Host An MPA International Student

international students in the makerspaceDo you have room to spare? Space in your heart for another family member? A desire to expand your family’s perspective of the world? MPA is seeking host families for several international students for the 2021-22 school year.

Our new students this past year found great success, experiencing near-daily “firsts,” and are loving their MPA journey. Between the adults in their school and home lives, our students feel supported, nurtured, and loved while living so far from their families. This is vital to their success and the strongest testament to everything our MPA host families and staff do to care for our international students. Read More

Mounds Park Academy Closed July 3-11

MPA campusMounds Park Academy, including the building and grounds, business office, heads office, development, admissions, communications, athletics offices, and all division offices will be closed July 3-11, 2021. We appreciate your patience while employees spend time with their families. We will respond to emails and voicemails immediately upon our return!

2021 Commencement Rescheduled

Due to the extreme heat advisory and air quality alert in place today, the Mounds Park Academy Class of 2021 Commencement outdoor event has shifted to Sunday, June 6 at 9 AM. This will help us ensure a safer and more pleasant graduation experience for our seniors and their families, as well as staff and faculty.

The entire community is invited to join us live on Facebook or YouTube for the Mounds Park Academy Class of 2021 Commencement! Thank you for supporting our students and cheering them on from afar as they graduate from MPA!

Watch live on Facebook >

Watch live on YouTube >

Congratulations Logan Sand ’08!

Logan Sand HeadshotCongratulations to Logan Sand ’08 on winning MPA’s Alumni Association Award for the 2020-2021 year!

What are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?
I am program manager for the Seeing and Exploring Life’s Future (SELF) Program at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. We do comprehensive, medically accurate, and culturally relevant sex education all over the Twin Cities. I’ve been with LSS since 2017 when I came back to MN after graduate school. I started as program coordinator and I’ve been managing the program since 2019.

The majority of my work is with middle school students but we also work with youth in the community who are at ‘high risk’ for sexual exploitation/unplanned pregnancy/STIs (in other words, folks who would really benefit from sex education). I’m particularly proud of the fact that our program is one of the few in the area providing sex education to individuals with cognitive and intellectual disabilities (with content specifically tailored to that population). We always seek to provide our education through an anti-oppression lens. Good sex education is anti-racist, gender inclusive, and honors cultural experiences and worldviews; I like to think that SELF does really good sex education. Read More

Celebrating What’s Next To Come

Karen Widerskiby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

As the school year hurries to a close and we look forward to celebrating the graduating Class of 2021, we are also celebrating two employees, payroll and benefits administrator Karen Widerski, and Middle School math teacher Dan Ethier, who are graduating on to other endeavors.

Karen came to MPA in the 2012-2013 school year after a long and successful career in human resources at Target Corporation. In her time at MPA, she has made wonderful impressions with colleagues. Rose Wick, who works alongside Karen in the business office, shares, “Karen is a true friend, the most hilarious person I have ever worked with.” Other coworkers describe Karen as “awesome,” “a hard worker,” “fun,” and “humorous.”

Karen purchased her father’s home on Child Lake in Hackensack, MN, where she will surely continue to the throw the best fourth of July party on the lake, complete with a fireworks show. She is very close with her family and will enjoy spending more time with her husband Jim, daughter Jess, and son Keith. Her father and brother live nearby as well. Karen is a pet lover who has raised several black labs, including her current dog, Jax. Up North, Karen will get to continue her love for the outdoors, especially, snowmobiling and cross country skiing, and she’ll have lots of time for the annual family trip to the Caribbean each winter.

“Karen came at a time when there was much change at MPA. She brought an amazing sense of calm and confidence, and she is always willing to do whatever it takes to get things done,” says CFO Gina Wallraff. “She is a major team player with an amazing can do attitude. We have relied on her tremendously and she just takes care of things. She will be missed.”

We all wish Karen a wonderful and happy retirement.

Mr. Ethier teaching math class

Dan Ethier joined MPA in the fall of 1992, and for 29 years, has been a fundamental part of the Middle School, as well as a highly successful and much loved cross country running and math league coach.

