Rejoining The Community: Record Number of MPA Alumni Back on Campus as Employees

A record seven MPA alumni, from the class of 1998 all the way to the class of 2019, are working at MPA in the 2020-21 school year. Each has found joy in returning to MPA and rejoining the community that helped shape them into who they are today. Read their stories below!

Maddy Wolfe talking to Anne Atchison through a TVMaddy Wolfe ’12, Middle School English Teacher

I never imagined working at MPA, although I do remember thinking that it would be a place I would enjoy working. Teaching was something that was in the back of my mind for a while, and because I enjoyed my time as a student at MPA so much, working here felt like a dream.

Not only that, but the adjustment has been seamless, mainly because my colleagues are so amazing! Their kindness, warmth, and willingness to help and collaborate banished any possible awkwardness. It’s even better that I’m familiar with the school culture, community, and values, and so those automatically fuel how I want to conduct my classroom and what I want to instill in my students.

Elizabeth Flinsch ’98, Visual Art Teacher

I never envisioned I’d be working at MPA when I was a student. While my MPA teachers had a huge impact on me, I didn’t think I was going to be an educator back then.

It has been so rewarding getting to know some of those who taught me as fellow professionals. Lisa Buck was a hero and mentor of mine since graduating and now we work together. How cool is that?
One amazing moment was during our accredidation review a couple years ago. Bob Cooke, who had been my history teacher and champion in Upper School, was on the visiting review team. He walked into my classroom of eighth graders and beamed with pride. We both started crying – a little awkward, but amazing for things to come full circle! I have also spend my fair share of time reminiscing over lunch about softball games long past with Mr. McGaha and Mr. Scinto.

My students are often surprised to hear that I went to MPA. I enjoy telling them stories about the teachers they have now who I had back then.

Jaeden McFarland ’19, On Campus Virtual School Supervisor

I worked for grounds crew at MPA the summer after I graduated, so I literally started working here the day after graduation. However, I never envisioned myself working with students. I really thought if I was going to come back to work with the students, I would be working with the theatre department in some way. While I didn’t think I would be here, COVID had other plans and, I am so enjoying working with the students this year!

I am in a little bit different situation than most other alumni who work here because I work in the Middle School, and yet I did not attend middle school at MPA. I did not have most of the teachers I now work with. I think that makes it much easier to work with them as colleagues, and it has been fun getting to know them!

I started at MPA in the middle of my sophomore year, so I feel like I can relate to the students who have been at MPA for a while, but I can also relate to the new students and I know how hard it can be to transition to a new school. I also think that my experiences attending other schools as well as MPA have allowed me to realize what I needed and wanted at school , and that has helped me make this year as fun and stress-free as possible for the students.

Laura Saavedra Myers ’11, College Couseling Assistant

I so admired my own teachers, and there were times in my thirteen years at MPA when I was very interested in the teaching profession. And I’ll admit: I did always envision myself teaching at MPA (because why would I want to teach anywhere else?!)

Working at MPA has been a fairly easy adjustment, made easier by the fact I had formed friendships with a number of my teachers by the time I graduated from MPA. The best thing about MPA is its teachers, and I knew I wanted to maintain those relationships.

For example, Lisa Pederson was my college counselor when I was at MPA. Then she became my professional mentor as I began exploring the world of college admissions and college counseling. And now she’s my boss! I think going through those relationship changes over many years was a good template for transitioning from the role of “student” to role of “colleague.” That being said, every once in a while I do refer to my colleagues using Mr. or Mrs. Because of course old habits die hard!

You know the saying, “never meet your heroes?” I’ve decided that’s total malarkey. It’s an honor and a privilege to be working alongside some of my earliest and most influential role models. It’s fun to see them in action and observe with fresh eyes. I think I appreciate them even more now as I continue to learn from their example. My heroes are still my heroes and continue to be sources of inspiration—only now I get to eat lunch with them!

Attending MPA has helped me in my work in a lot of ways. A big part of my work now is meeting with college admission representatives and making sure they have at least a general understanding of MPA. This knowledge is meant to help them contextualize MPA applicants who apply to their institutions, so being able to describe MPA in a nutshell is so helpful. It’s immensely helpful having thirteen years of MPA student experience and what I consider a deep understanding of what MPA is all about. I regularly draw from this knowledge base when discussing MPA and distilling the qualities that make it a unique and wonderful place.

Since students are taking many of the same classes and learning from many of the same teachers I did, we can really connect, and it’s fun to bond over that, plus the many MPA traditions that are still going strong. It’s also helpful to simply have a familiarity with the school’s structure, expectations, and overall culture.

This philosophy—that learning is a lifelong and joyful journey—is something that influences my work and interactions with students on a daily basis. We all have a shared belief in the joy of learning. MPA taught me it’s okay to not know something; all that matters is that you know how to find the answer. I feel that the importance (and excitement!) of asking questions is integral to the MPA education, and is something I regularly preach and practice both in and out of the college counseling office. And, of course, one of MPA’s greatest gifts to its students is the ability to write well across disciplines and audiences. It’s really a gift that keeps on giving for me and one I use every single day.

