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WHERE RIGOR MEETS REALITY + Today At MPA + Dynamic Teaching + This Is i-Term + Making A Difference


Google the term “rigor,” and you will find various definitions as well as a host of ways it is understood. The word itself is derived from the Latin word “rigor” meaning stiffness. Dictionary definitions expand the term to include “difficult or unpleasant conditions” or “a quality or state of severity or strictness.” At Mounds Park Academy, one would never equate the rigor of our academic program with inflexibility, harshness, or intransigence. Instead, knowledge comes alive through challenging yet engaging student-centered lessons carefully crafted by creative and passionate teachers. This is in contrast with many current educational manifestations of rigor that reflect a pedagogy of rote memorization and regurgitation, of “drill and kill” or “command and control.” Sadly, standardized tests and narrow curricula result in uniformity and conformity and are anything but joyful or rigorous. As Upper School science teacher Mitch Thomsen explains, “Academic rigor is the pursuit of knowledge by using the deeper levels of learning (application, analysis, and synthesis). It goes beyond knowing something to being able to use it, creatively, to answer a self-designed question. It allows learners to challenge themselves and really think about a topic beyond how it is put together.” In this way of understanding, rigor is embedded in the process of learning, not in the product. It is about how we think, not simply what we think. Rigor at MPA enables students not simply to consume information, but to create knowledge. At Mounds Park Academy, we want our students to be anything but stiff. Instead, we want our children to live and breathe with excitement as we challenge them with knowledge, choices, and possibilities. We want them to wrestle with complexity and ambiguity. Rigor at MPA means encouraging students to wonder, to wander, to explore, and to experiment. Our world is rapidly changing and our society is dynamic. Success for our students demands a rigor that enhances curiosity and creativity, encourages risk taking, and fosters innovation. I hope you enjoy the articles and profiles in this edition of MPA Now. It provides a window into this amazing community as we provide the education necessary for our students to live, learn, and thrive in today’s globalized society. Mounds Park Academy.

, more than ever.

Dr. William Hudson, Head of School






Academic rigor is present at every level of the MPA

i-Term allows MPA Middle School students to step

curriculum and MPA’s rigorous yet realistic approach

aside from regular classes for one week to dive

sets students up for success.

into a special subject area.





Middle School social studies teacher George Dalbo


has a passion for learning and helps his students understand the importance of history as we look to


the future.

OUR MISSION We teach students to think independently, communicate effectively and act with respect and integrity in a diverse community that models intellectual ambition, global responsibility and the joy of learning. On the cover: Third-grader Annika discovers the world of antelopes during library time. (Ellie Malynn Photography) For comments, questions, or address changes: Ellie Lijewski, Marketing & Communications Manager, at



Talk to any MPA teacher and they can tell you right away what their definition of “rigor” is. Director of Studies Kari Kunze defines rigor as “the application of ideas in a way that challenges students.” A rigorous curriculum allows students to not only learn the content of any given subject matter, but encourages them to apply it in deep and meaningful ways. Rigor may be viewed as a buzzword, and certainly can be seen as something that is intimidating, overwhelming, or even motivating. But what does rigor mean at MPA and why is it so important? “Rigor encourages depth of knowledge,” says Kunze. “It’s not just harder learning, or learning more, it’s about actually knowing something and making connections.” For instance, students in Upper School science classes not only learn about bridges, modes of construction, and the laws of physics that govern civil engineering, they actually build miniature bridges and evaluate them together as a class. Each student’s bridge is measured and put to the test—weight is added and breaking points are determined. Knowledge of physics is demonstrated and not just regurgitated as the students actually see these lessons in action. This type of learning is far more likely to “stick” than statistics and formulas that are memorized for a test. “The best education occurs when critical thinking and deep content knowledge are brought together thoughtfully. When done intentionally, it fosters collaboration, problem solving, perseverance, and creativity,” says Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School. “We know that knowledge and comprehension are necessary for learning and that it is also essential that students expand their higher-level thinking through application, analysis, evaluation, and synthesis. These 21st-century, higher-level thinking skills are built into our curriculum, with students consistently assessed in both formal and informal ways.” At MPA, the true determinate of comprehension is not just test scores, it’s understanding. “What we mean here at MPA is not drill and kill. We mean academic rigor, but we mean it in the sense of the whole child, in the application of what you have learned, not just memorizing and repeating facts,” says Kunze. Skills such as curiosity, creativity, and innovation are the tools students now need for the future. And the key to developing both a solid knowledge base and these flexible skills is a rigorous, but realistic, curriculum. And that’s where MPA gets it right. At MPA, academic rigor is incorporated at every level, and students are confronted in challenging yet reasonable ways. One of the best ways to build rigor into a classroom is with project-based or cross-functional learning. “In our curriculum, everything spirals and builds upon one another,” says Kunze. “Take fourth grade Singapore math, for example. The fourth graders are able to do what they are with math because of what they learned in first, second, and third grade, and that builds into the foundation of rigor that is the fourth grade curriculum.”