In the classroom, Dan exemplifies MPA’s experiential, hands on approach to learning. He built his curriculum on solving rigorous problems and he’s an expert on crafting open ended problems that require his students to apply their deep content knowledge in creative ways. Rather than giving students problems that have a clear, procedural approach, Dan instead sought ones where the methodology was not obvious nor straight forward from the start.

Dan’s problem solving approach connected academic rigor to real world concepts. Whether it was learning about investing and interest or measuring the depths of craters on the moon using trigonometry, his students have found themselves solving problems that apply mathematics to life.

Dan’s personal sense of curiosity and love for learning made him a great teacher as well. “Students ask good questions. I make sure to spend time pursuing those questions and demonstrating interest in them,” he says. “Sometimes I raise the questions myself. It’s about being curious myself and letting that spill over into the lesson.”

Though a math teacher, Dan fiercely advocated for all subject areas, and especially championed the fine arts. “The arts allow students to see the world in new and different ways, and that new vision will allow them to apply their science, technology, engineering, and math knowledge with the creativity and innovation our 21st century world needs.”

In the end, what most propelled Dan to the upper echelons of the teaching profession was his knack for truly getting to know each student he came across. He was known for writing a comment on every problem that a student answered incorrectly with advice on where they went wrong.

“Dan has been, and always will be, a cultural icon of sorts in the Middle School. From his silly stuffed animals, to his dry sense of humor, students have come to know math and themselves better in this great big world,” says Middle School director Jenn Milam. “We will all be better for having shared this journey with Dan–his passion for mathematics and teaching is out-matched only by his passion and love for Middle Schoolers.”

Dan also poured his heart and soul into Mounds Park Academy cross country. He took over the program in its infancy, and through his guidance and passion, turned it into a perennial contender and one of MPA’s most successful athletic programs. He took three teams to the state meet, placing as high as second in 2013, earned section 4A coach of the year honors in 2008, and coached six all state-athletes and two state champions.

Dan’s connection to his team is clear. He is invited to and attends nearly every graduation party, creates individualized race plans for each varsity runner at every meet, writes detailed recaps of each race, and is a true master of making everyone on the team, from state champions to sixth graders, feel welcomed, included and special. It’s no wonder that so many seniors on the team ask Dan for a letter of recommendation when heading off to college.

Dan coaches the right way, with humor, care, and respect. He instills a terrific work ethic in every athlete and transforms a sport that some find monotonous and difficult into something enjoyable and rewarding. Whether it’s the annual run to Dairy Queen, the game of “Foxes and Hounds” or the professional quality end of season banquets, Dan brings joy, sportsmanship, and camaraderie to the team.

As Dan moves on from MPA into retirement, I hope he will get to enjoy more time with his passions outside of MPA, including drone photography, distance running, astronomy, app development, and current events. And I know he will always be rooting for the next generation of MPA runners.

Please click here to leave farewell messages and well wishes for Dan and Karen!

Preparing For The Post-Pandemic World

8th Grade engineering showcase in the makerspaceby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

The pandemic has disrupted nearly all aspects of our lives and society. Families, civic life, the economy, and our government are just a few of the institutions that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. At the expense of being branded “Captain Obvious,” education has also been tremendously impacted by the pandemic. Most of the conversation has been about what students have lost, and rightly so. Many educators have great concerns about a significant learning gap for students who spent the year learning remotely. Poor mental health resulting from sustained isolation is also worrisome.

While there have been losses, students have also experienced tremendous gains. Over the last year, students were confronted with numerous challenges that they had never encountered before that they needed to overcome. Students had to learn how learn remotely, to discover new ways to express themselves and their ideas, and develop a measure of autonomy, independence, and personal responsibility. They also learned how to care for themselves and overcome isolation. They learned how to push though difficulty, bounce back after failure, and try something new. Read More

Save The Date! Homecoming 2021

Alumni at homecoming 2019Save the date to celebrate MPA Homecoming 2021 on Saturday, October 2!

