Our Staff

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Sabina Villar

Ms. Villar teaches business and technology courses at Westwood High School. She is the co-advisor for Westwood’s Business Professionals of America Chapter and Cybersecurity Teams. She majored in Business Education and Social Studies Education and minored in Economics Education at Northern Michigan University. She received her Master’s degree in Educational Technology from Central Michigan University. She has been teaching for eight of her 13 years at Westwood. She also taught virtually for five years before coming to POA in 2020.

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Becky Halamka 

Mrs. Halamka is the teacher for all 6th-12th grade Health Education classes. She also teaches a variety of high school courses through POA, including Counseling and Mental Health Services, Child Development, and Personal Care Services. Mrs. Halamka's full-time job is serving as the school counselor at Westwood High School. She received her B.S. in Secondary Education (Physical Education and Health) from Western Michigan University, and her M.A. in School Counseling from Western Michigan University. Mrs. Halamka likes to spend her free time outdoors with her husband and children. They enjoy hiking, camping, swimming, and taking care of their growing hobby farm, which now includes dogs, cats, chickens, and goats.

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Heidi Verville

Mrs. Verville is a proud alumni of WHS, and she's grateful to be teaching in the district where she was born and raised. Go Patriots! After high school, she attended NMU, where she obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education with English and History minors. She also holds a Master's Degree in Education--Learning Disabilities, also from NMU. Mrs. Verville taught middle school language arts for 12 years before recently taking a middle school social studies teaching position. Outside of school, Mrs. Verville enjoys spending her time with her husband and 3 children. Her activities include mountain biking, running, hiking, baseball/softball, ATVing, fishing (and all other kinds of outdoor adventures!), reading, and cooking/baking.

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Cara Anderson

Mrs. Anderson is a mentor and English/Language Arts teacher for our Patriot Online Academy. She has worked for NICE Community Schools, teaching 7th and 8th grade Language Arts since 2015. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts from Eastern Michigan University, her teaching certification for English and History from Northern Michigan University, and her Master's in English Pedagogy from Northern Michigan University. When she isn't teaching, she enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with her family.

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Ronalyn Arseneau

Business and Technology, Social Studies Teacher

Mrs. Arseneau is from west Ishpeming, a WHS graduate who is living the dream of teaching business, technology, and social studies at Westwood High School.  She earned her bachelor’s degree from Northern Michigan University with dual majors in Business Education and Social Studies Education, and also holds a master’s degree in Educational Technology.  Having been teaching for the past 24 years, Mrs. Arseneau has served as a content expert for many Patriot Online Academy courses across the social studies, business and technology curricula.  She serves as an advisor for Westwood’s Business Professionals of America chapter and Cybersecurity teams.  In her free time, Mrs. Arseneau and her husband, Barry, love to travel and spend time with their three children and three grandchildren.

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Scott A. Syrjala

Mr. Syrjala is certified to teach Business and all Computer Application programs.  He is vocationally certified. Recently, he has been instructing Physical Education, which he is also certified to teach. Mr. Syrjala has coached, football, basketball and Track and Field throughout his career.

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Steve Annelin

Mr. Annelin has been teaching math at Westwood HS since 1992.  He graduated from NMU with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and business education in 1990, then completed a Master of Science degree in mathematics education in 1997.  He has taught pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, algebra 2 and also concurrent enrollment courses for NMU.

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Michele Talsma

My name is Michele Talsma. Currently, I am the Prek-5 grade technology teacher at Aspen Ridge. Before becoming the technology teacher, I also taught 3rd grade and 8th grade in a different district. I attended Northern Michigan University where I received both a Bachelor’s of Science degree and a Master’s degree. I have a middle school math and science endorsement and a Master’s of Reading K-8. In my spare time, I enjoy gardening and kayaking as well as spending time with my family, grandson and my two black labs, Star and Josephina.

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Kristin Marana

This is my 2nd year teaching at Westwood,  but I previously taught for 2 years in Marquette and 7 years in Manistique.  I have taught an assortment of courses in my teaching career ranging from elementary through middle and high school.  I currently teach US History to high school students and a variety of history courses provided through our Patriot Online Academy.  I find history an exciting subject to teach because students get to evaluate situations and develop their own perspective on topics.

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Libby Nelson

Art Teacher
B.A. Art Education- Ceramics, Northern Michigan University
M.A. Educational Leadership and Administration, Northern Michigan University

Libby Nelson joined the faculty at NICE Community Schools in 2008 and teaches art at Aspen Ridge Middle School. Aside from teaching young people about creativity, Ms. Nelson enjoys showing students how to grow food in our school hoop house and hydroponic garden. Ms. Nelson loves making pottery and growing plants. Outside of the classroom, she enjoys being outdoors and spending time with loved ones and her two dogs.  Mrs. Saarela currently teaches 9th-12th grade SE  and PE at Westwood High School, but has also taught preschool and middle school. She holds both a Bachelor's Degree and a Master's Degree in Education from Northern Michigan University. In her free time, Mrs. Saarela likes to spend time with her husband and two boys, camping, lifting weights, playing softball and distance running. She is also an animal lover and has two cats and a German Shepherd.

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Vanessa Taavola

I have been teaching in the NICE Community School District for 21 years. I currently teach pre-algebra, algebra 1, algebra 2, and drama, but I have previously taught every level of English within the district, from grades 7-12. I graduated from Michigan Technological University majoring in Scientific and Technical Communications and Math, with a secondary focus on Civil Engineering. I received my teaching certification from Northern Michigan University and have since earned my Masters in Education as well.

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Miss Massie

My name is Kristin Marana. This is my 2nd year teaching at Westwood, but I previously taught for 2 years in Marquette and 7 years in Manistique. I have taught an assortment of courses in my teaching career ranging from elementary through middle and high school. I currently teach US History to high school students and a variety of history courses provided through our Patriot Online Academy. I find history an exciting subject to teach because students get to evaluate situations and develop their own perspective on topics.