Please Welcome Annie Stewart!

Annie stewart '11What position will you be holding at MPA? 
Third-grade teacher

From what school/organization are you coming?
Edina Public Schools and Mounds Park Academy

Tell us about your education and past experience.
I graduated from St. Olaf College with a degree in theater in 2015. After working as a full-time stage manager in Minneapolis, I came back to MPA as a building substitute teacher and PreK teaching assistant. In 2019, I completed my Master’s Degree in elementary education from the University of St. Thomas and started working as a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher in the Edina Public Schools.

What did you find appealing about MPA?
MPA teaches the whole child and truly helps each student grow and find their unique passions and interests.

What lasting impact do you plan to have on MPA? 
As an alumna, it is an incredible experience to be back working at the school that helped me flourish as a student. I hope that as a Lower School teacher I will be able to spark the same joy of learning in my future students.

What’s your big dream? 
My big dream is to one day be an elementary school principal.

What are you passionate about? 
I have many passions, but recently I have been spending a lot of time paddle boarding, camping at Minnesota State Parks, and checking off my summer reading list!

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know? 
I love to run triathlons. This summer, I will be completing my fifth one!


Meet The Johnston Family

The Johnston FamilyKate Johnston is an MPA Class of 1998 alum. Now, her son Emmett is a ninth grader at MPA.

What do you love about MPA?
MPA has a special energy that is warm and welcoming. It is an inclusive community that truly cultivates joy and a love of learning. I love that MPA prioritizes music and art. I also love that MPA encourages curiosity and creativity and is committed to teaching the whole child. I love the small class sizes and amazing teachers that make it a school where each child is truly seen, heard, and valued. MPA teachers and staff build strong relationships with students and encourage them to shine their unique light.

What initially attracted you to MPA?
I graduated from MPA and have always been grateful for the amazing education I received. When my husband and I were considering a school change for our oldest son, we decided to look at MPA. We wanted small class sizes and a school that was inclusive and committed to growth and progress. When we visited the school, I was happy to see that MPA continued to grow and change in many ways while staying committed to its mission and values. The energy was wonderful, and it felt like a place that could be an incredible partner for us as we raise our boys. Our son is in his second year at MPA, and we feel blessed to have him there. Read More


Meet William Kim ’20

William Kim '20What are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?
I am a student at the Don Wright Faculty of Music, Western University in London, Ontario, Canada (also where I currently live), studying Percussion Performance and entering my third year.

How did you get there? Where did you attend college? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?
I was able to get to where I am today because of the numerous opportunities MPA and the Twin Cities provided for me. While in the Twin Cities, I got to play in the Symphony Orchestra of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies organization. I got to perform in venues such as Orchestra Hall and Ted Mann Concert Hall, mentor younger musicians in other orchestras, and tour internationally in Eastern Europe (2018). This past June, I was invited by GTCYS as an alum to come back to Minnesota to perform and tour internationally with them in Southern Italy–it was wonderful to come back and visit all my old friends and relive fond memories at MPA!

It all started for me with MPA’s ensembles, who inspired and shaped the musician I am today. While at MPA, I participated in Concert Band, Varsity and Concert Choir, and Percussion Ensemble. In addition to developing my musical abilities, each ensemble helped to develop my confidence and teamwork skills, very important skills to have when majoring in music and in life.

While in Minnesota, I also took private lessons at the University of Minnesota under the tutelage of Dr. Adam Rappel. His patience, dedication, and guidance helped to get me to where I am today, and I don’t know where I would be today without him and my MPA teachers Ms. Wantock and Mr. Habermann.

How did your MPA experience prepare you for your life today? How did MPA inspire you to dream big and do right?
MPA’s faculty inspired me to dream big and do right by serving as excellent role models, and leading by example. Every faculty member I interacted with impacted me through their respect, responsibility, leadership, and methods of keeping us engaged and fostering learning through multiple flexible approaches that included Socratic seminars and frequent in-class discussions, a learning environment very few schools have. Given the nature of my current major (Bachelor of Music in Percussion Performance), which involves a lot of performing in large ensembles and working in “teams,” MPA has given me the lifelong skills necessary to lead and collaborate with my colleagues effectively.

