Author Archives: thrownyaout

Featured Morning Sun Alum: Mike McElhinney

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With school starting back up, we wanted to find another educator with Morning Sun roots. The month of January Alumni feature is Mike McElhinney. He is the head athletic trainer at William Woods University and part-time professor at the University of Missouri.


Mike McElhinney


Keith and Debbie McElhinney

Family (spouse, children, ect.)?

Abby McElhinney (wife)

Alex and Jensen (sons)

Which Partner High School did you attend?

Winfield – Mt. Union

High School Activities and Awards:




Big Brothers Big Sisters Program

National Honor Society


Which College did you attend and your major?

Kirkwood Community College (A.A. 2003)

  • Mjr: Liberal Arts

University of Northern Iowa (B.A. 2006)

  • Mjr: Athletic Training
  • Min: Health Promotion

West Virginia University (M.S. 2008)

  • Post Professional Master’s of Science – Athletic Training

College Activities and Awards:

UNISATO 2003-2006

  • Co President 2005-2006

Dean’s List

  • Kirkwood 2001-2003
  • UNI: 2003-2006

Graduated Cum Laude from UNI

Published research in the Journal of Athletic Training (2006)

UNI Athletic Training Student of the Month x2

Current Occupation?

In Mrs. Whitaker’s 3rd grade class we had a unit on the human body. She had us lay on brown paper, she traced our bodies, and we cut them out.  Through the unit we learned about the various systems and very basic information on why that system was important. We also placed the organs for each unit on our cut out. This unit began my fascination in the human body and how it functions.  I believe it is this unit that stoked the fire of interest in pursuing a career in the medical field.

Currently, I am the Head Athletic Trainer at William Woods University in Fulton, Mo.  In this position I am responsible for coordinating all orthopedic and general medical coverage for our 16 collegiate sports. During my time here at Woods, I have been apart of the most successful era of student athlete success.  Guesstimating… from the Athletic Training Facility and the sidelines, I have helped teams and individuals celebrate 20 plus American Midwest Conference championships and one individual National Champion.

During my graduate school days, I discovered that I also enjoyed teaching students about Athletic Training and how to become healthcare professional. This interest has led me to a part-time Faculty position at the University of Missouri.  In this role, I have the pleasure of educating future Athletic Trainers.

The field of Athletic Training has taken me from rural SE Iowa to both coastlines and the gulf with many stops in between.  As an Athletic Training Student, I worked with the 2005 UNI football team and was a part of their NCAA FCS National Runner Up team.  After my time at UNI, my wife Abby and I moved to West Virginia and I began my graduate studies. West Virginia University and William Woods University coverage has led me to multiple Big East Conference events and Championships, NCAA Tournaments, the NIT, the Gator Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, and NAIA National Championship tournaments.  Over these past 12 years I have had the opportunity to meet some celebrities and interact with future NFLers, Major League prospects, and European League basketball players.

Why are you proud of Morning Sun?

The people!!!! Morning Sun, like so many other small Iowa towns, people look out for one another and the community.  It seems like everyone has each others’ backs. It is one of the things I miss. The town celebrates achievements together and shows up at your door in times of illness, tragedy, and loss.  These days it seems as though small towns are struggling to survive, yet the Community Betterment/Hometown Pride Group is doing great things and keeping Morning Sun on the map. I have seen (via Facebook and other social media) a new generation of citizens taking the baton.  It’s a nice feeling knowing that when we return for visits that we can show our boys what living in Morning Sun and rural SE Iowa meant to my wife and me.

What is your favorite Morning Sun memory?

Wow…  I don’t think I have just one.  Always the Morning Sun 4th of July celebration.  The big snow pile up by the Presbyterian Church or sledding at Iowa State Bank’s hill.  The PTO carnival fundraisers and pancake dinner. It seemed like our class was always competing with the class above us.  The class that fundraised the most was rewarded. I remember a couple rewards were hayrack rides through the country. It was also nice to have a brother in the class above me so if my class didn’t win I still got to celebrate.  Morning Sun seemed to be in the middle so Saturday flag football days were fun, as well as, summer youth league. Going to Indian Hills Country Club in the Summer and playing endless games of gator. Riding bikes around town and going to the park with Kurt Hobbs, Nick Yoder, and Josh Saxon to play through the years.