Emily Moses Thomsen ’13, Third Grade Teacher

When I was student, I wanted to be a psychologist at and wasn’t considering working in schools, so I wasn’t considering working at MPA! But with COVID, that became a possibility and I absolutely love coming back and working with former teachers. It has been smooth, and it has been so wonderful getting to know teachers in a different way. The only tough part has been calling them by their first names-I’m so accustomed to saying their last names! Saying that I was a student here and had some of the teachers my students know has been a huge connecting factor. They get excited about whomever I’m talking about (especially Ms. Meras or Ms. Dale) and open up to me more. We seem to have a better rapport, so I think it’s a plus in many ways.

Jenny Portis ’16, Lower and Middle School Visual Arts Teacher

Honestly, I had only planned on returning to MPA to visit with teachers because my professional aspirations were always outside of K-12 education. But in this year before I start law school, I couldn’t imagine myself spending it any other way. I absolutely love the MPA community and am so grateful to return to it as a kind of “going back to my roots” before striking out on my own as a law student. The adjustment to working with teachers has been pretty weird! Names have really been the biggest issue for me–Ms. Buck is Ms. Buck, not Lisa! I’ve mainly been avoiding greeting everyone by name with a general “Hey there!” or “Howdy!”

I am so fully a product of MPA’s ethos that I feel I can connect to students through our shared experience. I’ve gotten pretty good at explaining why we need to do things like stay six feet apart, keep quiet during worktime, or wear mittens outside because our wonderful community critical thinkers will always challenge me on it just to see what I’ll say. I should know–I did the exact same thing.

Nate Bander pitching in kickball
Nate Bander ’09, Marketing Manager

I have a distinct memory of having lunch in the cafeteria on a sunny day in Lower School and just being really excited about chocolate milk. At the time, there was a one chocolate milk per student limit (for obvious reasons, I would have had 20 if I could have, ignoring the rest of my lunch), but my teacher, who sat at the table with us, a tradition that continues today, sometimes had two milks. This caused me tremendous chocolate milk envy. I recall very distinctly telling Mrs. Steiner, my second grade teacher, that I would come back to work at MPA so that I could have 2 milks. And look what happened.

I was 24 when I started at MPA, which is not that far removed from being a high school student. I remember thinking during my interview about how strange it would be that my interviewers, almost all former teachers, would now be my colleagues. In the six years since, it’s been an absolutely joyful experience to have this close and deep relationship with my colleagues, many of whom were my lower, middle, or Upper school teachers and coaches.

In particular coaching alongside Bev Docherty, Dan Ethier and Dan Haase has been a dream come true. I learned so much from each of them when I was a high school athlete on their teams and to be able to now work alongside them and absorb more of their wisdom (all have coached at MPA for 20+ years), is a unique experience.

Being an MPA lifer, I live and breathe our community’s culture. I know what the students are like and I know what their MPA experience is like, because I had one just like theirs. MPA has grown and changed and matured in many ways since I started Kindergarten in a fresh new school in August 1996, but the values and pedagogy of MPA have not waivered since then. MPA students from the first graduating class of 1986, to the current PreK students who will graduate in 2034, receive the same high quality education and are all inextricably linked together. This is a huge benefit when working at the school.

Attending MPA also gives current students the chance to connect better with me! They see my photo in old yearbooks, come across text books that were mine in 2005, and are told funny stories about me by other teachers. I think it helps endear me to them and creates a great connection, especially in coaching.

In addition to the seven alumni working at MPA, two MPA employees came to MPA because their spouse is a graduate!

Tim Sheehan (Clare Halloran ’03), Physical Education Teacher

When Clare and I first started dating, I was introduced to more and more of her friends from MPA. We were in our mid-20’s and I was impressed with how kind, respectful, friendly, and mature her MPA friends were. I met around 20 of her friends over the course of two years and every single one of them had gone to a top college and had a fulltime job, yet they were all humble and easy-going. I knew it could not have been a coincidence. MPA must have played some major part in shaping the kind of person they became, and I was envious that I didn’t have the opportunity to go to a school like that. It was also easy to see that they shared a bond and a friendship that formed at MPA that they were going to have for the rest of their lives.

Ashley Cooper (Mike Velin ’06), Middle and Upper School Counselor

Mike always says that his life didn’t officially start until he started attending MPA in 9th grade. Mike is still extremely close with MPA classmates, many of whom he considers to be family. As an only child, his MPA friends are the siblings he never had. Artwork that he completed in his Upper School art classes is framed and hung up in our home. We watch home videos of the boys’ basketball team playing in the former Kreischer Gym. Mike still proudly wears his Class of 2006 T-shirt from his senior year. He loves mentoring seniors, takes advantage of any opportunity he can be back on campus, and is actively engaged in the MPA Alumni Association.

It’s evident that my husband’s experience at MPA changed the way he thought about education, his place in the world, and the importance of close relationships. Mike would often say that he wouldn’t be where he is today without his MPA experience – from the education he received, the friendships he made, and the incredible mentors he met during his Upper School years. Who wouldn’t want to work at the place that instills such values, life-long relationships, and opportunities for its students? It’s a true gift!

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