What’s next? Do you have any aspirations, personal or professional, that you’d like to share?
To keep learning and performing!


Meet The Gruen Family

The Gruen FamilyThe Gruen Family lives in White Bear Lake, MN. Christine Gruen was an MPA student for four years, and this is her first year as an MPA parent! Max is in tenth grade and Samantha is in eighth.

What do you love about MPA?
I love that the teachers take the time to get to know students and genuinely care about their success and well being. I love that my children feel comfortable approaching their teachers if they ever need help or guidance. I love that MPA is a small family-type community. I love that my children are experiencing amazing learning opportunities that can be used in everyday life. I love seeing my children happy!!

What initially attracted you to MPA?
We had recently relocated to MPA from California. I was attracted to the warm welcome we received by both faculty and students, and the sense of acceptance my children received as transfer students.

How are your children encouraged to dream big and do right at MPA?
My children are inspired by their teachers to become the best versions of themselves, whatever that may be. They are always encouraged and challenged. Read More


Forbes 30 Under 30 Recognizes MPA Alumni

MPA acknowledges and celebrates our alumni for being featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list! Congratulations to Laurel Schwartz ’11 and Aaron Millberg ’10, we are so proud of our alums!

Laurel Schwartz ’11 was featured in the Marketing & Advertising category as the brand director of global non-profit organization: Crisis Text Line, which provides free, 24/7 mental health support by text message. In addition to this, Laurel is also a documentary filmmaker. Laurel shares that she is “so thankful for my MPA education that got me here!” Read more here.

Aaron Millberg ’10 was featured in the Hollywood & Entertainment section for his excellent work with United Talent Agency and for representing some very recognizable names such as DJ Khaled and Zachary Levi. Read more here.


Meet Alumni Board Member, Hena Vadher ’13

Introducing Hena Vadher ’13

For what grades did you attend MPA?
K-12 (“lifer!”)

Why did you choose to pursue a position on the Alumni Association Board?
To promote an equity/justice-based lens in a place that served a formative role in my growth

In what ways do you see yourself as a supporter of MPA and its mission?
A critical assessor of, and huge advocate for, the ways MPA supports all of its students to learn, grow, and succeed on their own terms.

What are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?
I am a reader, poor and injury-prone runner, and aspiring generalist. Outside of how I enjoy living, I was recently working in disaster relief program implementation for New York City over 8 million residents with the American Red Cross as a disaster Response Manager. I oversaw the program, which included cash and sheltering support, for clients displaced due to disaster.

How did you get to where you are in your career? Did you attend college and if so, where? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?
I studied International and Area Studies at Washington University in St. Louis interested in pursuing a humanitarian career, inspired by my time interning with UNHCR—the UN’s Refugee Agency—in Geneva, Switzerland. After graduating, I was lucky to learn and grow at Breakthrough Twin Cities in St. Paul before relocating to New York City and eventually beginning my role with the American Red Cross.

How did your MPA experience prepare you for your life today? How did MPA help you dream big and do right?
MPA prepared me to ask questions, prioritizing critical reflection on what and how to ask. I don’t—and can’t—know everything. But, feeling comfortable asking questions and demonstrating vulnerability in that respect goes a long way in better understanding your context (both in personal and professional spheres) and discerning a path toward “doing right.”

What’s next? Any aspirations – personal or professional – that you’d like to share?
I’m currently thinking quite a bit about how I enjoy engaging with my career and am putting intention toward growing in analytic and written communication skills.

What do you to see happen during your time on the Alumni Association Board?
As always, I hope to continue to learn and grow–and support the same for a formative community in my life.

Please share your favorite MPA story.
Thirteen years is a long time for “favorites.” But, I’m so proud to tell stories about how my school encouraged political engagement and thought. I’ll never forget Ms. Conway cancelling our Constitutional Law class the day the Minnesota House voted on whether to legalize gay marriage, asking us all to be present for history at the Capital. That day, she prioritized that sometimes learning comes from living. After the House passed the measure she explained, “In five years, there will be teenagers who won’t remember a time when they couldn’t marry the person they love.” Unforgettable.


