Vocal music teacher looks forward to using new auditorium
Tonganoxie's new vocal music teacher Tom Gifford already has seen how the town can pull together.
And that's what he liked about Tonganoxie from the start.
"Last summer, about the time I was looking into the position here, the nursing center had a fire," Gifford said. "On the news that we were watching it just said a lot of the people in the town were really pitching in to help out in whatever capacity they could."
And that indicated, Gifford said, that Tonganoxie would be a good town in which to work.
He already had heard of Tonganoxie -- from a TWA pilot he talked to years ago.
"He told me that the most reliable weather forecast in his pre-flight planning was to see how approaching fronts reacted once they hit Tonganoxie," Gifford said. " I know that whole 'Tonganoxie split' theory has been refuted by some sources, but this guy swore by it."
This is the 21st year of teaching for Gifford, who was reared in Nebraska. He last taught at Winnetonka High School, in the North Kansas City, Mo., school district. The high school of about 1,700 students is near Worlds of Fun.
But he said, Missouri schools run on different schedules than Kansas schools, where his children attend school.
Gifford said he saw Tonganoxie as an excellent opportunity -- and the move allows him to synchronize his school breaks with his children's. The family lives in Lenexa and their children, Evan, 7, and twin daughters, Amelia and Bronwyn, 6, are enrolled in the Shawnee Mission school district.
Gifford's wife, Michelle Milldyke, who grew up in England, is a freelance writer who focuses on business writing. Michelle works from home.
It's possible the family eventually could move to Tonganoxie, Gifford said.
"It would be my wife's dream to move out here somewhere where we could have a horse," he said.
In the meantime, Gifford is happy with his new school.
"It's a great time to be here," Gifford said. "It's a thrilling period of growth for the school."
And, he noted construction of the high school's new fine arts auditorium and new middle school.
Because this semester the school has no auditorium, last week's vocal music concert was held at West Haven Baptist Church. While that worked out well, Gifford said he's eager for performances to return to the high school campus.
"I can't wait to move into the new auditorium, and I'm excited to be moving into the middle school," Gifford said. "It's just refreshing to come here."
He said he thought district patrons would appreciate the new facilities, as well.
"It's going to be the greatest," Gifford said of the auditorium. "I think the town's going to love it. They're going to find things to have in it, it's going to be so useful."