For the third year in a row, a new face will appear on the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaat.at Kalé volleyball sidelines.
Jody Levernier, a math and science teacher at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School, was hired in the spring to become the next leader of JDHS’ volleyball program that has captured dozens of Region V Championships and one state championship in 2002.
“I just really want them to love the game and to love being here and to have fun,” Levernier said at practice on Thursday afternoon at JDHS. The middle school teacher replaces Brandee Gerke, who spent one season with JDHS. Two years ago the program was led by a handful of coaches including Dale Bontrager, Pat Gorman and Lesley Kalbrener.
Under an agreement between the Juneau Education Association and Board of Education, teachers get first priority for coaching positions in the district, allowing Levernier to supplant Gerke.
Levernier hails from Illinois, where she played volleyball at the high school and community college levels. Levernier transferred to Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, and later moved to Juneau and began a teaching career at DMHS, coaching the DHMS Wolverines volleyball team almost every spring.
Without a club volleyball program, most Juneau youth don’t start playing until they enroll in middle school, and Levernier enjoyed sharing her passion for the sport to beginners.
“Unless they’ve played with their parents, they’re brand-new players,” Levernier said. “So it’s fun to watch that going from brand-new to being in eighth grade, kind of starting to figure the game out.”
Levernier has two sons: Caden, 13, and Colton Johns, 16, and said the time was right for the undertaking.
“I always thought it would be fun to coach at a high-school level but just didn’t think with small kids it was something I could do,” she said. “So now that they’re older and it came open it was a good time frame for me.”
“It’s going to be really awesome to watch these girls run defensive systems and offensive systems,” Levernier said. “After three years in middle school, you just barely get to that since they’re such new players.”
JDHS senior outside hitter Addie Prussing went to DMHS from 2013-2016, and credits Levernier and co-coach Mark Ibias for making the sport fun to learn.
“I think she will do really well,” Prussing said. “So far the practices have been really fun and they’ve also been really helpful. I don’t know how to put it, but she’s really good at adjusting. It doesn’t seem like she’s a middle school coach at all.”
Levernier said she’s taught or coached almost the entire varsity team. She said she’s still getting used to some of her players pulling up to practice in their own cars.
“Before, they were getting dropped off,” Levernier said.
The Crimson Bears play in their first games of the season against Ketchikan Sept. 6-7.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.