Meet Alumni Board Member, Katie (Ditmore) Sinaikin ’97

Katie (Ditmore) Sinaikin, 1997

For what grades did you attend MPA?
K-12

Why did you choose to pursue a position on the Alumni Association Board?
MPA gave so much to me; I’d like the opportunity to give back to the MPA community

In what ways do you see yourself as a supporter of MPA and its mission?
I give, financially, but have also always advocated for the value an MPA education brought to my life.

What are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?
I work in the biotech/pharma space helping bring oncology drugs to patients who need them most. Personally, I am the mother to 2 sons who keep me quite busy 🙂

How did you get to where you are in your career? Did you attend college and if so, where? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?
I attended Wellesley College and received my MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. My first role out of undergrad was in Strategy consulting where I worked with a number of small biotechnology companies, and that inspired me to continue to work in that field. All of my work is grounded in knowing “how” to think and not just “what” to think – that’s something that MPA fostered in me from the beginning.

How did your MPA experience prepare you for your life today? How did MPA help you dream big and do right?
MPA allowed me the opportunity to try everything. New languages, new sports, new extracurriculars. I was not the best runner or cross country skiier, but I always had a place on the team and I appreciate that even more now as I’m raising my own children and trying to figure out how to give them those same opportunities to “dream big and do right”

What do you to see happen during your time on the Alumni Association Board?
I would just love to see the MPA community – alumni and current students – grow and thrive and continue to develop a new generation of thinkers and doers

Please share your favorite MPA story.
Oh this is hard! When I was in my senior year of track and field something “clicked” and I was running my best times. I ran multiple PRs and was able to be part of the 4x800m relay team that went to Sectionals. Being able to share that success with a team that had been with me for 6 years (Because I was able to join the team as a 7th grader!) and especially with Mrs. Docherty who had been coaching me that entire time was incredibly special.


Meet Alumni Board Member Adi Boeder Risner ’02

Adi Boeder Risner ’02

For what grades did you attend MPA?
K-6 and 10-12 (relocated to Belgium 7-9)

Why did you choose to pursue a position on the Alumni Association Board?
Over the last year, my interest in the Alumni Association peaked as I noticed more and more alumni choosing Mounds Park Academy for their children. As a member of the Parents Association at MPA, connecting with all parents is a delightful part of my role, but I especially enjoy relating to other alumni parents given our shared experiences and values. Last year, the Kindergarten class was composed of 20% children of alumni! I pursued a position on the Alumni Association Board to better serve as a bridge between alumni and current and/or prospective parents.

In what ways do you see yourself as a supporter of MPA and its mission?
Well, I send my kids to MPA!

What are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?
My husband and I were married in 2014 in Estes Park, CO, and we now have two sons and a bulldog together. We moved back to the Twin Cities from Denver in 2018 to be closer to family and for the boys’ education. I’m currently a Statistician at 3M. I recently re-entered the corporate workforce after staying home with my youngest son for 3 years. Fun fact, I also make soap – lots and lots of soap!

How did you get to where you are in your career? Did you attend college and if so, where? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?
After graduating from MPA in ’02, I received my bachelor’s at St. Olaf College in both mathematics and economics. I worked at an actuarial firm for several years before relocating to Denver in 2011, for the mountain lifestyle. Here, I completed my master’s in business intelligence at the University of Denver, Daniels College of Business. In the years to follow, I worked at a major healthcare company, building statistical models and training data scientists on predictive modeling techniques. I find that I’m most inspired when I accept the challenge to change perspective. For example, the best move that I ever made (both personally and professionally) was taking some time off to stay home and focus on family. The change was scary and uncertain, and no-one thought it was a suitable role for me, but ultimately taking that leap was an extremely gratifying decision that continues to provide benefits. Finding fulfillment at home changed my perspective of who I was and what I can contribute to the world. Not only did I soak up the quality time with my kids but I was also able to recalibrate my goals for the future. I think that anytime you allow yourself to change perspective you’re given the opportunity to grow.

How did your MPA experience prepare you for your life today? How did MPA help you dream big and do right?
At MPA I felt regularly encouraged, challenged, and respected in my approaches to problems, without fear, judgement, or social pressure. Most importantly, I think that MPA provided me with a safe environment to pursue a wide-range of multiple disciplines and to make balanced choices about my interests. The emphasis that I felt on exposure and balance over perfection prepared me for an evolving future full of choices that I didn’t yet know existed.