Academic rigor requires a fine balance. You want students to be challenged, but not to the point of feeling overwhelmed. My students love a challenge. MPA students hunger for knowledge. In my class, when I present something to the students with, 'This is going to be challenging, do you think you can handle it?' The response is a resounding, 'YES!' In other words, bring it on. YAMINI KIMMERLE LOWER SCHOOL TEACHER


Rigor means that students are challenged to move beyond what is known to them, and to push themselves in order to better skills or master new ones. It means that academic content is engaging, because it hits that 'sweet spot' where success is imminent, but not easy. DEEDEE STACY LOWER SCHOOL TEACHER

Rigor is deep knowledge. It is deep thinking. It is application, and it is the ability to not only reiterate what you have learned, but actively use it. The fourth graders do so when they explore the nuances of Singapore math. The sixth graders do so when they learn about Lewis and Clark, and write and perform a short play on westward expansion and Native Americans. The 12th graders do so when they build and test their own bridges. “The most important skills I need for graduate school, I learned in 10th grade at MPA,” says MPA alum Erik Sand (Class of 2003). “I was taught how to teach myself, to learn for the sake of learning. My ability to speak, write, and think critically were also developed at MPA. Those are the skills that are absolutely essential to me today.” A rigorous curriculum leads to applied learning, which creates deep content knowledge. MPA students don’t simply read about


When there’s a problem, I think to myself, ‘I know how to work this out because my teachers have taught me how.’ MPA teaches us all these special things that get us ready for the world.



Academic rigor means challenging students to use deep knowledge to develop answers to complex, open-ended questions. The magic of pursuing academic rigor in the classroom is that it requires both knowledge and skills. Too often, schools choose one or the other, but at MPA, we recognize that rigor is rooted in the combination of content and critical thinking skills. KATIE MURR UPPER SCHOOL HISTORY TEACHER

things in books, memorize them, take a test, and promptly forget. They learn about something, and then they take it further: they write about it, perform it, present upon it, or connect it naturally with another class or subject matter.Take, for example, the long-standing Parade of States. In the third grade, each student selects a US state. They learn about a state’s history, food, customs, and people. They then take this knowledge, and turn it into a live performance, where each student showcases the state and lessons they have learned. This depth of knowledge cannot be achieved by monotonous memorization alone nor would it be as fun. A rigorous classroom does not have to be a dull classroom. From PreK through 12th grade, rigorous lessons are taught and at MPA, learning is exciting. “Rigor at any given level is the same thing,” says Kunze, “It is not just about memorization, it’s about application.” And at MPA, the rigorous application of each and every subject sets our students up for futures that are incredibly bright.


MPA TALKS On February 10, MPA hosted the second annual MPA Talks, featuring thoughtful presentations by some of our community’s most captivating members. This speaker series is designed to bring the community together to gain new perspectives from remarkable stories.

Photo by Anita Jader Photography

This year’s speakers included: Chris Gehrz, a history professor at Bethel University and


MPA alum (Class of 1993). Gehrz is passionate about

Senior Yasmin Maktal was honored on March 4 by the

history and religion, and studies the past with a hope

North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale Rotary Club as the

that the future will bring greater peace and justice.

MPA Student of the Year. Yasmin has a distinguished service career as a tutor, volunteer at local hospitals, and

Mitch Thomsen has been teaching science at Mounds

interpreter for families in the healthcare system.

Park Academy since 1991. Thomsen oversees MPA’s Rainwater Gardens, encourages students to become citizen-scientists, and shows them how the small efforts of many people can have a profound impact on the natural world. Jill Wyant is an MPA Lower School parent and Executive Vice President & President at Ecolab. Wyant spoke about her personal career journey, sharing thoughts on what makes a great leader, and her perspective on

Photo by Alexandra Esch

women in business. If you know a possible speaker for next year’s event, please contact LaTasha St. Arnault, Director of Development and Alumni Relations, at

WINTER SHOW This year’s Upper School Winter Show was Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners Pride and Prejudice. One of the most beloved stories of all time, Pride and Prejudice follows the five Bennet sisters in their search for romance. "My students are not simply reading about the people in Pride and Prejudice, they are breathing them in, discovering the way they walked, danced, spoke, dressed, lived, and loved." – Melinda Moore, Director

Join the MPA Theatre Department for the spring musical, Fiddler on the Roof, on April 22–23, 2016.

GIRLS NORDIC SKI TEAM INDEPENDENT METRO ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (IMAC) CHAMPIONS Congratulations to the Girls Nordic Ski Team for winning the IMAC Championship! Team members: Mari Bohacek, Kian Dahlberg, Molly Gardner, Katie Hands, Gabby Law, Ana Manolis, Ellie Quam, Erin Quam, and Izzy Quam


ISAK DAI | QUIZ BOWL CHAMPION MPA seventh-grader Isak Dai earned first place as an individual player in the Minnesota High School Quiz Bowl League! Quiz bowl questions cover the entire spectrum of a high school curriculum and also include questions about current events, sports, and pop culture.

