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!


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!


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.


Boys Volleyball Finds Joy In Inaugural Season

Luke Zscheile smashes a spike in the Lansing Sports CenterWhen the Panthers girls volleyball team qualified for the MSHSL State Tournament in 2019, their achievement inspired many in the MPA community. Among those were a group of Upper School boys who saw their own future in volleyball. Fast forward two years, and the team is now competing in its first season this spring. “A lot of us had an initial interest in the sport, and we had watched it at the high school, college and professional levels,” recalls senior Callum Jones. We talked to the athletics department, started practicing, and asked (MPA Spanish teacher) Mrs. Kunze to be our coach. When she agreed, we got going.” 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


Vote For Siri And Evan To Be Top Performers Of The Week!

Siri with teammatesLet’s go Panthers! Two MPA athletes are up for winning Top Performer of the Week in their sport–vote for them with the links below. Voting ends Sunday, May 9 at 10 AM!

Click here to cast your vote for sophomore Siri Springer to be the MN Softball Hub Top Performer of the Week! “The sophomore pitcher had an impressive April, allowing just four runs to score through 23 innings during five Panthers wins. Last week, Springer led the Panthers to a 13-1 win at Blake on April 26 and a 12-0 victory against Breck on April 28. At Blake, Springer pitched five innings, striking out eight batters while allowing one run on four hits. At the plate, she went 3-for-4 with two home runs and six RBIs. Against Breck, Springer pitched two hitless innings, recording four strikeouts. She hit a double and a triple and scored a run, leading the Panthers (5-0, 4-0) with four RBIs.”

Evan pitchingClick here to cast your vote for senior Evan Esch to be the MN Baseball Hub Top Performer of the Week! “The senior pitcher struck out 17 batters as the Panthers ended a four-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory at Blake on April 26. The Panthers (2-7, 2-7) avenged a 13-3 loss to Blake from two weeks earlier as Esch gave up one unearned run on three hits through seven innings on the mound.”


Athena Award Winner Izzy Quam Commits to St. Michael’s College

Izzy QuamCongratulations to MPA’s 2021 Athena Award Winner, senior Izzy Quam for committing to St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont for Nordic Skiing! A four sport athlete, Izzy competes in Soccer, Cross Country Running, Nordic Skiing, and Track and Field. She is a captain in each of her sports.  Izzy has accumulated 19 varsity letters in athletics, 9 All Conference or Honorable Mention awards from the IMAC conference, and countless team MVPs honors and coaches awards. She is also a stellar student who appears on the honor roll, has earned academic letters, and is a member of the Cum Laude Society.

“I have been fortunate to coach Izzy since she was a 7th grader. She is an absolutely tremendous kid, really among the best ever to come through MPA. Her combination of leadership skills, positive attitude, kindness, and athletic ability don’t come along very often,” says Panthers Cross Country Running and Track and Field coach Nate Bander. “I can’t wait to see what great things await her as she heads off to college.” Izzy joins her older sisters Erin (2017) and Ellie (2019) in winning the Athena Award. Read More


A Breath Of Fresh Air

Panthers first home baseball gameby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

I often say I have one of the best views from my office. That is especially true this year and certainly at this time of year. It is not uncommon for me to see Upper School biology teacher Mitch Thomsen leading a group of students into our reclaimed prairie and rain garden to study its ecology and make observations. If I look in another direction, I can see the tents set up in the west parking lot ready to house classes and lunch. After school, I can take in a boys’ tennis practice or witness the track and field teams trek out to the track.

After months of being cooped up indoors, Minnesotans (and Panthers!) are spending more and more time outdoors. In Minnesota, the arrival of spring is always cause to spend time outside, but it also makes sense as we aim to slow the spread of COVID-19. As part of our move to dial stop one, classes, whenever possible, will be held outdoors this spring. Teachers have access to outdoor tents which are being used as flexible, alternative spaces. Although we still need to take precautions, such as wearing masks, keeping physically distant, and avoiding large crowds, moving outside is certainly a breath of fresh air. Read More


Meet Caleb Rhodes ‘21

Caleb Holding His ViolaMusic, particularly singing, has provided me with an opportunity to grow and learn. I attended Minnesota Waldorf School through 8th grade, and music is a significant component of Waldorf education. I learned to play the pentatonic flute in first grade, the C flute in second grade, the viola in third and the Alto recorder in fifth grade. Singing was an everyday activity in elementary school but I didn’t really enjoy it until my freshman year of high school at MPA.

When I made the switch to MPA, music was one of a activities that felt most familiar and comfortable to me, so I decided I would take varsity choir. At the end of my freshman year, my family encouraged me to audition for Madrigal Singers, MPA’s most select singing group. Getting in to Madrigal Singers ignited my love for singing and gave me the opportunity to express myself. Since that point, I have been in Concert Choir and Madrigal Singers for the last three school years, and I have auditioned for, and been accepted to the MMEA All-State Honor Choir the last two years. Singing provides me with an opportunity to confidently express my emotions in a way no other activity has been able to do. I am able to channel my feelings into music through my voice. This has made it much easier for me to open up to those around me and establish close relationships with classmates, and even with students from other schools, who I have met through our shared love of music. Read More


All Are Welcome On MPA’s Sailing Team

MPA Sailing Team on the waterby Samantha Forgosh ’22, team captain

Would you like to have a snowball fight on open water, or race across a lake to the nearest ice cream shop? You can do all of that, and so much more on the MPA sailing team! Here at MPA, we offer 7-12 graders a one-of-a-kind opportunity as both a fall and a spring sport. Through White Bear Sailing School, students compete for MPA at the city, state (and often national!) level as a sailor. No experience is necessary, and boats and coaching is provided.

Sailing is certainly a group effort. You will sail 420s, each with a skipper and a crew, and compete against other schools in regattas. Since MPA practices with Mounds View, Hill Murray, White Bear, and Mahtomedi, you’re bound to make friends with those you end up competing against. Read More