Why do you still value your Morning Sun roots?

Most importantly it’s still home!!!  Secondly, from the above responses. Some of life’s best lessons were learned in Morning Sun from those experiences. Morning Sun, the teachers, my parents, family, and friends taught me hard work pays off, serving others, lending a helping hand, and looking out for each other. It’s a place where teachers cared about their students and had passion in seeing Morning Sun kids be successful. My parents instilled in me to respect people (even if you disagree), work hard, and help your neighbors.  The McElhinney Lawn Mowing Service (many may not remember) that my family had in town. We mowed upwards of 20 yards each summer. This taught me work ethic and responsibility. Finally, I will take my cue from the Cheers theme song….. Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came!!!


Plant a tree you’ll never see

I am in the middle of reading “Legacy” by James Kerr and tonight a message stuck out to me, “Be a good ancestor. Plant a tree you’ll never see.” This quote was relatable in many areas of my life.

I think back to my childhood. Each day my dad and grandpa would come in from the field for lunch. Each day my grandpa would pitch to me while lunch was being prepared. This routine took place each summer until my grandpa was too sick to help on the farm. My Grandpa died in 1996. I went on to enjoy high school baseball and play baseball in college. We won four conference titles while I was on the team the last of which came in 2004. My grandpa planted a tree he never saw.

I think back to the many teachers I had growing up. Mrs. Venghaus, Mrs. Alliman, Mrs. Thurman, Mrs. McBride, Mrs. Fry, Mr. Siegel, Mr. Wachs, Mr. Wilkerson, Mrs. Mullin, Mr. Wrede, and many more. Each of them took a chance to work on a tree they may never see. Some of these people get to see this tree they worked on and I hope they are proud of how it turned out but each of those teachers planted a tree they may not have ever seen.

Everyday I have the privilege to work with educators who take a chance and plant a tree they may never see. For Morning Sun teachers this is especially true. Morning Sun kids leave our building and go to a complete different district. We do not not see the trees growth after the 6th grade. Each group of students we plant the tree the best we can with the understand we will never see it grow.

This is so unlike any other profession. In other professions, if you plant the tree and it grows the people reap the fruit off its branches. Salesman receive commission, employees receive profit sharing and promotions.

Educators plant the tree if they see it or not just hoping they did the best job they could. If a student receives a large scholarship an educator isn’t receiving a cut. If a student is an all-state athlete or fine arts performer, there is not a bonus. If a coach has a team win a conference or state title there is not a promotion waiting. If a student-teacher is hired, there is not a finders fee for training that person.

This is why educators are different than most other people. Each person in a school district plants a tree they may never see each and every year! Then they come back and do it over and over again.




Featured Morning Sun Alum: Samantha Wilkerson

The month of December brings another Alumni of Morning Sun Elementary. This months Alum is Samantha Wilkerson. Samantha’s journey has taken her from Morning Sun Elementary to now all over the world. We hope you enjoy the journey with Samantha.


Name and Current Occupation?

Samantha Wilkerson

Growing up in rural Morning Sun, Iowa, I always found myself looking to the sky.  Every summer, the fields would be sprayed by crop-dusters, and various farmers in the area would be flying around looking at their crops.  My junior year of high school, my parents paid for me to take an introductory flight lesson, and I was hooked!

Since then, I’ve been blessed to fly small single engine and twin-engine propeller aircraft at the Mt. Pleasant airport.  Out of college, I worked airport operations in Rockford Illinois before I got hired as a first officer at American Eagle Airlines. I worked towards becoming a captain, and then a simulator instructor on Embraer jets.  During that time, I traveled to different colleges and flight schools to speak to students about becoming a professional airline pilot. Most recently, I’ve been flying Boeing 737 aircraft for American Airlines. I’ve been able to travel the world, meet famous people, and live in Illinois, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, New York, Florida, and California. With that being said, there truly isn’t a place like Morning Sun, Iowa, and its community.


