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, Hannah Halvorson!


What position will you be holding at MPA?
Year Round PreK Teacher

From what school/organization are you coming?
St. Paul City School

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
I went to The College Conservatory of Music where I received a BFA in Dramatic Performance. I lived in NYC where I was an arts and literacy teacher, and dabbled in the improvisation arts at Upright Citizens Brigade. When I moved back to the Twin Cities I started working right away in early childhood education and have been doing that for the past five years! I’m also in the pursuit of my Master’s of Early Childhood of Education and Development at the American College of Education.

What did you find appealing about MPA during the interview process?
I loved the idea of creating independent students in the classroom and helping them strengthen their voice. I’m very excited to be apart of the MPA community!

What’s your big dream?
To be the best PreK teacher I can be!

What are you (and your family, if you so choose) passionate about?
I am a happy cat mom to my kitty named Kiki! I’m also an actor in the Twin Cities theater scene and have also worked as a clown. I’m passionate about both visual and the performative arts!

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
I love to build my own puppets and write my own children’s music on the ukulele! 🙂


Meet Retired Faculty Member–Martha B. Castellanos

Martha B. Castellanos

Position while at MPA
Spanish Teacher

How many years did you work at MPA?
31 years

What do you miss most about MPA?
Everything!

What have you been up to since leaving MPA?
In 2020, COVID limited my life of service in the community. Unfortunately this year I was sick, I am still recovering from major surgery. My plans for the future are still uncertain!


Welcome To MPA, Meem Fahlstrom!

MeemMeem Fahlstrom

What position will you be holding at MPA?
K-5 Spanish Sub

From what school/organization are you coming?
Wayzata Public Schools

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
My favorite job was being a 2 week program facilitator for El lago del bosque – Concordia Language Villages. I got my masters in World Language Intruction through Concordia College. I’ve taught at Armstrong High School, Totino-Grace high school, The Churchill School and Center (For Students With Language Based Learning Disabilities) and Wayzata public schools. Fun fact, I’m also licensed to teach Biology/Natural Sciences 5-12.

What did you find appealing about MPA during the interview process?
I met one teacher who said they went to school there and they wanted to teach there – that’s the kind of story that proves the school has major impact on people. Honestly….I saw the tree in the library and the mini door and knew it was the place for me. Also, the Spanish classroom had non-binary pronouns up on the wall as options, which made me feel included. (I’m leaving a district that was less inclusive). Also, all 3 directors are very genuine and easy to connect with.

What’s your big dream?
My big dream is to grow old and still be close with my two nieces.

What are you (and your family, if you so choose) passionate about?
I bike each day after work and read each night. My girlfriend and I enjoy knitting. I own a lot of plants and even name them….I’ve had a pathos named Viney for 14 years. My family revolves around local social justice/activist/art causes…mainly housing/renter rights and environmental stuff.

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
I grew up surrounded by Croatian elders. I only have one great aunt left and we are very close.


Meet Retired Faculty Member—Bev Docherty

BevBev Docherty

Position while at MPA
Physical Education/Health Teacher, Coach

How many years did you work at MPA?
34 years

What do you miss most about MPA?
I miss so much about MPA; the opportunity to work with such driven, focused students and student athletes, my dedicated, fun-loving Physical Education/Health and Athletics Departments and the entire, supportive Mounds Park Academy community.

What have you been up to since leaving MPA?
I’ve been running, biking and exploring areas of Florida with my recently retired husband, Jim. We returned to St. Paul this summer to enjoy the Minnesota summer, to continue work on our “fixer-upper” home–on our 26th year of updates:), and catch up with our dearly missed family and friends. Cheering on MPA alumni Mason Ferlic this past year throughout his journey to the Olympics has been a wonderful treat! Perhaps it aided in my decision to return to co-coach the MPA Cross Country Team this fall after many, many years, which is bringing me such joy already!


Meet Director of Guidance Randy Comfort

Randy ComfortHow many years have you been at MPA?
I am in year 19 at MPA.

What do you love about MPA?
The thing that I love most about MPA is that it is first and foremost a community of engaged and caring people. Families, students, and staff are all part of the fabric that makes this place special and I believe that people feel valued for being themselves.

