Welcome To MPA, Ashley Riihiluoma!

Ashley RiihiluomaWelcome to MPA, Ashley Riihiluoma! Ashley joins us as the Middle School administrative assistant and will begin on March 4. We are so excited to introduce her to our community!

What school/organization are you coming from?
I previously worked for the YMCA of the North.

Tell us about your education and past experience.
I went to college and received a degree in child development. I have devoted my entire professional career to working with children. I have worked mostly with early childhood education and have held many roles within the realm. My most recent experiences have been in program director and operational business director roles.

What did you find appealing about MPA?
Mostly the sense of community and belonging. I was thrilled about working with the middle school age group, as it is a new endeavor for me.

What lasting impact do you plan to have on MPA?
I want to make a lasting impact on the students by being a safe, dependable, and respected member of the faculty that they know and rely on. My impact will be the difference I can make in their lives.

What’s your big dream?
To find success in everything that I do. One day, I want to live minimalistic on a piece of land with a cottage-style house and a garden. That would be pure happiness for me.

What are you (and your family, if you so choose) passionate about?
We are passionate advocates for advancement in mental health. We believe the whole well-being is important—not just physical health. We are also huge animal lovers and find many of our passions associated with such.

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
I grew up in a very large family with eight brothers.

 


Welcome To MPA, Michael Pappas!

Michael PappasWelcome to MPA, Michael! Michael joins us as the communications coordinator. We are so excited to introduce him to our community!

What school/organization are you coming from?
I previously worked for Adams Publishing Group.

Tell us about your education and past experience.
I graduated from St. Cloud State University before heading to work for the Union-Times and County News Review as the sports editor.

What did you find appealing about MPA?
The school seemed like a very welcoming place for everybody.

What lasting impact do you plan to have on MPA? 
I plan to help push MPA to make it even better than it currently is by helping in whatever way I can. Read More


Meet Second Grade Teacher Tami Fisher

Tami FisherWhen and how did you first come to MPA?
I learned about MPA from Randy Comfort, former MPA guidance director, who is an extended family member. I first helped out as a proctor for a variety of Upper School tests. He spoke highly of the school and was always trying to bring me into the fold. At the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, my substitute teacher position morphed into a year-long position as the second second grade teacher.

What memories do you have of your first days at MPA?
It was a bit of a whirlwind, but I just dove right in. It was a unique year, due to COVID restrictions and scheduling, and both cohorts shared teaching duties. It was wonderful to get to know the entire second grade that first year

What’s the best thing about being a teacher at MPA?
The students and their families. The smaller class sizes allow you to really develop strong relationships. I am also appreciative of the collaborative environment among colleagues.

Describe your typical day.
Our days are busy. We start each day with our morning circle which includes a mindful moment, a greeting, a share, an activity, and announcements. I truly believe this grounds us in community, provides opportunities for each student to be seen and heard, and establishes a cooperative classroom. Math is usually our first core subject of the day, then depending on the day, students are engaged with anywhere from 3-5 specialists, and then return in the afternoon when we focus on literacy and end our day with community as we reflect on our accomplishments, challenges, and share a joke of the day. Read More


Meet Upper School Science Teacher Mitch Thomsen

Mr. Thomsen working in the gardens with studentsWhen and how did you first come to MPA?
August 1991. I had moved back to Minnesota in 1989, got married and taught for a year at St. Bernard’s school in St. Paul. I wanted to make a change and interviewed at MPA and St. Thomas Academy. I was offered a job at both schools. I really liked the atmosphere at MPA, knew Chris Jensen, and felt that MPA was the best place for me.

What memories do you have of your first days at MPA?
The joyful return of the students at Back to School Night. Camille Wainwright doing interesting demos in chemistry. Chris Jensen keeping the biology classes moving. I remember feeling that I was in a “fast” crowd. Here, at MPA, all the faculty were very talented and hard-working. The goal is creative, student-involved education and everyone, everywhere was doing this. The school was alive with positive action. I felt I needed to “raise my game” if I was going to be an effective part of this hard-charging group. There was such a collegial feeling between all the teachers. The male teachers had to wear a shirt and tie. This is where I started my biology tie collection. Mostly I was quiet and I listened. There was a lot to learn.

What’s the best thing about being a teacher at MPA?
I have the freedom to do what is best for my students. I can explore new ideas with colleagues and come up with interesting things for myself and the students to do. I can bring in new best practices and keep my classes current with what is happening in the world now. I can use the garden area as an ongoing research resource. I have connections with Ramsey Washington Metro Water Shed District and their expertise and support has been critical to the success of the rainwater gardens at school. I have the support of the administration and they have been instrumental in encouraging me to be involved in the garden, new classes, and new technologies. I have a wonderful relationship with my fellow science teachers. Every day is like a department meeting as we talk and share new ideas, and activities in a very collegial setting. We work together well as a team and we support and help each other. Read More


Meet The Peterson Family

The Peterson FamilyMiddle School math teacher Chris Peterson has been a teacher at MPA for eight years, but became a parent to an MPA Panther himself this school year!

What’s the best thing about being part of the MPA community?
The people. It is a great feeling coming to a school where I know I have colleagues I can count on, families who are involved, and students who are engaged with their academics.

What is your favorite MPA tradition or event?
There are a lot to choose from, but I really enjoy going on the fifth and sixth grade canoeing trip.

In what ways has MPA prepared your child for life in the 21st century? 
From an early age, teachers work with students to be independent and think for themselves. Students have to learn how to work independently and with other students of different ability levels and personality types.

