor

Mrs. Paige was born in Marion, Alabama and is the youngest of nine children in her family. She moved to Fort Wayne as a child, graduated from Northrop High School in 1986, and went on to Indiana State University where she graduated in 1991. Later, she attended IPFW-IU for her Master’s Degree and graduated in 2003. She is married with four children.

Prior to being the Guidance Counselor for Towles New Tech Middle School, she was a case manager for Park Center, Washington Center Elementary, and Shambaugh Elementary. She decided that she wanted to be a counselor because she loves helping people. Her favorite part of her job is to interact with students and try to help them solve problems. According to Mrs. Paige, the project-based learning at Towles New Tech is great because it "helps students better prepare for life after school by exposing them to real-world situations and allowing them to create authentic products." Mrs. Paige loves sports, especially basketball, volleyball, and football. Her first passion, however, is fashion. Before becoming a counselor, she almost decided to be a buyer for clothes. Luckily for TNT, she changed her mind.
   

Meet our Instructional Coach: Sean McConnell

Meet our Instructional Coach

Mr. McConnell, although not born in this state, has always considered himself a Hoosier and since 1972 has lived within 50 miles of Huntington, Indiana. Mr. McConnell graduated from Huntington North High School in 1985 and attended Huntington College where he played soccer and club volleyball. He graduated from Ball State University in 1990 with his Bachelor of Science in History. He graduated from Ball State again in 1992 with a Master’s in Educational Administration.

Mr. McConnell began his teaching career at his alma mater, Huntington North, and taught U.S. History and Geography. He began his administrative career in Jay County as an assistant principal. He served in Jay County for 4 years before becoming principal at Adams Central High School. Since 2013, Mr. McConnell has enjoyed his current position as the instructional coach at Towles New Tech.

Mr. McConnell is married and currently has 7 children, ages 1, 8, 10, 12, 14, 22 and 23.Outside of school, he enjoys watching his kids play sports, participating in all shooting sports, hunting, and practicing martial arts.
   

Meet Our 7th Grade Math Facilitator: Melanie Forman  

 

7th Grade Math Teacher

Miss Forman grew up in Hastings, Michigan. She graduated from Lakewood High School in 2008. After high school, she went to Indiana Tech and graduated in 2012. She decided to become a teacher because of how amazing her high school math teacher was. Her high school math teacher was someone that most kids dreaded having because she was strict and really challenged students to take ownership over their own learning. Miss Forman was greatly inspired by her teacher and wanted to have that same impact on her own students.

Prior to coming to Towles New Tech, Miss Forman taught 3rd grade at Washington Elementary. She was excited to come to TNT because she liked "how the projects provide an authentic piece to mastering the standards." When asked what she likes the most about TNT, she replied "I really like how many students get excited about the projects and the culminating piece that is produced."
   

Meet Our 7th Grade Social Studies Facilitator: Sally Benjamin-Butler

   

Meet Our 7th Grade Language Arts Facilitator: Tia McFarthing

7th Grade Language Arts

Mrs. McFarthing was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She is a proud graduate of South Side High School. After high school, she attended IPFW and received her Bachelor of Arts in 2008 and went on to graduate school at National Louis University in Chicago to obtain her Masters in Teaching in 2010. She began her teaching career at an alternative school called Banner Academy South in Chicago where she taught for two years. Her next year was spent at Irvington Preparatory Academy in Indianapolis followed by one year at Bellmont High School in Decatur. Her fifth year was spent at Wayne High school where she was introduced to New Tech.

Mrs. Mac is currently in her 5th year at Towles New Tech where she co-teaches 7th grade Language Arts and Social Studies, Reading and Writing Success, and is the TNT Writing Center Advisor. What Mrs. Mac likes most about New Tech is the ability to not only teach Language Arts content, but also to teach students important skills that will empower them throughout their lives. Mrs. Mac really enjoys being able to collaborate with other facilitators and forming bonds with her students.

Mrs. Mac is married and has one adorable daughter named Ayla and a very large dog named Roman. She enjoys spending time at her lake cottage on Fox Lake with her family and tries to run 7 to 10 5k races in her spare time each year.
   

Meet Our 7th Grade Science Facilitator: Carissa Richardson Lahrman

7th Grade Science, Engineering

Mrs. Richardson Lahrman was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She has been teaching with Fort Wayne Community Schools for nine years. After graduating from Northrop High School with honors, she went on to study education at Kent State University.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Middle Childhood Education with an emphasis in Science, Language Arts, and Reading along with a certificate in Social Studies. She started her teaching career at Miami Middle School located in Fort Wayne, Indiana and then moved on to spend three years at Northwood Middle school. She has taught for eleven years in Fort Wayne Community Schools.

This is Mrs. Richardson Lahrman’s 5th year at Towles New Tech where she co-teaches 7th grade Science and Math, as well as a combined 7th/8th grade Engineering & Technology class.  She also coaches Volleyball and is a sponsor of the CANstruction team. Mrs. Richardson Lahrman was named the 2017 ISTA Hoosier Educator of the year and is also an recipient of the NEA Foundation’s Award for Teaching Excellence.