Homecoming weekend is a wonderful way to celebrate who we are, where we come from, and where we are going together. We are thrilled every year to welcome alumni back at home to celebrate a milestone reunion and reconnect with friends. This is an opportunity for all of us to support and celebrate MPA! Come home to connect with us and one another, and to celebrate MPA.

Join The Alumni Association Board And Make An Impact

Kathryn Andersen '09 of the alumni boardThe Alumni Association Board is looking for new members for the 2021-22 year! Reconnect with your MPA roots, make your voice heard on important alumni topics, and make an impact on the MPA community. “Serving on the Alumni Association Board has been a great way to stay involved with, and give back to the MPA community,” says Kathryn Andersen ’09. “I’ve gotten to know MPA alumni outside of my graduating class, reconnected with our wonderful faculty and staff, and even met current students through my work on the board.” The alumni board seeks to foster a sense of community, among alumni, to cultivate relationships with other members of the MPA community, and to support Mounds Park Academy in fulfillment of its mission.

The Alumni Board commitment is for two years, with approximately eight meetings in a calendar year, beginning July 1. To submit your name for consideration, please send an email to

Welcoming MPA’s New Faculty And Staff

MPA is very happy to introduce new faculty and staff to the MPA community! Please note: Some of these individuals are familiar faces who have been with us this year in temporary positions. They applied to continue at MPA, completed the application and interview process, and we are so very grateful to re-welcome them to the community long-term.

Sean RytherSean Ryther

What position will you be holding at MPA?
Physical Education/Health Teacher

From what school/organization are you coming?
Hilltop Primary School – Westonka Public Schools

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
I have a Masters in Educational Leadership from the University of Northern Iowa and did my undergraduate studies at Minnesota State University, Mankato. I have 17 years of experience ranging from 10 years in Elk River, two years at an International School in South Korea, and five years at Hilltop Primary School. Prior to my formal teaching, I was Youth Development Coordinator for the YMCA. I was also an Activities Coordinator and Site Coordinator at the YWCA in Mankato. I have coached multiple sports allowing me to pour into students in their extracurricular activities.

What did you find appealing about MPA during the interview process?
The mission statement was discussed by every one of the committee members showing me that the mission isn’t something just on a website or a piece of paper. I had the opportunity to teach a lesson in front of the panel and showcase my passion. The chance to meet many different people allowed me to hear how great MPA was from others.

What’s your big dream?
My dream is that because of the interactions I had with other and the love I showed to others that their lives are truly changed for the better and they too can show that same kind of love to others.

What are you (and/or your family) passionate about?
I am passionate about family. Whether its riding bikes, building forts, playing board games, swimming, road tripping or just daily adventures, I love my time with my family. Fitness and being active is also a passion of mine.

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
I swam in all the Great Lakes with three of my good friends in 16 hours and 26 minutes. Just one of my fun spontaneous adventures.

Liz SchwalenLiz Schwalen
What position will you be holding at MPA?
Upper School Learning Specialist

From what school/organization are you coming?
Totino-Grace High School

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
I hold a Master’s in Special Education from Bethel University and a license in the area of Learning Disabilities. I have been serving a diverse population of students at Totino-Grace High School for 18 years. In addition, I bring with me a parent perspective as I personally have two children with dyslexia. I believe everyone is capable of learning; however, we learn in different ways. My commitment to my students is to challenge them by building on their strengths, encouraging them in a safe environment, and helping them become the best versions of themselves.

What did you find appealing about MPA during the interview process?
I was impressed by how comprehensive the interview process was, and I am grateful for the opportunity to explain in detail my skills, experiences, and traits within such a welcoming environment. The Administration and Search Committee were incredibly helpful and patiently answered all my questions. Even though I was a summer hire, I sensed the joy in learning and strong community connection through the Student Panel. I was touched that these students came to MPA on their summer break to connect with me.

What’s your big dream?
I dream of a time when all people can joyfully find their true selves and the world will adjust for the better.

What are you (and/or your family) passionate about?
I am passionate about spreading kindness, whether it be through a simple thank you, a listening ear, or in teaching my three kids to be friends to everyone. Some extracurriculars we enjoy doing as a family are messy art/science projects, biking, traveling, swimming, and soccer.