Jeff and Teri Wilkerson

Family (spouse, children, ect.)?

Fiance, Shawn Walker

Brother Chad, Sisters Bobbi & Billi

Which Partner High School did you attend?

Winfield-Mt. Union

High School Activities and Awards:

National Honor Society, Volleyball, Softball, Basketball, Track, Yearbook, Choir, Band, Color Guard, 2nd Team All-State Volleyball, Great River Volleyball Club, River City Juniors Volleyball Club, Ottumwa Heat Softball League, Mt. Pleasant Steam Softball League  

Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Award

International Flying Farmers

Which College did you attend and your major?

University of Dubuque, Double Major: Aviation Management & Flight Operations

College Activities and Awards:

Dean’s List

International Flying Farmers Scholarship

Women in Aviation

Homecoming Queen

Why are you proud of Morning Sun?

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I’m grateful Morning Sun was my village.  The community cares about one another. They reach out when someone gets sick to do fundraisers, bring food over when someone has a baby, and are always there to offer a prayer and a hug.  After living in different cities, it’s refreshing to know that there is still a place where people genuinely care for one another.

What is your favorite Morning Sun memory?

I don’t think I could name just one! During my childhood, my mom worked for the city of Morning Sun. I got to stay in town after school and ride bikes with my friends, which was a huge treat for a “country kid.”  I’ll never forget the water fights after the last day of school, little league softball, and, of course, the 4th of July. Every year, I somehow got roped into doing the grease pig contest, and I actually ended up becoming a 3 time champion!  This has continued to be my favorite holiday because of the sense of community, my memories of running around town with my friends, and seeing that tradition carried on through the years.

Why do you still value your Morning Sun roots?

My parents, teachers, siblings, and friends have made me who I am today. While growing up in Morning Sun, I learned about hard work.  I also learned about valuing friendships that I’m grateful to say I still have after 30 years, which I have found is another rarity. The importance of family and community is deeply rooted in me!

Thankful 2018

This school year I am not any less thankful for anyone involved in our school. There was so much enjoyment in last years article (which you can read here), I will try to again to show our thanks for each person in our district.

