DERBY, Kan. (KSNW) – Two powerhouse football teams are taking on each other for Friday’s Game of the Week. Derby and Bishop Carroll will battle it out. Before the game, KSN News visited each community’s school system to learn what makes them unique.

Teachers describe the district as a family

At Derby’s Tanglewood Elementary, family is the word teachers use to describe the district.

David Dunn, Eric Seyb, and Jeannie Haag are fourth-grade teachers in the school. Together, they have 62 years of teaching experience.

A fun fact, Dunn is a former student of Seyb and Haag. Another interesting tidbit, Dunn is currently teaching in his former fourth-grade classroom.

“It’s kind of strange in a way … it doesn’t feel like he was ever one of our students because he fits in so well with us,” Seyb said.

“We will find old pictures and things of him, and it’s like, oh, you were that young once. You were one of our students,” Haag said.

“It was really neat to get to come back into this room to look over and see Jeannie on one side and Eric on the other side and have those two mentors just right there that I could look over and see what they were doing each day and learn from them,” Dunn said.

In all 62 years of their combined careers, Dunn, Seyb and Haag have only taught in Tanglewood.

“I think my favorite part is just, you know, every day. You can have great plans of what you want to do, but it’s an adventure every day,” Seyb said.

“Just see how much they have grown in their academic career, in their life. It’s really neat to be able to have an impact and do that on a daily basis,” Dunn said.

“I think my most favorite part would be that moment where someone has been working on something, a student has been working on something, and they have that ah-ha moment where they are just like, “I got it,” and you are just like, yes, that’s why we teach,” Haag added.

Expansion continues in school district

In the last 20 years, the Derby school district has had to expand due to more people moving there.

In 2000, the city had less than 18,000 people. Today, there are about 25,000. With the influx, the district has had to expand.

In 2018, voters approved a massive $114 million bond project that included a brand new elementary school and renovations and additions to the elementary, middle, and high schools.

“It really has given us a great path moving forward,” Burke Jones, Derby Public Schools director of operations, said. “We took care of a lot of maintenance that needed to be done. Of course, our buildings have all new mechanical and HVAC equipment, so long term, it really set us up for success.”

The bond also paid for FEMA shelters and ADA-compliant playgrounds. The district had money left over after the projects came under budget, so it is currently doing some smaller projects with the bond funds.

Sensory pathway created by teacher

Makinzie Hogan, a full-time teacher at Wineteer Elementary, was going to school to get her master’s degree at Wichita State.

She was required to do a service learning project during her last semester.

After her principal mentioned the need for a sensory pathway, Hogan created one.

The pathways are geared toward special education students, but anyone can use them to burn some energy while learning.

“They come in here. They’re jumping, but they still have to count, going one, two, three, four, having to know when to jump and do their ABCs, so we’re not losing that time,” Hogan said.

“Everybody needs a break from time to time, whether it’s adults or kids, and teaching kids how and when, and now, we have a place for them to come and have a break,” Yvonne Rothe, Wineteer principal, said.

The project was possible thanks to community donations. The district is looking at adding others.

McConnell Air Force Base brings students to district

McConnell Air Force Base sits a couple of miles outside the Derby City limits.

Children whose parents are stationed there attend 11 different school districts, but Derby educates the most. About 20% of students in the district are connected to the base.

To help them transition after a move, the base provides the school districts with a liaison. The goal is to make sure every student feels included.

“If you’re worried about who you’re going to sit with at lunch, how to get where you need to go, I don’t have any friends, you’re going to worry about all those things first, and learning is going to be secondary,” Jeff Smith, Derby North Middle School principal, said.

“People may call or ask me, they may say, ‘Hey, what’s the best school district my kids could attend?’ Obviously, I can’t say which is the best, but I can give them options and opportunities,” said Greg Martin, school liaison program manager at McConnell Air Force Base.

Martin created multiple programs to make sure military students and families stay connected. For example, he implemented fist bump and high five Fridays, where airmen and women greet students in the morning.

There are also military moments where service members volunteer in schools.