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
I have been practicing yoga for over 18 years and hope to someday land a handstand.

Carlie ErdahlCarlie Erdahl
What position will you be holding at MPA?
Preschool Assistant Teacher

From what school/organization are you coming?

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
I graduated from California State University Fullerton in 2017. While my major was in Cinema and Television Arts, spending the last six months working at MPA as a Lower School assistant has inspired me to pursue a Masters in Teaching beginning this fall. Outside of the academic setting, I work as a Girl’s soccer coach for Minneapolis United Soccer Club. Prior to moving back to Minnesota in 2020, I was a Technical Operations Assistant for CNN in Atlanta, Georgia.

What did you find appealing about MPA during the interview process?
From the minute you enter the building, it’s clear that MPA radiates joy, promotes passion for learning, and prioritizes acceptance for everyone. Perhaps the most inspiring part of the interview process was hearing the teachers talk about the preschool program and what it means to them. Their excitement and passion is contagious and further solidified my decision to pursue a career in education.

What’s your big dream?
Someday I hope to have my own classroom with my own collection of school supplies and teacher trinkets.

What are you (and/or your family) passionate about?
Sports are a major passion of mine. I’m a huge advocate for getting more girls into organized sports. As a soccer coach, I’m able to see their pride, excitement and confidence grow as they improve and master new skills. As a soccer player, being able to hold my own, work as a team and have fun is something that I hope to pass onto my students and my future children.

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
I’ve been playing soccer since preschool! I played for high school, college and most recently a minor league team in Atlanta. I currently coach for Minneapolis United!

Genevievre ColianniGenevievre Colianni
What position will you be holding at MPA?
Third Grade teacher

From what school/organization are you coming?
St. John Paul II Catholic School

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
I have a Bachelors in Architecture and Sociology from Connecticut College and an MAT in Childhood Education from Manhattanville College. Over the course of the past decade, I’ve honed my classroom teaching practice at multiple grade levels in various school settings. (That sounds very dry, but I promise I am fun!)

What did you find appealing about MPA during the interview process?
What I found most appealing about MPA during the interview process was that the community was so genuine and inviting. Each person I spoke with had something unique to share with me about MPA, but the underlying message was the same: “We are a family.”

What’s your big dream?
Not to sound cheesy, but I am living it. Teaching is one of my longtime joys and I am so looking forward to getting back to the classroom! As far a larger dreams dreams go, I hope to reduce carbon emissions.

What are you (and/or your family) passionate about?
In our family, we believe in the power of kindness, the magic in reading, and the wisdom nature holds.

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
My husband and I just bought our first house! We are very much looking forward to making it ours, and enjoying the new backyard with our 9 month old daughter and Labrador puppy. Read More

A College Choice Day Unlike Any Other

Isak Dai '21by Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school

I remember sitting in the bleachers in the upper level of Jenison Fieldhouse at Michigan State University to witness the graduation of my father. At five years old, I had no appreciation for the sacrifice he and my mother made for that to happen. I didn’t know that my dad joined the Navy after high school to help support his family and that afterwards, he worked full time to put his younger brother and sister through college. I didn’t know that over the course of seven years he drove 80 miles round trip to attend classes at Michigan State all the while working a full-time job, leaving my mother to care for three small children. I didn’t know any of that, sitting in the bleachers that hot May afternoon in 1969. But I did know how important college was as I spotted my dad cross the stage to receive his diploma.

MPA seniors, together with the entire MPA community, will celebrate College Choice Day this coming Monday, May 10. Sporting their chosen college apparel, seniors will gather in and around the Upper School Commons to create their college pennants and feast on individually pre-packaged cookies and beverages. “This class has my heart,” says director of college counseling, Lisa Pederson. “The pandemic literally shut down campuses last spring break as many were arriving to tour campuses. They rebounded and conducted the rest of their college search almost entirely online, demonstrating an amazing degree of resilience, imagination, determination, optimism, and support of each other.” Read More