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Panther Partners Love Endures, Even in a Pandemic!

Panther Partners Love Endures, Even in a Pandemic!

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day which means TODAY is Panther Partner’s Day!

This year, our annual Valentine’s day article will not only celebrate alumni love that is enduring the test of time… but the test of a pandemic too! This year we add the following three couples to those featured previously in 20162017, 20182019 and 2020.

And, for those of you still happily married after knowing your soul mate back in high school, make sure you let us know! We are always looking to connect with Panther Partners and learn their love stories! Email us yours at AdvancementCenter@msdwt.k12.in.us.

Mike ’97 and Kristen (Baumgartner) Poindexter ‘96

Clubs and activities are what help a big school like North Central feel small and sometimes, even result in a Panther Partnership. Such was the case for Mike and Kristen who met as members of the GLOBE club, where they had no choice but to connect being the Earth Science club’s only two members. “We’d both had Mr. McGill as a teacher and as the only members of the club that year, we would go out to the weather station and collect data.  I, Kristen, was intrigued by Mike.  He was a nice guy, but very quiet, and kept to himself.  After spending more time with him in the GLOBE club, I started showing up outside his classes (thanks in part, to the IC staff who gave me his schedule).  About a month or so later, Mike finally asked me out on a date. May 20, 1996 was our first date.” Five years later, in 2001, May 20th would start marking their Wedding Anniversary also.

For a date early in their relationship, Mike and Kristen went down to the Arcade in Circle Center Mall. They thought it would be fun to take their picture in the machine that would preview what your children might look like. Kristen shared, “We still have those pictures in a scrapbook! The funniest part was that the boy and girl both had beards at 6 years old! Thanks Mike!” Lucky for their son Jake, the machine was less than accurate, and he did not have facial hair as he headed into Kindergarten! He did however have Washington Township support as he attended Hilltop, Spring Mill, Westlane, and North Central where he is currently a junior.

Both Mike and Kristen attended Ball State after graduating from North Central and credit all of their amazing NCHS teachers for preparing them so well. “We were both able to test out of many of our basic level classes because we had been so well prepared.  I think we both did not appreciate fully all NCHS has to offer until we graduated from Ball State.  Our professors were always impressed when they saw where we had attended high school.” It was because of this that Kristen knew she wanted to return to Washington Township when it was time for her to do her student teaching. “I remember the day that I had to turn in my student teaching choices to my advisor at Ball State.  I listed MSDWT 6 times.  I handed my paper to my advisor and told her that if she couldn’t find me a spot in Washington Township, then I would be sitting out a semester.  It was where I had to be.”

Generations of MSDWT students are lucky Mrs. Poindexter was so insistent on her placement. In 2000 she did her student teaching at Greenbriar. While Greenbriar did not have any open positions upon graduation, Judy Fraps, the Title 1 teacher for Greenbriar at the time, handed Kristen a piece of paper with her number on it and told her to call if she did not have a job by August. Kristen recalls, “I half-heartedly interviewed all over Marion County and was secretly thrilled when I was able to call Judy.  She hired me as a Title 1 assistant at Greenbriar for that year.” In 2001, Kristen moved into a Kindergarten position at both Greenbriar and Nora. “There were not enough students at Greenbriar that year to have two sections, but Nora Elementary had enough students for an additional half-day Kindergarten session.  So, for the first 3 years of my career, I would teach morning Kindergarten at Greenbriar, drive to Nora, and then teach the other half-day there.” In 2005 Kristen jumped at the chance to be in a single building all day and joined the Spring Mill kindergarten team. Kristen spent 13 years as a Bulldog before transitioning in 2019 to Allisonville to help them introduce kindergarten back into the previously 1st through 5th grade only building.

In 2015 Mike, who had been teaching in IPS, went back to school to get a degree in Network Systems Administration and joined Washington Township Schools as a Central Technician. His humor and savvy are deeply appreciated by MSDWT staff across the district. (He has helped the Advancement Center on more than a few occasions when our systems have gone on the fritz!) When not answering calls to the Help Desk, he is busy being Kristen’s biggest cheerleader, which in and of itself could be a full-time job!

In 2002 Kristen received the IPL Golden Apple Award, and in 2008 she was named an Indiana University Armstrong Educator. In 2012 the Advancement Center awarded Kristen a professional development grant to attend the National Science Teaching Association conference. She had such a powerful experience at the conference that she applied for the Shell Science Teaching Award– which included an all-expenses paid trip to the 2013 conference for the top three finalists. The deeper Kristen’s application made it into the selection process, the more Kristen realized the prestige associated with the award. Video submissions, all day observations by national judges and interviews of her parents and colleges ended up not just earning her a trip to the conference, but also the designation as Shell Science 2013 Teacher of the Year! A rare accomplishment for an elementary school teacher and even rarer for one teaching Kindergarten. The recognition opened the door for Kristen to be considered for the 2014 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. Since the process took two years working its way through state level and national judges, it was not until 2016 that Kristen found herself at the White House receiving the award. Most recently Kristen was awarded the Robert E. Yager Excellence in Science Teaching Award during the 2018 NSTA conference in Atlanta. Kristen is currently working on her Ed.D in Curriculum and Instruction through a Doctoral program at IU. “My hope when I am done is to teach pre-service teachers in the classroom alongside my Kindergarten students, so they can learn from each other and discover that young children can indeed learn and talk about science!”