  • Gina Hagge – We are thankful for Gina’s ability to instill a love of reading for our students. She works extremely diligently to ensure all the students she works with find a joy in reading.
  • Julie McCulloch – We are thankful for Julie’s patient demeanor. She continues to accept each challenge working with 17 seven year olds presents.
  • Alaura Rappenecker – We are thankful for Alaura’s the tranquil learning environment she creates in her classroom. Each student receives a great setting to learn in because of Alaura.  
  • Mackenzie Noble We are thankful for Mackenzie’s hard work during her long term subbing for Mrs. Rappenecker. Mackenzie’s tremendous effort has ensured a relaxing maternity leave for Mrs. Rappenecker and a seamless learning experience for each one of our 1st graders.
  • Sandy McElhinney – We are thankful for Sandy’s continuing to strive to improve her instruction for our students. Sandy understands how critical education is and is willing to pursue enhancement in her classroom.  
  • Jeremy Kral – We are thankful for Jeremy’s ability to handle any situation thrown his way. Jeremy’s ideas and follow through create an environment to handle anything.   
  • Kris Judd – We are thankful Kris chose Morning Sun. Kris is new to our district and has immediately had a positive impact on the culture in our building. Kris could have chosen to teach anywhere, but he chose Morning Sun. Kris has been a great addition to our district.
  • Amanda Clark – We are thankful Amanda’s work ethic. Amanda relentlessly pursues growth in her abilities. We cannot wait to see what the future holds for Amanda.
  • Tammy Noble – We are thankful for Tammy’s mentoring. Tammy takes our staff and indoctrinates the long standing successful culture into each person. She is a large part of Morning Sun’s success and continued success.
  • Stephanie Whitaker – We are thankful for Stephanie’s ability to take on any challenge. Stephanie has spearheaded our professional development, provides support in each one of our classrooms weekly, and continues to improve her practices.
  • Kerry Bunnell – We are thankful for Kerry’s ability to build tremendous partnerships with her students, parents, and all staff. These valuable partnerships lead to success for her students in and out of the classroom.
  • Nancy Martin – We are thankful for Nancy’s ability to wear many hats and wear them well. Nancy seamlessly moves from music to TAG to Spanish everyday for our students.
  • Karen Edwards –We are thankful how proud Karen is of the work our students produce. Karen continuously displays our students art work in the halls and the lunch room. She posts these activities with pride.  
  • John Siegel – We are thankful for John’s ability to get the best out of each and every student. Whether it was the ‘70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s, or 10’s John has adapted each decade to ensure he receives the best from students.
  • Sherry DeKlotz, Kim Hagge, & Kenna Greiner – We are thankful for Sherry, Kim, and Kenna’s ability to keep the school running. Each of these persons are the nuts and bolts of Morning Sun Elementary. They take care of each student and adult to ensure our tremendous learning opportunities can take place.
  • Kathy Bonar, Traci Lundvall, & Sara Gieselman – We are thankful for Kathy, Traci, and Sara’s work ethic and flexibility. Each and everyday they strive to give the students their best effort. On top of that Kathy, Traci, and Sara are willing to take on any challenge we ask of them.
  • Brian Fletcher & Troy Bonar – We are thankful for Brian and Troy’s pride in our building. New visitors to our building constantly are amazed at how clean it is. This cannot be done without the pride in their work Brian and Troy display.
  • Grace Hartman & Kerry Wilkerson – We are thankful for Grace and Kerry’s amazing ability to serve over 100 students each day with just the two of them. Grace and Kerry complete this each and everyday with ease.
  • Raymond Fisher – Words cannot describe how thankful we are for Raymond. He is always willing to accommodate for any student, field trip, or safety measure to ensure Morning Sun students are transported where they need to go.
  • Deb McElhinney –  We are thankful for Deb’s organizational abilities. When we hear from supervisors who examine our health records how great ours are compared to other schools, we are thankful for Deb more than she’ll know.  
  • Tracy Almelien – We are thankful Tracy creates an environment where all students feel exceptional. She does this each and every time she enters our building.
  • Marj Gibson – We are thankful for the proficiency Marj creates in our students. The library lessons she brings are well thought out and each has a purpose towards learning.
  • Andrea McBeth – We are thankful for Andrea’s drive to serve Morning Sun. Andrea ensures our technology is up and running constantly while teaching full time in another district.
  • Mike Peterson – We are thankful for Mike’s guidance in a time of changing education. Mike is able to keep our school informed on the ever changing educational landscape.  
  • Jennifer Greiner, Roxanne Smith, Mike Crow, Ashley Zweibhomer, and Jon Malone – We are thankful for our school boards forward thinkinking. Our school board continues to push the envelope to ensure our teachers, students, and community remain competitive in our society.
  • Morning Sun Parents – We are thankful for the positive involvement each of you have in your students education. It truly takes a team effort to educate our students and our parents are part of that successful team.  
  • PTO and Tiger Pride – We are thankful for the passion these groups show for Morning Sun. These groups work extremely hard to show how supportive our community is towards the education our school provides.


On a personal note, I would like to say how thankful I am for my family. For those of you married to a person who is gone three to four nights a week for work, you understand how much burden is put on our home. My wife is able to ensure our kids are cared for, our house is clean, and excel at a full time job all while I am not home most nights. Our children are used to being hauled around for the sake of their parents jobs.


When we are grateful, our eyes are open to possibilities that are right in front of us. We at Morning Sun are hopeful you are grateful this holiday weekend and see each opportunity we will provide for this community and the ones you will provide for us.


Featured Morning Sun Alum:Tiffany (Pierce) Sheppard

The month of November brings another Alumni of Morning Sun Elementary. This months Alum is Tiffany (Pierce) Sheppard. Tiffany’s Morning Sun roots date back over 118 years. The Pierce name is a distinguished one in Morning Sun. We loved having Tiffany take a look back!

Tif Sheppard-headshot

Name and Current Occupation?