Boys 7/8 Basketball 2015-16 CAA Divisionl Champions BOYS 7/8 BASKETBALL




Congratulations to the boys 7/8 basketball team

Congratulations to sophomore Declan Dahlberg and

coached by Kevin Hagen! They defeated St. Odilia 41-

freshman Matt Bourne for qualifying for the State Nordic

39 on March 6 in double overtime to win their playoff

Ski Meet. Declan finished 7th and Matt finished 14th at

championship. Team members: Evan Esch, Shane

the Section 4A meet. They competed at State on February

Fruchterman, Julian Kimmel-Walford, Austin Lee, Dhruv

11, and Declan finished 55th and Matt finished 117th.

Muppidi, Alec Nicoski, JD Ogden, Jonathan Schreifels, Garnett Strack, Luke Sonka, and Luke Zscheile

ALUMNI CHALLENGE A huge thanks to all that participated in this year’s Alumni Challenge! Alumni donations to MPA totaled $21,846 this year and MPA also secured a $5,000 matching gift bringing total year-to-date alumni giving to $26,846. 2016 Alumni Challenge by the numbers: 34% increase in alumni donors Photo by Jenna Mahr Photography

28 new alumni donors who hadn’t made a gift previously 803% increase in post engagement on March 2 on our


Alumni Facebook page

Senior Sofie Netteberg is the 2016 Athena Award winner for MPA. The St. Paul Area Athena Awards program honors female high school seniors for their achievements. Sofie is a six-time soccer and four-time track and field letter winner. She is also an accomplished musician, playing with the Minnesota All State Orchestra and Band. A leader of the MPA Social Consciousness Club and member of the Robotics Team, Sofie is also an active volunteer and a National Honor Society member.




Sophomore Declan Dahlberg and junior Lukas Lindgren

On March 3, sophomore Abby Goodno scored 19

represented MPA at the Cross Country State Meet on

points in her section game versus St. Croix Preparatory

November 7, 2015. Lukas finished in 22nd place and

to become MPA's girls basketball all-time leading scorer.

Declan finished in 19th place. Both boys earned All-State

Abby finished her season with 1,305 career points.

honors for finishing in the top 25.





In a few short years, George Dalbo has become a beloved Middle School teacher at MPA. He is known for adapting his coursework to fit his students’ unique interests while helping them learn the importance of history to society and our everyday lives. Dalbo's path to MPA was anything but typical, and in fact, it began halfway around the world. Dalbo grew up in a small town in western New York, and dreamt of exploring the world. He leapt at the chance to study as an exchange student during high school in Wels, Austria. Armed with a basic knowledge of the German language he learned from listening

I like that my curriculum is a framework ... if I’m talking about something and the kids are interested, we can pursue that. George Dalbo

to vinyl 78 RPM records borrowed from his neighbors, Dalbo arrived in Austria. Once there, he flourished in his studies, discovered his love of Austrian history, and relished his independence in the small but vibrant Austrian city. “Being an exchange student in Austria opened my eyes to everything,” Dalbo says.

For example, this year while studying World War II, his seventh grade students expressed strong and sincere interest in the

Dalbo returned to New York for college and studied German

Holocaust, holding compelling conversations about its impact on

language and literature and history at the University of Buffalo.

the world at large. Seeing this interest, Dalbo adjusted his schedule

He always knew he wanted to study history, and, fascinated with

to spend more time on the topic and sought to augment their

Austria after his time there, wrote his senior thesis on the interwar

learning even more by incorporating projects and speakers.

period between World War I and World War II in Austria. It was not long before Dalbo returned to Europe, attending the University

“This year, and I had no intention of pursuing this at the beginning

of Vienna on a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship. One of the

of the year, but we were studying World War II and the Holocaust,

components of his scholarship was the requirement to teach, and

and the seventh graders were intrigued with the idea of the

so Dalbo became an English language assistant in an Austrian high

Holocaust, [with] ‘how could this happen?’ But I think what they

school, teaching an American studies conversational course. It was

were really interested in was maybe not the nuts and bolts of the

during this time, Dalbo shared, “When I realized that I wanted to

Holocaust, but really the collective memory that has developed

teach, that I wanted to teach middle and high school students, and

after the Holocaust in the United States. The Holocaust didn’t

maybe not go into academia.”

happen here, but we do have a lot of survivors who came to the United States and I think they were interested in the idea [of]…

During his time at the University of Vienna, he met his future

everybody reads The Diary of Anne Frank, and everybody reads

wife, Jenna, who is from Menomonie, Wisconsin. After finishing

Night, and why? And this idea of ‘why is the Holocaust so ingrained

their degrees they moved to Minneapolis together. Dalbo worked

in our curriculum and our psyche now?’”

temporary jobs while seeking out a teaching position, and eventually took a job as an education assistant with St. Paul Public

From this critical interest, Dalbo saw the opportunity to expand

Schools while simultaneously pursuing his teaching licensure. After

upon his existing lesson plans and let his students pursue

conducting his student teaching at Harding High School in St. Paul

something they were so fascinated with. “So I said, let’s look at

and teaching at Nova Classical Academy in St. Paul, Dalbo joined

collective memory, and let’s look at memorials to the Holocaust.

the ranks of MPA in 2014. Here at MPA, Dalbo teaches social

And we looked at a bunch of examples from all over the world, from

studies in the Middle and Upper School divisions.