She was inspired to be a teacher after volunteering at an elementary summer club over her summer breaks in high school.  When asked what she likes about New Tech she stated, “I love the project-based learning format that takes students’ learning further than traditional classrooms.” Mrs. Lahrman is married and has a cat, Gixxer, and dog, Sammy.  She enjoys spending time with friends and family, camping, traveling, and scuba diving in her spare time.

   

Meet Our 8th Grade Social Studies Facilitator: Lauren Smith

 Mrs. Smith was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky and also attended the University of Louisville. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Middle and Secondary Social Studies Education.

Mrs. Smith is in her third year teaching. Her first two years of teaching were 8thgrade Social Studies at Piedmont Lakes Middle School in Orlando, Florida. Previously she was sponsor the of the Student Government Association. Mrs. Smith recently moved to Fort Wayne for my husband’s new position at Kroger.
Mrs. Smith and her husband were married in July 2016. He gave her the best wedding gift ever! Their Yorkiepoo Lailah! They love spending time with Lailah, family and friends, attending sporting events, working on home improvements and traveling. She is looking forward to going to the Bahamas over spring break.
   

Meet Our 8th Grade Science Facilitator: Leslie Lizarraga

 

   

Meet Our 8th Grade Language Arts Facilitator: Wendi Wallet

 Wendi Wallet

Mrs. Wallet was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communicative Disorders with a minor in Reading from West Chester University in Pennsylvania and a Master’s Degree in Education from Arcadia University.
She started teaching in 2000 for the School District of Philadelphia (1st, 2nd and 6th grades) and relocated to Spring Grove, PA where I continued teaching until 2011 (6th grade and 7th grade Language Arts).  Mrs. Wallet took six years away from teaching to spend time with her children and this is her first year back.  While teaching in Spring Grove she presented for the Keystone State Reading Association as well as the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics.
Mrs. Wallet has been married to her husband, Joshua, for twelve years.  They have three amazing children: Isabella (10), Evan (8) and Ethan (5).  She loves to craft, read, spend time with her kids, and is a huge fan of the Philadelphia Eagles.
   

Meet Our 8th Grade Math Facilitator: Jessica Walters

 8th Grade Math, Algebra, Geometry

Mrs. Walters was born and raised in Fort Wayne, IN. As a 2001 graduate from Bishop Luers, she went on to IPFW for her Education degree. When asked why she wanted to become a teacher, she replied “as a child, I knew I wanted to be a teacher but wasn’t sure what I wanted to teach. As a senior in high school, I was able to go to an elementary school to teach various lessons to second graders. This just reinforced that feeling I had to become a teacher. I also had an awesome high school Algebra teacher that continued to drive my love for math. I know that many people do not like math or care for it. Knowing this, I felt called to share my excitement and love for math with others.” Upon her graduation from IPFW in 2009, she started teaching at Memorial Park Middle School where she taught for 4 years.

After leaving Memorial Park, Mrs. Walters decided to teach 8th Grade Math at Towles New Tech in 2014. Her favorite thing about the Towles New Tech experience are the opportunities provided to the students that make their learning more relevant. She loves the culture between the staff and students at Towles New Tech and because of that, her son attends TNT as an 8th grader. In her free time, she enjoys scrapbooking and remodeling her house.
   

Meet Our Special Education Facilitator: Cheryl Pruitt

Mrs. Pruitt holds a B.S in Education with an English major and minors in Psychology and Special Education.  She is trained to teach writing through the Appleseed Writing Project’s Summer Institute. 

This is her 17th year with FWCS.  Mrs. Pruitt began as a  substitute teacher in a Functional Skills program and moved to a Learning Disabilities program the following year.

Mrs. Pruitt is married and have two fabulous daughters.  They have one adorable tuxedo cat.  She loves to write and will soon be writing family stories with her brother.   

Meet Our Media Center Specialist: Anthony Diederich

Media and Digital Technology Mr. Diederich teaches Media and Digital Technology and runs the Media Center at Towles. He was born and raised in Northeast Indiana and graduated from Garrett High School in 1988. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in 1994 and became a public librarian before coming to Towles. He decided to work at Towles because he has always enjoyed working with young people. His greatest moments in teaching are "when struggling students get excited about learning something new." The thing he likes most about TNT is the "real world applications that the students learn while working on their projects" and he enjoys working with a staff and student body that is dedicated to learning. Outside of school, he enjoys hanging out with his son, Connor. Mr. Diederich is also an actor - he starred in a local television commercial when he was 12 years old.
   
Meet Our Physical Education Facilitator: Vince Quinones
Physical Education Mr. Quinones, aka Mr. Q, has been teaching Physical Education to 1st through 8th graders at Towles for a while. He was born and raised in Decatur, IN and graduated from Bellmont High School. He went on to receive his Bachelor’s degree from St. Francis in Health and Safety with a minor in Physical Education. He also received a Master’s degree from American Military University in Charleston, WV in Sports Administration. Before coming to Towles, he had a long career in the Air Force and retired after 30 years. He taught PE at Kekionga Middle School before accepting his current position at Towles. Mr. Q likes the way TNT has integrated technology with students’ education. He is the most awesome teacher at Towles and all the students and staff love him!
   