Tiffany (Pierce) Sheppard

I have been a professional artist selling my paintings around the United States & overseas for nearly 10 years.  My husband was a pilot in the Air Force and after going through deployments & knowing we’d move frequently, I knew I needed to work for myself so I could have the freedom to live and work wherever we went. In the last 10 years I have moved every 2-3 years going from Denver, Colorado to Travis Air Force Base in California then to New Mexico followed by Las Vegas, and most recently we spent three years overseas in Lincoln, England.  We are currently back in the states, settling down in Louisville, Colorado.

I specialize in aircraft paintings with an abstract take on modern aircraft.  I sell my work to private buyers as well as military bases and Air Force squadrons around the US to use as retiring / gifts of recognition.  

Being able to paint something that may symbolize a certain time in the life for our servicemen & women who do so much for our country is a very humbling experience.  

In 2013 I was a Wing Nominee for the Air Force Association’s 2013 Gill Robb Wilson Award by the 432d Air Force Wing. The Gill Robb Wilson Award is the Civil Air Patrol’s highest award for professional development for most outstanding contribution in the field of arts and letters.

Featured on for “10 Fantastic Aviation Finds from Etsy” in 2013

“Outstanding Service Award” in 2012 from the Travis Officers’ Spouses’ Club, Travis AFB, CA

You can view my work at



Dave & Carol Pierce

Family (spouse, children, ect.)?

My husband’s name is Levi Sheppard and we have two sons; Ezra (4) and Liam (2).

Which Partner High School did you attend?


High School Activities and Awards:

Senior Class Vice President

Prom Queen

Student Senate, School Newspaper, Yearbook, Track & Field, Cross Country, Basketball, Volleyball, Softball, Football Cheerleader, Wrestling Manager, Marching Band, Color Guard, Concert Band, Winter Guard

Broke & still hold the school record for the 100 meter dash (1997) and the 4×100 (1999)

State Track – 1999: 4×100 Finals Qualifier

Distinguished Academic Achievement:1995-1998

Which College did you attend and your major?

Coe College, Cedar Rapids, IA  – Graduated in 2003 with a Bachelor of Arts – Majors in Public Relations & Art

College Activities and Awards:

Emphasis in Painting, Photography, Creative Writing and Political Science, worked in the Technical Services department in the Stewart Memorial Library 1999-2003, “Color Your Mood” Senior Thesis Painting Exhibition 2003, Worked with the city of Cedar Rapids & documented all public works of art, Flunk Day Committee Member in 2003

Why are you proud of Morning Sun?

Morning Sun helped shape the person I am today. After moving away and living in several places I am constantly reminded that I grew up in community full of genuinely kind, good-hearted parents and teachers who will stick by you even when you make mistakes. It’s hard to find that kind of balance & I see how rare that is in other parts of the world.  I always say that whenever I go home to Morning Sun it always makes me feel more grounded and I remember why it’s such a special place. Communities like Morning Sun can be difficult to find because it’s the people that make it so great.

What is your favorite Morning Sun memory?

I’ve got a lot! By far my favorite memories are the 4th of July celebrations, riding on parade floats, little league softball, riding bikes around town with my best friends, having “babysitter’s club” meetings with my friends in my family’s furniture store, water balloon fights at the start of summer, going to the pool, and lifting weights during the school year with Mr. Siegel in the gym even after I started going to Wapello.

Why do you still value your Morning Sun roots?

I will always value the relationships I made in Morning Sun—Some friendships I’ve had since I was 5 years old turned out to be those irreplaceable ones that I hold very dearly today.

Also, I come from a family who has always loved Morning Sun. My great-grandpa started a furniture store in Morning Sun in 1900 & my parents started a Christmas tree farm locally in 1980. I learned from my parents, grandparents, friends, teachers and mentors the importance of being positive and involved in the community & what it takes to run a good business. I learned that having a good work ethic can get you far, and never being afraid to get dirty.  But most importantly always showing up & giving it your best, no matter what you’re going through.

Featured Morning Sun Alum: Todd Samuels

We continue our alumni feature for the month of October. This months Featured Alum is Todd Samuels. Todd has deep roots in Morning Sun and can still be seen to this day at our yearly 4th of July celebration. Todd and I are good friends dating back to our days at Winfield-Mt. Union. I always knew how proud Todd was of his Morning Sun roots and it continues to show in this interview.