How does MPA inspire students who dream big and do right?
As the person that builds the master schedule for the Upper School, I feel like the intentionality of choices is an integral part of the MPA system. Students can take a lot of different things in their career and the experiences that they have are part of what makes them who they are. I see opportunities to get involved way beyond the classroom by participating in athletics, productions, clubs, or service. When students can engage, then those choices inform the development of the whole person and not just focus on some specialization in one area to the detriment of other interests. Read More


Welcome To MPA, Steph Bloxham!

What position will you be holding at MPA?
Accounts Payable/Student Tuition Coordinator

From what school/organization are you coming?
White Bear Lake Area Schools

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
I have a Bachelors degree from Winona State in Recreation and Tourism. I have worked in a school setting for 14 years, first starting as a paraprofessional at Fridley Middle School, then became the Billing Clerk for Extended Day Childcare Programming and Department Admin for Community Education at White Bear Lake Area Schools.

What did you find appealing about MPA during the interview process?
Everyone was so welcoming in the interview process, after learning more about MPA and its dreamer and doer philosophy I just knew I had to be part of the community.

What’s your big dream?
This is a tough question… my biggest dream would be for people to get along and accept each others differences.

What are you (and your family, if you so choose) passionate about?
We are very passionate about traveling and just experiencing new things in general, we love adventures.

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
Fun Fact… I love HIGH 5’s and play competitive softball!


Meet Retired Faculty Member Nansee Greeley

Position while at MPA
Math Teacher, asst. Middle school director, Lower School Director, Interim Head, Summer Program Director, Tennis Coach, Math Team Coach

How many years did you work at MPA?
35

What do you miss most about MPA?
The intellectual stimulation, the close friends I made over the years and of course the enthusiasm of the students.

What have you been up to since leaving MPA?
When I first left MPA I became the executive director for MAIS (Minnesota Association of Independent Schools.) I retired from that job 3 years ago. I now watch two of my grandchildren 2 days a week, play golf and pickleball and travel. We spend our winters in Palm Springs near our LA grandchildren.


Meet Cory Becker-Kim, International Student Program Coordinator

Cory working with an international student

Cory Becker-Kim is the International Student Program Coordinator and Advanced Language & Culture Teacher at MPA.

How many years have you been at MPA?
1 1/2

What do you love about MPA?
The genuine people and the MPA community wanting to teach, learn from and inspire students and people alike.

How does MPA inspire students who dream big and do right?
By teaching everyone the importance of listening, being respectful and contributing to the world as a global citizen.

If you have worked at another school, how has your experience at MPA been different?
I would say the biggest difference here at MPA is the actual practice and actual living of school values. Read More


Meet Fourth Grade Teacher DeeDee Stacy

DeeDee teaching in the MakerspaceHow many years have you been at MPA?
Since 1989 I think…

What do you love about MPA?
Loving MPA is an easy thing to do. The students and their families are all in–and the love of learning and excitement the students bring to the table each and every day makes each day a new adventure. My colleagues are amazing educators, and their passion and pursuit of best practices inspires me.

How does MPA inspire students who dream big and do right?
Young children naturally dream big, and want to do right. Inspiring them to do just that, then, is easy. Modeling intellectual curiosity, respect, and critical thinking allows our students to maintain the part of themselves that expects the best of others, and to seek paths that bend toward right.

If you have worked at another school, how has your experience at MPA been different?
Two major differences between MPA and other schools I’ve worked in were evident by about my third week at MPA. One was that teachers truly partner with families in order to support students in academics, the arts, and personal growth. The other, of course, was the students. One lesson I introduced as a middle school English teacher required students to illustrate a piece of writing. In other schools, this requirement was met with groans, complaints, and poorly completed work. At MPA, when I introduced the project, hands shot up, as they had in other schools. I braced myself for the onslaught of questions and complaints. Instead, students asked what medium they could use. They wondered if pencil renderings would work, or if water color might be better. They discussed with me, and amongst themselves, how one might choose different ways to illustrate work depending on the content of the piece of writing. Magical moments like that are commonplace at MPA. Read More