Meet Our Spanish Facilitator: Maria Sanchez
Spanish, Advanced Spanish Mrs. Sanchez was born and raised in Cuba. She graduated from the Remedios High School in Cuba in 1976. She later graduated from the Central University of Villa Clara, Cuba in 1982. She became a teacher because “being with students all day helps her to stay young and keeps her connected to current events.” Before coming to Towles New Tech, she started out teaching Language Arts in Cuba. After moving to Fort Wayne, she taught elementary at the Lindley Immersion School. At Towles, she teaches Spanish to the middle school students. Students in her Advanced Spanish class earn a high school credit towards graduation. She was excited about teaching at TNT because she likes the independence that students have in project-based learning. They take ownership for their work and the products they create. She likes the opportunity that she has here to teach Language and Culture using technology. The creative energy of the students is inspiring and they make her laugh every day. She is married with two children and in her free time, she swims, reads, and watches movies. During the Fort Wayne winters, she really misses Cuba with its tropical weather and the ocean! 
   
Meet Our Music Facilitator: Rachel Thorson
Choir, Music Theory and Composition, Guitar
Mrs. Thorson teaches Choir, Music Technology and Composition, and Guitar to our middle school students. She was born and raised in Fort Wayne. After graduating from Woodlan High School in 1999, she attended Ball State University where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Instrumental Music Education in 2003. She later received her Master’s in Education from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2010. She wanted to be a teacher because she loves “working with kids and trying to reach them through music.” Prior to coming to Towles, she taught band at Triton Central Middle and High School in Fairland, IN and band and choir at Hauser Junior/Senior High School in Hope, IN. She’s most excited about teaching Music Technology at Towles because the access students have to technology makes it possible for her to teach that course. The thing she likes most about TNT is “seeing how kids work together to make music.” She has two children, one of whom goes to Bunche Montessori. A fun fact about Mrs. Thorsen is that she loves pajamas!
 
   
Meet Our Art Facilitator: Ashley Toy  
 Art, Advanced Art, Photography  
Fort Wayne native Ashley Toy lives and breathes art in Towles Art Studio 125!  A graduate of Carroll High School, she was inspired by her own art teachers to pass the passion on and chose to study the discipline at the University of Saint Francis. It was there at college that she met her future husband, Eric Toy, who was also in the Teacher Education Program.  Today, they get to share many of the same students as Mrs. Toy’s Towles graduates move onto Mr. Toy’s school at New Tech Academy at Wayne HS. Together, they have two dogs named Lincoln and Mona Lisa, both named after their teaching passions.  In her free time, Mrs. Toy enjoys baking (as long as its Gluten Free), napping and taking her dogs out for walks! She also has spent the last few years developing her own photography business on the side, applying her art skills to help families capture memorable moments.  Mrs. Toy loves to engage her students in the art community and showcase their work with the world!
 
   
Meet Our Band Facilitator: Rob Boland
Mr. Boland came to Towles from Ball State University where he graduated with a degree in Music Education. He teaches 6th grade Band and Middle School Band and he spends half of his day here at Towles (AM) and half of his day at Miami (PM). He is excited to "see the TNT band program grow through the addition of our Montessori 6th graders’ band class and a focus on making band a fun and attractive elective option for 7th and 8th graders." Prior to coming to Towles, he worked his way through college as an asphalt patcher, construction worker, and farmhand.

As an Indianapolis native, he graduated from Noblesville in 2012, Ball State in 2016, and arrived in Fort Wayne to teach Band. According to Mr. Boland, he decided to become a teacher "because of how much [he] loved playing in high school music classes, and [he] wanted to provide that same experience for [his] future students." The thing he likes the most about TNT is the "unique approach to education that TNT takes." Mr. Boland’s favorite color is green and the quirkiest thing about him is that he loves neckties!
   
Meet Our Secretary: Patricia Beaty
 
   
Meet Our School Resource Officer: Greg Woods
Officer Woods is the School Resource Officer (SRO) for Towles. He has been a police officer for 20 years and comes from a law enforcement family. His wife is also a police officer and has worked as a security officer for FWCS for 12 years. Officer Woods and his wife have 4 children. He has served as an SRO for FWCS for the last 10 years at Jefferson Middle School and Northrop High School and prior to that was a security officer. He enjoys working with students, staff, and parents and wants to make a positive impact on them to help improve our community. Officer Woods is "hoping to help teach the students not to be afraid of police and understand that they are there to help them and build a better trust between them, their parents and the community."

A native of Fort Wayne, Officer Woods graduated from Bishop Dwenger High School in 1992 and was active duty in the US Navy prior to becoming a Fort Wayne police officer. He is "excited to become a member of the TNT staff because [he] will be working more directly with not only middle school age students, but also elementary age students.  [He] looks forward to having a positive impact on the children, and hope it will help continue to bridge the gap between the community and police officers.
   
Meet Our Assistant: Stephanie Raleigh
Meet Our Assistant: Vacant