KASB School Board Member Profile: Tonya Seller Bell, Neodesha USD 461Scott Rothschild
How long have you been a school board member? I was first elected in 2007.
Why did you decide to become a board member? I am a proud product of Neodesha schools and wanted to contribute to the school district that provided me with so many wonderful opportunities growing up in a small rural community. Now, over 11 years later, I am still just as passionate about ensuring the children in my district, and across the state, receive the best educations and opportunities we can provide.
What do you do outside of being a board member? I have worked in higher education since 2000. Currently, I am in my 10th year as a Professor of Communication at Labette Community College. I love spending time with my family—especially my three children; Bryce, a freshman at Labette Community College; Gage, a freshman at Neodesha High School; and Taelyn, a second grader at Heller Elementary in Neodesha. I also enjoy traveling, running, and tap dancing!
What experience do you bring to the table that will improve your local school district? Several experiences allow me to gain knowledge to share with my board in order to help improve my local district: working in higher education since 2000 and attending numerous professional development opportunities, being involved with a number of educational committees and boards, attending various KASB trainings and conferences every year, and currently attending sessions as a member of the KASB Leadership Experience Class.
As a board member, what is the top goal you have this year? As a member of the current KASB Leadership Experience Class, I have the opportunity to visit numerous schools across the state involved with the redesign process. My top goal this year is to share the ideas/knowledge regarding school redesign with my local district as we begin the redesign process as a Gemini II district.
Who was an adult you looked up to when you were growing up and why?I looked up to my Grandfather, Bill Gudde, who was a successful local farmer. He worked hard (and played hard) and believed in always helping others and giving back. He served on the local school board for many years and inspired me through his dedication to his faith, his family, his farm, and his community.
Who was your favorite teacher and why? From grade school teachers who made me excited about learning, to high school teachers and coaches who encouraged me to work hard, I had some of the very best teachers in Neodesha, so picking only one is impossible. However, one of the most influential teachers was Pam Busch, who still teaches family and consumer science. Mrs. Busch encouraged me to be involved with Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (which at that time was Future Homemakers of America). I remember preparing to present a speech to run for a district office and being completely petrified about public speaking, but Mrs. Busch pushed me outside of my comfort zone; she encouraged me and believed in me and I ended up serving as a district officer every year throughout high school. Ironically, this experience ultimately led me to want to help others with their fear of public speaking and I currently teach public speaking, among other communication classes, at Labette Community College.
What is a saying or quote that you live by? “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot. Working in a community college, I have the privilege of working with students of all ages and I often use this quote to remind students that if they find themselves in careers they find unfulfilling that it’s never too late to start again. It is also a powerful quote to share with my older, nontraditional students who may feel out of place, as encouragement to keep pursing what they set their minds to.