Europe, to the United States, to South America, to Asia, to show them different types of memorials that have been constructed by

Dalbo is as far as one can be from a boring, droning history

communities to remember the Holocaust. And then I confronted

teacher. What he values most about MPA is the freedom to do

them with this idea that Minnesota doesn’t have one. 23 states

projects in the classroom and adjust his units and coursework to

in the United States have Holocaust memorials and Minnesota is

student interest. “I like that my curriculum is a framework. I was

not one of them. And I showed them the memorials by the capitol

given total latitude to do whatever projects I saw fit, that matched

building in Minnesota, [where] we have Vietnam and we have other

my background, but also if I’m talking about something and the

memorials, but why not a Holocaust memorial?”

kids are interested, we can pursue that.”


His students took this idea and ran with it to create a project.

I need to call everybody. I called synagogues in St. Paul and said,

“We decided as a group, and they were as much involved in the

‘Anybody… Does anybody know of anyone who can come in and

decision as I was, to create Holocaust memorials. They designed

speak?’ I finally found [Holocaust survivor] Victor Vital who was

a holocaust memorial for Minnesota, and found a space in the

willing to come in and speak.”

community to place this. I had so many students, and this wasn’t a requirement for the assignment, but with their parents [they drove]

Dalbo believes that growing his curriculum based on what his

around St. Paul looking for where this could go. They came back

students are interested in is key to helping his students develop a

and presented the ideas to their class, and they were so different.

rich and layered understanding of history. “Maybe I would have set

Some people wanted museums and other kids were saying we

out at the beginning of the year to spend more time on the Cold

just want a simple stone with words on it, quotes from survivors to

War, and less on the Holocaust, but if [the Holocaust] is where

commemorate this.”

we're going to get the most traction, then that’s what I’m going to do,” he says.

Dalbo went even further. He wanted his students to hear from an actual Holocaust survivor so they could really grasp the enormity

Dalbo is always exploring new ways to teach and learn. He was

of what the Holocaust means to our society, our collective

one of the six MPA teachers selected to attend the High Tech

memory, and the history of humanity.

High residency opportunity in San Diego, Calif. in January. High Tech High is a charter school that focuses on cross-functional,

“In my mind, it’s almost impossible to get a Holocaust speaker,”

interdisciplinary, project-based learning. Dalbo and fellow MPA

Dalbo said. “[But] they really needed to, as part of this process,

faculty members Anne DeVout Atchison, Nicole Koen, Katie Murr,

hear from a Holocaust survivor. So I showed a bunch of video clips

Jason Schwalen, and Renette Stinson had the opportunity to

in class of Minnesotan survivors, but then I thought, this is the

observe classes, attend sessions with teachers, tour the sprawling

year! This is the year that I need to use every contact that I have.

campus, and gather student perspectives on new ways to learn.

At High Tech High with fellow teachers Katie Murr, Jason Schwalen, Anne DeVout Atchison, Nicole Koen, and Renette Stinson.

George and Jenna in Teotihuacan, Mexico.

George and Jenna biking around Ísafjörður in Iceland.


I don’t teach names, places, and dates. I mean, that’s not my type of history. But I think if you were to ask my students for some names, dates, and places, they would be able to recite those from memory. George Dalbo

Prior to flying out to California, Dalbo and fellow Middle School

“I don’t teach names, places, and dates. I mean, that’s not my

teacher Atchison crafted a cross-disciplinary unit on which to

type of history. But I think if you were to ask my students for some

partner, combining English and the study of Harper Lee’s classic

names, dates, and places they would be able to recite those from

novel To Kill a Mockingbird, and history and the study of South

memory. Not because I’ve made them go through a process of rote

Africa and apartheid.

memorization, it’s just that we touch on it so much, and we keep coming back to it in everything that we do, that they really have the

“Could we take ideas of To Kill a Mockingbird, and talk about

content and knowledge ingrained,” Dalbo says.

what that might look like in South Africa with apartheid?” said Dalbo. “Could we compare the civil rights movement with the anti-

Dalbo’s desire to learn hasn’t changed over the years. Like his

apartheid movement? And I think the idea was that as segregation

teenage self, he is always seeking to gather knowledge and is

is ending in the United States and the civil rights movement is

always exploring. His continuing education helps him develop new

really ramping up in the 50s and 60s, that’s when apartheid is

coursework and create more depth of knowledge in his classroom.

entrenching in South Africa.”

