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New Staff at LN for 2021-2022

Caulkins, Kawata, Kennedy & Menke all join the Raider Family

Welcome to LN's four newest staff members:  

Robyn Menke (elementary cook), Nolan Kawata (elementary PE & head high school volleyball coach), Dan Kennedy (PreK-12th grade principal), and Mary Caulkins (Life Skills teacher at the Lawrence site).  Mrs. Caulkins information is missing as it is not available at this time.

Read on to learn a little more about these individuals joining the Raider family:

  • ROBYN MENKE.  Robyn will be taking the place of Nancy Kotinek who retired from the preschool/elementary school cook position.  Thank you, Nancy, and welcome, Robyn!  When interviewing Robyn, she stated:

    • I graduated from Lawrence High School, class of 2000. After high school, I attended Southeast Community College in Lincoln and graduated with an associates degree in food service management. 

    • I come from a family of six kids with my parents. We have a total of 17 nieces and nephews. I have two dogs and a cat who are pretty much my everything!  I have no kids and I'm not married, so I have plenty of time for my fur babies. 

    • I loved being next to my grandmas and my mom when it came to cooking. I've always really enjoyed it. It wasn't until my senior year that I figured out what I wanted to do. I had a teacher that told me that I should go into culinary arts. I didn't graduate with a culinary degree but I do have a food service degree and couldn't imagine doing anything else. 

    • I've been working in food service ever since I graduated high school. It has taken me to a lot of different places, places I never thought I would go. I've worked in colleges, businesses with a cafeteria, jails, prisons and a nursing home. I've also done some fast food and managed the food service department in a grocery store. I've learned different things from all those places making me the person I am today and still loving what I do. 

    • Honestly, I've always wanted to move back home (Lawrence) and work in the kitchen at the school that I attended and hopefully someday help out with coaching. I want to do more homemade meals, and I think it would be really cool to teach some kids about how fun cooking can be. 

    • In my spare time, I love doing yard work, hanging out with my dogs (a lot!), doing home improvements around my grandparents’ house that I live in, and I have a part time job. 

    • I'm pretty excited that I'm going to be around to watch some of my nieces and nephews grow up and see them at school. I'm also looking forward to getting more involved in the communities, giving back to the town that gave to me growing up!

  • NOLAN KOWATA.  Mr. Kowata will be taking the place of Mrs. Biltoft who is retiring from the preschool/elementary PE position.  Thank you, Mrs. Biltoft, and welcome, Mr. Kowata!  Mr. Kowata is currently substitute teaching at Grand Island Public Schools and shared the following:

    • I graduated in 2011 from Grand Island Senior High where I excelled in football and track. I went on to play football for Doane College where I received my bachelor's degree in Exercise Science in 2015. I took a couple of years off from school and then went back to earn my master's degree in Education in 2019 from Hastings College.

    • Family is very important to me.  I have three siblings. My oldest brother, Ryan, is currently living in Minnesota where he just became a father. The next in line is my sister Kayla. She is married and has four kids -- Halle, Brody, Conley, and Daxtyn. They reside in Wilber, Nebraska. Being an uncle is so fun and any chance I get I enjoy spending time with the kiddos. Next is my brother Justin who is closest to me in age. He is currently living in Grand Island and serves the community as a diversion officer. Then there is me, the baby of the family. 

    • My dad passed away in 2012. During my undergrad, there was a rough patch where I lost my Dad, Grandpa, and teammate all in the span of a year. My family and close friends really helped me persevere through that difficult time.

    • My mother is the glue that really holds us all together. She has been such a huge support for me in the journey to becoming an educator and has been with me every step of the way. I'm definitely a momma's boy!

    • I have two great danes.  They have been such a special part of my life and dearly loved family members. Growing up we had Pugs, Weimaraners, and Boston terriers. Great danes have been my favorite dog breed thus far, and I plan to continue to keep them and make them a part of my life. 

    • This is a really tough question. I've had so many great teachers in my life. If I had to choose one, it would probably be Jeff Tomlin. He was my head football coach at Grand Island Senior High, and he was great at motivating his kids and teaching them life lessons that extended far outside the academic and athletic realm. He did an outstanding job of teaching kids the value of hard work, attitude, commitment, and accountability to just name a few. He is one of my great mentors, and someone that I will strive to be like in the classroom and in the sports arena.

    • For the past year, I have been substitute teaching for Grand Island Public Schools in all grades and all areas of learning. Prior to that, I have held multiple football coaching positions at the middle school and high school levels. I was also co-coordinator for GI's youth football program which consistently had 300 plus participants from kindergarten to sixth grade.  When I toured Lawrence-Nelson, I got to meet almost the entire staff and I knew immediately it would be a great fit for me. They were so welcoming and supportive. As a first year teacher, it's great to know that you will have colleagues willing to lend a helping hand. 

    • Then there's the kids. When I toured the schools,  I was lucky enough to get to visit each classroom. They were so respectful and so welcoming, just as the teachers were. They were very inquisitive of me as I was of them. I look forward to meeting each and everyone of them to build a positive and unique relationship with each individual student. I have heard from multiple people that Lawrence-Nelson has the best kids in the state of Nebraska and I am excited to get to experience that first hand. 

    • I enjoy shooting blue rock recreationally with friends. I'm not the best shot, but I am getting better each time I go. I have just recently started to golf. I'm better shooting blue rock than I am on the links, if that tells you anything about my golf skills. I really just enjoy being outdoors and taking in what nature has to offer.

    • I am looking forward to being a part of this community and learning as much as I can from my peers and my students. Thank you for allowing me to be a Raider!

  • DANIEL KENNEDY.  Mr. Kennedy will be taking the place of preschool through high school principal.  Mr. Kennedy answered the following questions to help us get to know him better:

    • My education is from the University of Phoenix (Masters of Educational Leadership, Administration, and Supervision) and Metro State College (Bachelor's Degree with a History Major).

    • My wife is Leah, and she is a registered nurse.   We celebrated our 25th anniversary this year.  We have 3 daughters:  Abby is 24, Hannah is 22, and our youngest is Maddi who is 14 years old and will be a freshman next  year.  

    • I had multiple high school teachers who were inspirational in how they taught their classes. I also had a college professor at Metro who was really impactful with how I went through my education program.

    • My previous experiences that have prepared me for this position include:

      • Weld Central High School Principal, 2014-2021      

      • Brush High School Principal, 2013-2015

      • I taught and coached from 1995-2013 before I moved into administration   

    • I am super excited to get back into a smaller school district.  I grew up in a small town in northeast Colorado.  Lawrence/Nelson seems like a great school with a family atmosphere.  The district offers a lot of opportunities for a school its size.  

    • I like to read and spend time with my family.  

    • I am ready to get to work and meet the staff, students, parents and become part of the community!