2010 - John Olachnovitch, Phil Katz
John Olachnovitch, who retired in June of 2010, worked 35 years as an educator. John worked at Linn-Mar for 20 years in several roles, Assistant HS Principal for 4 years, HS Athletic Director for 4 years, and physical education teacher for his final 12 years. John was also the Head Softball Coach at Linn-mar for 11 years, where he was the Metro and MVC coach of the year four times. He has had coaching stops since at the University of Northern Iowa, and is currently assisting at Mount Mercy University.
Phil Katz, who also retired in June of 2010, worked 30 years as an educator, all as the junior high/middle school PE teacher at Linn-Mar. Phil also spent 27 years as an assistant football coach, 25 years as the head baseball coach, and 19 years as the head athletic trainer at Linn-Mar. Phil was fortunate enough to be the athletic trainer for the Olympic Festival in 1981, the USA Basketball Olympic trials in 1984 and the USA Junior Baseball Team in 1985. Phil was inducted into the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2008.
2009 - Linda Runkle, Norm Northup, Becky Borrett
Our honorary starters this year are Linda Runkle, Norm Northup and Becky Borrett. Together these three individuals have a combined 77 service years for the Linn-Mar Community School District.
Linda Runkle, who retired in 2009, worked at Linn-Mar for 13 years as the Guidance Counselor at Indian Creek Elementary. Linda was the Iowa Counselor of the year in 1999 and was named the LMEA Educator of the Year in 2009.
Norm Northup, who retired in 2009, worked at Linn-Mar for 30 years in the social studies department at the high school. Norm was also a varsity football and girls track coach during his tenure at Linn-Mar. Norm was the recipient of the 2009 Legend Award for her excellence in education and dedication to the Linn-Mar District.
Becky Borrett, who retired in 2009, worked at Linn-Mar for 34 years as a health teacher at Linn-Mar Junior High and Excelsior Middle School. Becky was one of the driving forces in making the health curriculum at Linn-Mar one of the best in the state of Iowa during her tenure.
2017 - Amy Hutcheson, Mandy Merritt
This year’s HONORARY STARTERS for the Growl Prowl are Amy Hutcheson and Mandy Merritt.
Amy has been in the Linn-Mar district for 21 years and is currently the Physical Education teacher at Indian Creek Elementary. She has organized an after school booster club for at-risk students to gain confidence in: communication, building relationships, cooperation, sportsmanship and assertiveness. She passionately uses the Nurtured Heart approach for classroom management and seeks out teachable moments throughout the building to build students' self-esteem and help them to allow their greatness to shine through! Throughout her career at Linn-Mar, Amy has made a difference in countless student lives and continues to do so each and every day at Indian Creek.
Mandy Merritt, the Oak Ridge Attendance Secretary, has been with Oak Ridge since August 2015, and has been a positive addition to the office staff. She is caring and friendly towards students, parents, volunteers, and community members. Most importantly, she is an advocate for all students at Oak Ridge. Many students use the office as a place to calm down when upset or angry. Mandy provides a supportive, friendly environment for students to take a break and regain their composure. She develops positive relationships with students who frequent the office for behaviors, lunch detentions, and/or altered passing restrictions. Mandy has a gift in seeing when a student may need some additional support from a counselor or administrator, and has been a wonderful asset in potential crisis situations. She goes above and beyond to make a difference in students’ lives, and Oak Ridge is a better place because of her efforts.
2014 - Kathy Ebeling
Kathy started working at Linn-Mar High School as a Health Assistant in 1999. She has served as a student mentor throughout her career. Many students consider her as a “second mom”. She has the unique ability to connect with all students. Because of Kathy’s encouragement, many students have graduated from HS that otherwise may not have.
Kathy is one of those people that the students of Linn-Mar will never forget! Congratulations to Kathy Ebeling for working above and beyond in meeting the needs of students and families!