Lately, Dalbo says, “My big focus has been East Asia, because I know the least about East Asia. I taught an East Asia unit last year

Visiting High Tech High affirmed his belief in the value of creating

in eighth grade, and this year I’ve been really trying to do a lot of

explorative curriculum, and the steps in which to do so. Dalbo

coursework around China, Japan, and Korea. And I think we did a

teaches his students the “nuts and bolts” content of history,

really strong unit this year with the eighth graders because I went

giving them the basis of knowledge from which to springboard

last year and took a week-long course on North Korea and a course

off and discover genuine interest. From that basic knowledge, he

on China under Mao with the University of Colorado.”

encourages his students to make connections between pieces of information and ask questions. After connections have been

Next year, Dalbo will be the first MPA teacher to teach a course

made, creative projects emerge, allowing his students to have a

for the Malone Schools Online Network (MSON) using the virtual

true depth of knowledge regardless of the topic.

classroom. He will be teaching a course on comparative genocides, blending his passion for history with his far-reaching knowledge.

In the case of To Kill A Mockingbird and South Africa, Atchison and Dalbo posed, “What would To Kill A Mockingbird look like set in

Dalbo takes every possible opportunity to travel and continue his

South Africa? Could the students take the themes from the book

worldwide education. Last year, Dalbo and his wife Jenna visited

and take their knowledge of South Africa, and write scenes from

Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia. “It was an amazing experience

a play, setting them in a township in South Africa? Who would the

for me to really understand these countries, both when they were

Atticus Finch character be in that situation?”

part of the Soviet Union and that period, and also [as they are] moving away as independent states and what that looks like.”

The students take these questions, find connections, pose queries

He took what he learned during his travels and shared with his

of their own, and craft something creative. Through this process,

students during this year’s lessons about the Cold War by bringing

they build a much deeper and more thorough grasp of content.

in photos, examples, and stories. Dalbo states, “As much as I can, I

Next year’s eighth graders will be tackling these very questions.

try to bring my experiences into my teaching.”


Second grade students smile in costume prior to their performance of folk tales from Africa, Stories of Anansi the Spider.



WRITTEN BY 8TH GRADE REPORTERS: Charles Galicich, Isabela Hockert, Aaliyah Kellogg, and Carly Peacock

i-Term is a program at Mounds Park Academy that sets it apart from other schools around the state. It is a week-long curriculum where students are offered a variety of unique classes and trips from which they can choose. For the entire week, students focus on one subject throughout the course of each day. They may even spend the entire week in another country focusing on language immersion. It is a week of fun and learning that is special to the Middle School at MPA and there are many aspects to examine. “About two and a half years ago, when I first started in this position, we were looking for ways to create more hands-on experiences for students,” said Erica Brewinski, MPA Middle School Director. And that is exactly what she did. i-Term is a way for kids to take a deep dive into what they already have an interest in, or try something completely new. “I wanted the students to be able to pull in 21st century skills such as collaboration, creativity, and curiosity,” Brewinski explained. Especially now, it is crucial for students to have all three of these attributes as they prepare to enroll in college and search for a profession. Colleges are looking for applicants who know how to bring new ideas to the table with innovation and collaboration. i-Term courses are specially selected and designed to enhance these skills. i-Term may have only been in session for two years, but it is already a huge success. Teachers and students alike look forward to new knowledge and experiences. In the past, MPA students have learned how to build airplanes, gone dog sledding, immersed themselves in Japanese culture, and mastered being comfortable on stage. Alec Nicoski, MPA eighth-grader, shared that his favorite memory was “learning all of the different languages of coding.” By implementing this program, MPA has established a way for students to pursue unique interests that captivate them more than a regular class. Another beneficial aspect, as seventhgrader Keerti Upadhyaya, put it, “i-Term is a great way to socialize with other people.” During i-Term, students from different grades can connect with each other over a mutual interest in the class they are taking or a shared wonder in the sights seen abroad. When you spend a week with the same people, you really get to know them. i-Term brings MPA’s already close-knit Middle School closer together. i-Term is loved and looked forward to every year. It is an opportunity to experience unique things and meet new friends. Faculty who teach an i-Term class have found they learn new things through the process of planning the curriculum. Marina Dale, Middle School social studies teacher and leader of this year’s course "Space: The Final Frontier..." stated, “I went into i-Term certain that I would learn a lot. Since I began planning, I’ve had an opportunity to read a lot more science-fiction when normally I would have to read other things.” The chance to take a break from a regular school week’s schedule and spend time exploring passions and topics that would otherwise not be included in an average school curriculum has been beneficial to students and teachers alike. Patti Meras, a Middle School English teacher and leader of the course "A Taste of Careers," says, “I want my students to understand that there isn’t one set path for them in the future, so they know that they don’t have to have their whole life figured out before they leave MPA.”


Overall, teachers believe i-Term is a beneficial program that helps students prepare for the future in a more personalized way than just their regular classes. Even parents are impressed by i-Term. An MPA parent states, “I’m thrilled that MPA students are given access and opportunity to try new things. It’s a great way to break up winter and celebrate a passion for learning.” Besides the variety of classes students can choose from, the i-Term program includes various guest speakers and field trips for select classes. The changes in environment and teachers help the students become fully immersed in their topic. In fact, because of all these unique things, Mounds Park Academy was featured on Kare 11 News’ “What’s Cool in School” in January 2015. Students were filmed in their classes so Kare 11 could get an inside look at the inner workings of i-Term and showcase what was going on in each class. Overall, i-Term is a highly enjoyable experience for MPA students and teachers. The students’ experience with i-Term has left an impact on them as a very memorable week full of fun. Dale says the most important part about i-Term is “getting to spend a lot of time in depth on a topic that I am super excited about.” The entire premise of i-Term is that students can step outside of their regular week and explore unique passions. “I love being able to be with one group of kids for a whole week and really get to know them and have fun with them," says Meras. "There’s no homework, so the pressure’s off and it’s a way to explore and have fun together and learn for the love of learning.”