Todd headshot

Name and Current Occupation?

Todd Samuels – My current occupation is Chief Accounting Officer for Renewable Energy Group (REG).  REG is an international producer of biomass-based diesel, a developer of renewable chemicals and North America’s largest producer of advanced biofuel.  REG’s production process involves converting natural fats, oils and greases into advanced biofuels. During 2017, REG sold 587 million gallons of fuel and generated revenues of $2.2 billion.  REG’s stock is traded on the Nasdaq stock exchange.


Roger & Margaret Samuels.

Family (spouse, children, ect.)?

My wife’s name is Jennifer Samuels.  I have a son named Tate Samuels (7 years old) and daughter named Tenley Samuels (5 years old).  My brother Trent and his family live just outside of Morning Sun.

Which Partner High School did you attend?

Winfield-Mt. Union

High School Activities and Awards:

National Honor Society; Student Council Member, Student Council Vice President; Honor Roll every semester in high school;

1999 WMU Male Athlete of the Year

4 year letterwinner football, 4 time all-district (running back or linebacker), KBUR top prep, 2 time All Hawk Eye, INA All-State, Academic All-State, 1995 District Football Champions and football playoff qualifier, 1998 District Football Champions

4 year letterwinner basketball, 2 time all conference, member of 1996 State Runner-Up Team

4 year letterwinner track & field, 4×100 Drake Relays Qualifier, 4×100 & 4×200 State Track Qualifier

3 year letterwinner baseball, 1 time all conference

Which College did you attend and your major?

Simpson College, Major: Accounting, Minors: Management and Corporate Communications

College Activities and Awards:

Graduated with Honors (Magna Cum Laude), Most Outstanding Accounting Student as a Senior, Financial Executives International award winner, Member of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE)        

4 year letterwinner football (linebacker), 2002 Team Captain, 2002 team Defensive Player of the Year, 2002 Academic All-Region

Why are you proud of Morning Sun?

Morning Sun has always been a place with great values.  It is a place where a strong work ethic and living with integrity are important.  It is a place where teachers and coaches care about their student’s success and help develop and prepare them to be productive adults.  Even though Morning Sun hasn’t had a high school since 1989, many of its students (including myself) have exhibited their Morning Sun pride by wearing Tiger green while participating in athletic competitions or other events at their cooperating high school.

What is your favorite Morning Sun memory?

There are too many good memories to name just one.  I remember playing sports with my friends, either pickup games after school or through the youth league.  I remember the annual last day of school water fights around town, playing on the huge snow pile by the library during the winter, and the annual 4th of July celebrations.  I also have many fond memories from 4-H and the county fair and the Methodist church youth group trips or camps.

Why do you still value your Morning Sun roots?

I learned many of life’s greatest lessons while growing up in Morning Sun.  Work hard, always do your best, be honest in all circumstances, respect and listen to others, and learn from the generations who have gone before you.  Finally and most importantly, I learned while living in Morning Sun that success is measured by acts of service and the positive impact you have on your community and the people in your life.

College Alumni Update

Morning Sun has five former alumni participating at the next level. Each of those students have have found early success.

Thayne McElhinney

Thayne McElhinney is a senior at Simpson College. He has played in all three games for the Storm (2-1). Thayne has caught 2 passes for 27 yards.

Casey Noble

Casey was the individual medalist in her 2nd college meet. She won the title by 7 strokes over the next best competitor. Casey’s 1st place finish lead the Mt. Mercy Woman’s Golf to the team title as well.

Trace Howard

Trace is a outfielder for SCC. Trace has started every game for the Blackhawks in Left Field. Earlier this September trace went 1-3 vs. Ellsworth at the Puma Classic in Indianapolis, IN.

Kaleb Hagge

Kaleb placed 25th and helped Mt. Mercy to a 4th place finish in a stacked field at The Preserve at Honey Creek Resort this past weekend.

Logan Belzer Logan is a freshman Quarterback for the Knights (2-1). Logan completed a TD pass vs. University of Wisconsin-Platteville in a JV game last Sunday.