What’s next? Any aspirations—personal or professional—that you’d like to share?
I’m really excited to wear multiple hats this year – Alumni Board Member, Parent’s Association Grade Rep, MPA parent, and full-time working mom. Fun times!

Please share your favorite MPA story.
I vividly recall, as a high schooler, spending most of my free time in Ms. Buck’s classroom, working on my ceramics projects. There was always some detail that needed fine-tuning or some creative process to map out, or maybe I just loved the smell of the clay. Either way, her classroom was always open and I knew that I could expect her cheerful smile. This was my favorite part of the day.


Meet Alumni Board Member Abigail Duffine ’98

Abigail Duffine ’98

Full Name and Graduation Year
Abigail Duffine, 1998

For what grades did you attend MPA?
7-12

Why did you choose to pursue a position on the Alumni Association Board?
I have always felt a connection to, and appreciation for, MPA. Now that I’m an active volunteer at my children’s’ independent school, I wanted to also give back to MPA.

In what ways do you see yourself as a supporter of MPA and its mission?
I believe in MPA’s inclusive and well rounded education.

What are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally 50-100 word bio?
After working in Independent school education (including at MPA!) and recruiting teachers for nyc, I am now dedicated to volunteer work at my sons’ school.

How did you get to where you are in your career? Did you attend college and if so, where? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?
After attending MPA I attended The George Washington University. I found my passion in doing marketing and recruiting. I always loved sales and found “selling” an education to be extremely rewarding.

How did your MPA experience prepare you for your life today? How did MPA help you dream big and do right?
MPA was a place where I could grow and be involved in a safe and inclusive environment. I loved my time there!

What’s next? Any aspirations – personal or professional – that you’d like to share?
I look forward to being an active and engaged member of our current school, Germantown Academy.

What do you to see happen during your time on the Alumni Association Board?
I hope to help MPA continue to grow and thrive.

Please share your favorite MPA story.
Some of my favorite MPA memories involved athletics. While I wasn’t a particularly talented athlete, MPA allowed me the opportunity to be enjoy the thrill of being on a team.


Meet MPA English Teacher Maddy Wolfe ’12

Maddy Wolfe '12How many years have you been at MPA?
How do I possibly answer this concisely?! I went to MPA for high school, and then a few years ago I helped out in various roles before starting graduate school. This is my second year here as a teacher.

What do you love about MPA?
It feels cruel to choose just one, but I’d have to say the people and the community are what I love most about MPA. The relationships I started to make with teachers and administrators in high school have far surpassed the four years I attended, and now as a faculty member they have become the foundations of my adult life.

How does MPA inspire students who dream big and do right?
MPA inspires students to dream big and do right through the emphasis on teaching to the whole child. MPA recognizes that a child’s education is so much more than just one or two subjects. It is about nurturing them into growing up to be the curious, smart, conscientious adults our world needs.

What would you tell a parent considering MPA?
I realize that there are so many factors when choosing a school for your child, and it’s often a huge decision to make. However, MPA truly is even better than it seems on the surface. It’s an intimate, connected community that will encourage and support your child to be the best version of themselves, regardless of their name, gender, race, ethnicity, or interests they may have.

In what ways are you preparing students for life in the 21st century?
More than ever before our students thinking broadly and globally. They are connected to people all over the world and are constantly subjected to a myriad of opinions and viewpoints. In my classes, we do so much more than just read texts; we think critically about the world around us and respond thoughtfully and thoroughly, in order to help students become expert communicators and thinkers.

What do you hope for MPA students in 20 years?
I hope they are living their values out in the world and being the change our world needs, however big or small. I also hope they come back and share what they’ve done and where they are, because we are all behind them supporting them, cheering them on!

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your MPA experience?
MPA has been a part of me since I was 14 years old, and it has fused itself onto my soul in many ways. There is a reason I’ve kept coming back here after years of working and living in other places all over the world. I have a hard time picturing who I would be without MPA, and the overwhelming gratitude I feel is so immense it fuels my work every day with students. Thank you, MPA, for everything you have given me.