While students are required to participate in i-Term, they are empowered to select a course that will either deepen their current understanding of a topic or introduce them to a new area of interest.

2016 COURSE OPTIONS Architecture, Engineering, and Design Odyssey Arctic Adventures Chinese Language & Culture Circus Adventure Crime Scene Investigation MPA Entrepreneurship French Immersion Trip to Quebec German Language & Culture Healthcare Careers and Biomedical Engineering Music Composition: The Road from Theory to Print Phone and Tablet App Development Space, The Final Frontier‌ Spanish Immersion Trip to Puerto Rico Strategy Gaming Taste of Careers Witches, Wolves, and Stepsisters

For more information about i-Term and this year’s courses, visit


WHEN DID YOU JOIN THE MPA COMMUNITY? This is my fourth year teaching at MPA. WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO MPA? MPA had always been on my radar as a great school. When I saw the job opening for a French teacher, I applied and never looked back. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE MPA MOMENT? Because I teach both Lower and Middle School French, I often have the same group of students from year to year. This year I am teaching a Middle School group who I have had since they were in second grade. Because of this continuity, we really get to know each other on a very deep level. I know how they learn, they know my style, and we all know how to have fun together. The connections we are able to make are wonderful and there are traditions that form with each group. This is so very different from anywhere else I have taught and allows for many MPA moments. WHAT’S A LITTLE-KNOWN FACT THAT EVERYONE SHOULD HEAR ABOUT MPA? There are many interesting after-school and summer activities for students to take advantage of. From sports to cooking to drawing—there is truly something for everyone!

WITH LIZ DesLAURIERS Lower and Middle School French Teacher 20

WHAT’S YOUR SECRET TALENT? I make a pretty mean cheese plate ... complete with wine pairings!

Second graders Alex and Elle create Mardi Gras masks in French class. Students in Ms. DesLauriers’ classes learn about French culture, customs, and celebrations.


For more than three decades, MPA has engaged thousands of students in a transformative college-prep education that empowers them to think independently, act with integrity, and achieve their goals. MPA has been a springboard for our students’ ongoing success, allowing alumni to excel in their chosen fields while remaining deeply connected to MPA’s entrepreneurial spirit.

Setting Students Up For Tomorrow, Today Katie Larson-Nath came to MPA in 1993 as a sixth-grader. Twenty-three years later, she still recalls her very first visit. “I distinctly remember seeing students sprawled on the floor, studying and chatting, and instantly feeling how friendly and warm it was,” she said. “We were looking for a school with small class sizes, where it was okay to be smart. We found it at MPA.” Today, as a pediatric gastroenterologist at the University of Minnesota, Larson-Nath credits MPA for establishing the foundation for her success. “My thirst to continually learn and question was developed at MPA. I was not just taught how to take a test—I was taught how to think deeply and critically. Those are some of the most important skills I use today." Larson-Nath has wanted to be a pediatrician her entire life. “My love of science was fostered here by exceptional teachers, but I also was encouraged to try new things,” she explained. She played tennis, golf, and participated in speech. In the late 1990's, she worked on state-wide efforts to curb underage tobacco use. “I was able to do it all because everyone at MPA wanted me to succeed.” While Larson-Nath remembers each class and extra-curricular activity fondly, there are other lessons she learned at MPA she now deems most important. “This is a community where every single person cares about one another—from the students to the custodial staff to the administrators. I know the mutual respect I experienced at MPA helped me develop the compassion and ability to collaborate that is essential to my work every single day.”






MPA alum Kristen Bourne (Class of 2013) qualified

MPA alum and current Princeton senior Audrey Berdahl-

to represent the United States at the 2016 World Ski

Baldwin (Class of 2012) has been named a 2016

Championships. The competition was held in Romania.

Marshall Scholar. The extremely prestigious Marshall

Bourne placed 40th and 44th in her two 10km events.

Scholarship assumes the cost of graduate study and living expenses at a British university for up to two years. Only 40 scholars are awarded this honor across


the United States each year. Berdahl-Baldwin is currently studying history, African


American studies, American studies, and urban studies

Kathryn Roach, MPA alum (Class of 2011) and current

at Princeton, and plans to attend both the University

MS degree candidate at Cornell University, was recently

of Manchester and the University of Oxford. Berdahl-

featured on for her work on new materials

Baldwin is especially interested in carceral reform and

for next generation electronic devices. Roach received

policy work, and plans on becoming a lawyer.

her undergraduate degree from Cornell in Materials Science and Engineering, and is also a champion rower, winning a gold medal at the 2014 World Rowing Under


23 Championships. Roach is pursuing her passion for research and working to develop better screens for cell phones, computers, and medical devices.