When asked what North Central and Washington Township mean to them, Mike and Kristen enthusiastically reply… “Everything! We would not have met or even been introduced had it not been for North Central! After we were married, and decided to start a family, it became mission #1 to have our children attend school in Washington Township.  We were both willing to do whatever we needed so that Jake could have the same incredible education we received in Washington Township. When we looked for our house, we refused to look at any homes not in the district.  We talk often about how blessed we have been. From attending NC together, to teaching and working in the District, and now as a parent/aunt/uncle of MSDWT students, we believe that there is nowhere else we would want to work, live, or raise our child!”

Matt ‘01 and Kelli (Masser) Mulherin ‘01

Matt and Kelli’s story starts a little earlier than many of our profiles! The two began as Bulldog Buddies, transitioning to Falcon Friends, then Panther Pals.  The entirety of their K-12 education experience was in Washington Township… as friends!  Matt played soccer, Kelli was a cheerleader, and they both attribute many of their lifelong friendships to their time in Washington Township Schools.

They met in Mrs. Meyer’s first grade class at Spring Mill.  Matt remembers himself as a “stud”, sporting a tail, having “at least 5 girlfriends at any time”, and placing second in the class spelling bee.  Kelli remembers the tail, yet she can’t seem to recall all the girlfriends.

While they met in first grade, their interest in each other didn’t begin to form until 7th grade science class at Northview, when they were seated at the same table.  According to Matt, “I always thought she was super cute, and used to love to make her laugh.  I wanted her to be my girlfriend, but she was dating someone else, and I never worked up the courage to ask her out.”  Kelli does remember Matt being funny. She even remembers him looking like a famous comedian.  “He reminded me of Adam Sandler.  He was a class clown and used to get asked to leave class for goofing off.”

After graduating from North Central they went their separate ways, Kelli staying in Indianapolis and Matt heading to Indiana University in Bloomington.  However, since they shared several of the same friends, their paths continued to cross, and one evening Matt finally asked her out.  According to Matt, “I was very opportunistic and connected with her at the right time and the rest was history.”  According to Kelli, “I guess he came to his senses.”

Once they got together, the rest was history, and three years after their first date, they were married.  After marriage the decision on where to settle down and begin their lives together was one they took seriously.  Washington Township was always Matt’s first choice, yet Kelli liked the idea of looking north of Indy for their first house, where she felt the homes were newer. Matt convinced her to stay in the Washington Township Community, and Kelli is happy they made that decision.  They lived in Greenbriar for eight years and for the past three years have lived in North Willow.  Matt is a Fleet Management Functional Excellence Manager at Cummins, and Kelli is an esthetician at DL Lowry in Nora.  They have enjoyed ten years of marriage and have two sons.  Brennan (8) is a second grader at Greenbriar, and James (5) will begin kindergarten at Greenbriar next year. They love their community where they and their kids have built some great friendships, which have been especially important since March of 2020.

When thinking about their decision to live and raise their children in Washington Township, they share the same feelings.  “We really think the diversity and inclusion are what sets Washington Township apart from other school districts.  We enjoy the community of living on the northside of Indy and shared experiences with neighbors, family, and friends.”

We are lucky that Matt and Kelli made the leap from Panther Pals to Panther Partners as we now have another amazing family keeping the community they grew up in strong.

Harry Hensel ‘14 and Hannah Kempf ‘14

While these Panthers probably likely ran into each other a few times on the playground in Kindergarten, their first actual memories of each other are competing in the first-grade door dash on Field Day. Over the next seven years, Harry and Hannah would continue to compete in any way they could. The friendly rivalry resulted in a genuine friendship that lead to them entering their freshman year at North Central as sweethearts.

The couple shared all of their high school milestones together with one of their most memorable being prom. While it was probably assumed the couple would attend together, Harry enlisted the help of Hannah’s sister Emma (now a teacher at North Central), who helped him cover her bedroom floor with thousands of sticky notes spelling out “PROM?” Thankfully Hannah said yes, and they “had an absolute blast at prom, going with a big group of friends, many of whom we still talk with today!”

After high school, Harry stayed in Indianapolis and attended Butler University while Hannah headed to Oxford, Ohio to attend Miami University. Despite the distance, the couple stayed together and married in January 2019. Harry was finishing up his degree at Butler so the couple deferred their honeymoon, and Hannah worked for a semester in the North Central Learning Center. At the conclusion of the school year, the couple left for their deferred honeymoon, spending five weeks on a road trip up to, around, and back from Alaska. Once back in Indy, the couple packed up and relocated to Davis, California so Hannah could start graduate school pursuing research in shellfish conservation and climate change at UC Davis. Davis has also provided an opportunity for Harry to begin his teaching career in the special education department of an elementary school in the Davis Joint United School District.

Though their married life has just begun, their long, shared history is sure to serve them well as they navigate a long life as Panther Partners. “To us, NC means a lot. It was at NC that we really began our love story. Through NC, we solidified the ideals that shaped us into the people we are today.”