2012 - Becky Murphy
Our honorary starter this year is Becky Murphy. She has been with the Linn-Mar Community School District for the last twenty-four years. Becky first began her career at Linn-Mar as a third grade educational assistant. Next, she became part-time guidance secretary and part-time fifth grade educational assistant. Now she is the full-time guidance secretary at Wilkins elementary School.
Becky has been assisting with the Wilkins Caring Tree project for the last seven years. The first year of the program, five or six families were helped at the holiday time. The needs that first year or two were things like tires for family cars, beds for children, and furniture. This last year, Becky and her whole team of “angels” in the building helped approximately forty-one families. The focus over the years has shifted more from the needs of the family to the needs of the children at holiday time.
Becky is proud to be the official starter of the Growl Prowl this year. She is someone who always puts the needs of children first and we are all proud of her accomplishments here at Wilkins!
2008 - Karma Bailey, Karla Brown, Clark Weaver
Our honorary starters this year are Karma Bailey, Karla Brown, and Clark Weaver. Together these three individuals worked as a team to serve the Linn-Mar Community School District for a total of 110 years that helped build the Physical Education program into the wonderful program it is today.
Karma Bailey: Karma worked for Linn-Mar for 37 years as PE teacher at Indian Creek and Novak Elementary School. She was dedicated to Linn-Mar’s Wall of Fame due to her commitment to Linn-Mar and student learning.
Karla Brown served 39 years at Linn-Mar starting at the High School, moving to the Junior High and ending her career in 2008 at Excelsior Middle School. Karla was the recipient of the 2008 Legend Award for her excellence in education and dedication to the Linn-Mar District.
Clark Weaver worked in the Linn-Mar district for 34 years, all at the High School. Clark was the head varsity track coach for 32 years, volleyball head coach for 14 years, and varsity assistant wrestling coach for 8 years. He was also a SODA sponsor and a long time mentor. Clark was inducted into the Linn-Mar Wall of Fame in 2006. .
2015 - Dave Dunning
Dave has been an educator for 30 years, 25 of them in the Linn-Mar School District. He was the Industrial Technology Teacher at Excelsior Middle School for 15 years and has spent 10 years as a Behavioral Focused teacher, currently also at Excelsior. Dave has also coached wrestling and football at Excelsior for the last 25 years.
His biggest accomplishment has come with the work he does behind the scenes, supporting at-risk students in and out of the classroom. These are the things that Dave does, not because he has to or his job description says so. He does these things above and beyond the call of an educator. The relationship he builds with kids is genuine. It gives us great pleasure to honor Dave Dunning as our 2015 Honorary Starter.
2016 - Larry Gass
This year’s HONORARY STARTER for the Growl Prowl is Larry Gass. The year is 1976, Larry Gass interviews at Linn-Mar Junior High for a math teacher position. He is hired and starts a teaching career that will last 37 years. During his tenure at Linn-Mar he has impacted hundreds of students, athletes, community members and staff members.
Larry is the ultimate coach. He has coached junior high boys and girls track, junior high boys’ and girls’ basketball, freshman and sophomore boys’ basketball, girls’ softball and a football game or two. He has the ability to get the best out of his athletes at all times. It is his caring and supportive coaching style that makes athletes want to play their hearts out for him. He is a champion for the underdog. As a middle school basketball coach he came up with the concept of “C wars” in which he helped less developed players feel like Michael Jordan on and off the court.
Lastly, Larry Gass is one of the finest math teachers to ever teach at Linn-Mar. Just ask any student that has walked through his classroom door. His efforts have been recognized by the LMEA when they awarded him the Educator of the Year and in 2010 he was awarded the Legend award by the Linn-Mar School district.
In 2013, Larry retired from teaching and started a new career as a realtor for Iowa Reality. He continues to coach basketball and regularly volunteers at Linn-Mar. Let’s give a big round of applause to the 2016 Growl Prowl Honorary Starter, Larry Gass!