CATHERINE (BOULT) BYE Catherine and husband Phil welcomed daughter Elisabeth Sophia Bye on August 26, 2015. Big brothers Jackson


(4) and William (2) are thrilled. Catherine practices appellate law at the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of


Immigration Litigation, in Washington, D.C.

MIRDALYS (HERRERA) TWEETON Mirdalys will be beginning law school in the coming year. Since graduating from MPA, Mirdalys went to college, joined the U.S. Army, was married, and had a son, Liam, who is now three years old. Mirdalys shared, “I was told


many times that I would miss high school and I really do. I

MPA Homecoming is Saturday, September 24, 2016.

don’t think I would miss it as much if I had gone some-

Come back to campus for Homecoming activities

where else. I miss my teachers, my classes, and every

and athletics throughout the day. There will also be

experience I had during the three years I spent at MPA.”

all-alumni gatherings and milestone reunions for the classes of 2006, 2007, 1996, 1997, 1986, and 1987 celebrated over Homecoming weekend on September 23–24, 2016.

Tell us what’s new with you! Do you have an exciting accomplishment or announcement to share? Let us know at

ALUMNI TUITION DISCOUNT Did you know? MPA offers an alumni discount on tuition!

Sign up for our e-newsletter! Send your contact information to and

Contact the Office of Admission for more information at

receive up-to-date news each month about fellow Panther

651-748-5577 or

alumni, upcoming events, reunions, and more.





I came to MPA in seventh grade. I was pretty


nervous, but the buddy system integrated

Outside of class, I enjoy running and listening

me into the school quickly. MPA made the

to music. My favorite artists include Creedence

adaptation seamless.

Clearwater Revival, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and The Doobie Brothers.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MPA MEMORY? My favorite MPA memory comes from sophomore year.


I played in the pit orchestra for the spring musical, and

At some point in my life, I would like to learn how to

after opening night the whole cast and crew went out to

play the flute. I have always wanted to learn to play

a restaurant for dinner. It was a really late dinner and

another instrument, and the flute has a docile ring

the food left something to be desired, but the sense of

to it.

community and friendship made the night for me. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE DO YOU PARTICIPATE IN ANY



I love the pizza. At my old school, the pizza had

I am in Student Council and the Environmental Club. I

enough grease to fill up five napkins (my friends did

participate on the Speech and Track and Field teams,

some testing). At MPA, it tastes like it came straight

and I captain the Cross Country team. I am also in

out of an Italian oven.

Varsity Choir, Concert Choir, Concert Band, Jazz Band, Percussion Ensemble, and Pit Orchestra in the spring


musical. In addition to my MPA activities, I volunteer at


my church and have a job as a youth sport coach.

If I could travel anywhere, I would go to Berlin. Not only is it one of the most beautiful cities on Earth,


it is also very flat, which makes for great distance


running. Fortunately, I am going on the MPA trip to

I enjoy being at the top of the big hill

Germany and Austria my senior year.

near the parking lot after finishing my last hill sprint for cross country


practice. From that vantage point I can see most of


the school, the pond, the soccer fields, and the soccer


stadium in the distance. It’s a very welcome sight at the

If I met someone who was unfamiliar with MPA,

end of a fatiguing hill sprint workout.

I would tell them that the most potent force at MPA is joy. We strive to be better not out of a sense


of competition, but a sense of self-fulfillment and


passion. Everyone enjoys being here. Panthers are

After I leave MPA I hope to go to

rigorous, but we enjoy learning, and we welcome

a college where I can participate

the challenge.

on the track and cross country teams. I want to major in pre-law and eventually get my law degree.


$550,000 MPA Fund Goal for 2015-2016 (Formerly the Annual Fund)

Like all non-profit, independent schools, MPA relies on gifts to ensure the sustained success of our programs. We ask every member of our community to support MPA by making our school a philanthropic priority.

Experiential Learning

MPA's Secure Campus

$471 per student annually

$1,365 per student annually

What makes an MPA education so exemplary? Experiential learning such as field trips, i-Term, certificates of distinction, and more are what sets an MPA education above the rest. Donations make these experiences possible for our students and help them achieve their full potential and become their best selves.

MPA’s campus is beautiful, clean, and secure. Our 32-acre campus has meticulously maintained grounds, clean classrooms, and strong security to protect our students each and every day.

Fine Arts at MPA

MPA Athletics

$145 per student annually

$214 per student annually Did you know? At MPA, athletics is open to all. Students are not cut from teams and we don’t charge for athletic uniforms or equipment. All students at MPA are encouraged to participate in athletics.

From PreK through 12th grade, MPA students have incredibly unique opportunities to participate in the arts, including drama, theatre, fine arts (ceramics, photography, drawing, and more), and music like choir, band, and orchestra.