Complete this sentence:
MPA teaches my child: How to be independent, work with their peers while also learning, and how to be respectful to one another.

What advice do you have for another family considering MPA?
MPA accepts students for who they are and works with them where they are at. If you want a school that focuses on the whole child, choose MPA.


Please Welcome Jay Dean to MPA Permanently!

What position will you be holding at MPA?
Assistant Upper School director

From what school/organization are you coming?
The Blake School

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
I earned my B.S. in Producing for Electronic Media from Syracuse University and earned my M.A. in School Counseling from Loyola Marymount University. My teaching and administrative experience includes time at The Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences in Santa Monica, California (2002-11) and The Blake School (2011-22). At Blake, I served as Middle School director for five years. I also served in the interim assistant Upper School director role here at MPA during the 2022-23 school year.

What did you find appealing about MPA during the interview process?
What initially drew me to MPA is the focus on the whole child, its progressive approach to teaching and learning, and the recognition of the importance of social-emotional learning and DEIJ work. After being here for nearly a year, what keeps me at MPA are the people. I have deeply enjoyed my experience working with the talented and dedicated teachers and our curious, creative (and often hilarious!) students. I want to spend more time with them here!! MPA is a “transformative” partner for students and families, and I am excited to continue being a part of that. Read More


Meet Lower School Art Teacher Ellen Scharfenberg

Ellen ScharfenbergHow long have you taught at MPA?
I came to MPA in the fall of 2021. I was looking to move back to the Twin Cities area after having taught elementary art in rural Wisconsin for four years to be close to my family.

What’s the best thing about being a teacher at MPA?
I think the best thing about being a teacher at MPA is the wonderful people that I get to work with. Not only are the faculty and staff at MPA truly amazing teachers and professionals, but some of my closest friends.

Describe your typical day. 
My typical day at MPA begins with prepping art materials for my classes that morning and probably talking to Ms. Mastel across the hallway. I usually teach three Lower School classes in the morning, followed by a great lunch by our Sage staff. I always try to take time to eat and connect with my colleagues. After lunch, I either help with Lower School lunch or recess and teach two more afternoon classes.

Do you have a favorite lesson to teach?
I think that one of my absolute favorite lessons to teach is the second grade fall cabin project. This lesson is a great way for second graders to practice using a one-point perspective and learn about the other elements of art such as space, overlapping, and making objects smaller as they get farther away. Read More


Meet The Goetzke Family

The Goetzke FamilyPeyton, now in second grade, started school at MPA in 2020 for her Kindergarten year. Ashley has worked at MPA since 2016.

What do you love about MPA?
We love MPA for many reasons, but the one that rises to the top would be the encouraging environment for Peyton. It’s been amazing how fast her teachers get to know the ins and outs of how her little mind works. The care and compassion they show to her from day one is truly special.

How does MPA inspire students who dream big and do right?
The character development that happens at MPA is so impactful. Students are not only inspired to dream big and do right, they also see it happening around them on campus. They witness this with their peers, teachers, and the older students they see in the hallway. This is the beauty of a PreK-12 campus. Read More


Welcome To MPA, Samantha Sanchez!

Samantha Sanchez

What position will you be holding at MPA?
Assistant Director of Diversity, Equity, and Belonging

From what school/organization are you coming?
I worked at a very small community college in New Jersey and am completing my Master’s degree at NYU.

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
I received my Bachelor’s degree in Black Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara and led efforts in higher education reform to increase access and the holistic achievement of minoritized students, which began my professional career in both DEIB and education. After working in K-12 with neurodiverse students and for a private corporation leading community empowerment and equity efforts in urban planning, I decided to pursue my Master’s degree in Sociology of Education at NYU–both so I could fulfill a lifelong dream of living in New York City and to further my research pursuits.

What did you find appealing about MPA during the interview process?
My education philosophy and research foci are centered in the holistic development of students, so it was beautiful to see so many people dedicated to developing the whole student and practicing education models that center student needs. I also found myself in a (virtual) space with people I felt incredibly comfortable with and could sense how fundamental community formation is at MPA.

What’s your big dream?
I have dreams of buying a farm, own lots of animals (we have five dogs now!), and growing a majority of the fruits and vegetables we consume.

What are you (and your family, if you so choose) passionate about?
My family is incredibly passionate about just that–family! We seize every opportunity to be together and spend quality time with one another. These days, that often looks like a group FaceTime where all you can see is all of our foreheads (I have no idea why we all FaceTime that way) and gatherings at our family home. The last big family outing we had was some months ago at Disneyland for my nephew’s first birthday!

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
I am originally from California! The rest of my family currently lives in Southern California and my fiancée is originally from the Bay (Northern California), but she and her family moved to Minneapolis some time ago…which is what initially brought me here!


Welcome To MPA, Jay Dean!

What position will you be holding at MPA?
Interim assistant Upper School director starting August 1, 2022.

From what school/organization are you coming?
The Blake School

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
I earned my B.S. in Producing for Electronic Media from Syracuse University and earned my M.A. in School Counseling from Loyola Marymount University. My teaching and administrative experience includes time at The Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences in Santa Monica, CA (2002-11) and The Blake School (2011-2022). At Blake, I served as Middle School director for five years.

What did you find appealing about MPA during the interview process?
I am drawn to MPA’s focus on the whole child, its progressive approach to teaching and learning, and the recognition of the importance of social-emotional learning and DEIJ work. I know that MPA is a “transformative” partner for students and families and I am excited to be a part of that. Read More