69% 55%




46% 30%














Volunteers are passionate about our school and our community. They are making a difference each and every day at MPA. Generous gifts—including donations, time, and talent—allow our school to thrive. Here are three stories of passionate volunteers in the MPA community.


Isabel ’15, Isaac ’17, Alexandra ’18, and Evan ‘21 In 2006, Elizabeth Esch and her husband Dan moved the first of their four children to MPA. “We fell in love, not only with the school, but also with fourth grade teacher Ms. Stacy. There weren’t any strict boundaries and the children were allowed, and continue to be allowed, to be creative in their thinking. It was such a positive transition from Montessori to a more traditional school system,” Esch explained. Each child came to MPA in fourth grade and the oldest, Isabel, graduated in June 2015. From the very beginning, Esch has been one of the school’s many committed volunteers. “Being a stay-athome mom, I needed adult interaction in a setting where I could achieve something,” she said. From Parents Association grade representative and Upper School chair, to the Spring Auction and band department activities, she has achieved critical things. As the Upper School chair, Esch's meetings are well-attended and meaningful. “I listen for the issues that impact Upper School parents and then bring to our meetings people who are able to educate us. Those meetings are open forums where parents can feel comfortable talking and learning.” And while Esch's time is given selflessly and has served MPA well, she is clear that the benefit is mutual. “I am on campus often and have my ear to the ground. I know my children’s friends, their friends’ families, and the faculty and staff so well and as a result, I have a very clear understanding of what our tuition provides. That knowledge confirms that I couldn’t be more proud to invest in an MPA education for our children.” Esch encourages all who are able to give of their time whenever possible. “Volunteering is so important for the health of the school. Faculty and staff can’t do it all. As we build and grow, we need to continue to share that responsibility among many,” she said.

Ida '26 After an exhaustive search ranging from neighborhood to language immersion to independent schools, Jonas and Hatice Lim turned to their daughter to help make the final choice. “Ida had a preference and it was clearly MPA,” said Hatice. “It felt different—very much like home.” Ida began kindergarten in the fall of 2013. The Lim family has since immersed themselves in MPA’s culture, welcoming every opportunity to get involved in the classroom and at events like Book Festival, Family Service Night, and the first grade blood drive. “The events are some of the most special and inherent things about MPA. We have very busy schedules, so we take turns being present and try not to miss anything,” said Hatice. “Our entire family gains so much from MPA—volunteering is a great way to give back.” Both are outspoken ambassadors of MPA’s mission. They easily list and frequently share what impresses them most—exceptional faculty, individual attention, engaged families, tireless grade representatives, collaborative classrooms—and see the end result clearly. “We are so impressed by the caliber of the graduates from MPA. They are confident in the paths they are taking and able to clearly communicate what they want and the plans they have to get there,” said Jonas. “Ultimately, what matters to us most, is that Ida is receiving the education and support she needs so she can strive to be her very best self. MPA is exactly what we searched so hard for,” said Jonas. Hatice added, “Seeing her happy to go to school every day is so important to us.”

Elizabeth “Mimi” ‘17 Mounds Park Academy graduated its first class in 1986 and Sheri Lyons is proud to be one of those nine cherished alums. Sheri has returned, now as a proud parent. Her daughter Elizabeth chose MPA in sixth grade and will likely be the first second-generation child to graduate. “Being here feels just like being home,” reflected Sheri. “It is so comforting to see that the school is still committed to the principles it was founded upon— that learning should be joyful and school should serve the whole child.” Those principles served Sheri well. A bright, but uninspired student, she credits MPA teachers for changing her. “Teachers like Ms. Conway and Ms. Shardlow instantly turned my love for learning on,” said Sheri. “And they made it clear that our jobs were to do good things with the education that was afforded to us. I am honored to now have the chance to do good at MPA.” As co-chair of the Spring Auction for two years, Sheri has dedicated herself to the success of the event both in terms of community-building participation and funds raised. She has also generously given her time, talents, and historical perspective on the Strategic Planning Committee and the Development Committee. Those principles are serving Elizabeth well too. “Every single day I ask Elizabeth how her day was. And every single day she responds, ‘I had the best day!’” said Sheri. Elizabeth loves to learn and loves to join. She is a peer leader, student ambassador, yearbook staffer, orchestra member, Madrigal Singer, Gay/Straight Alliance Club member, and varsity tennis player—all while balancing a rigorous courseload. MPA allows Sheri and Elizabeth to pursue their passions, and they're certainly creating a legacy, too.


Because of you, MPA continues to grow.

% of families considering MPA based on referral

Admission inquiries based on personal referrals from MPA families have grown 10% in just 2 years. Do you have a friend, co-worker, family member, or neighbor who would be a great addition to our community? Invite them to visit MPA. Office of Admission: 651-748-5577



2051 Larpenteur Avenue East Maplewood, MN 55109 651-777-2555

Spring 2016: Ms. O'Keefe's first graders and Ms. Meras' fifth graders work together in a pairing activity. The fifth graders are helping their first grade friends edit stories about trolls.


Mounds Park Academy MPA Now Spring 2016  
Mounds Park Academy MPA Now Spring 2016