Meet Rae Dillon

Rae Dillon

What position will you be holding at MPA?
Upper School and College Counseling Administrative Assistant

From what school/organization are you coming?
I was the Program and Operations Manager at the MN Elementary School Principals’ Association (MESPA)

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
I was inspired by the strong sense of community and even “family” at MPA! I love the school’s small, intimate feel that cares about students holistically, rather than just data and test scores. I love the welcoming environment and focus on individuality, inclusivity, and the arts!

What’s your big dream?
[Like, if I could do anything?] To help cultivate a world filled with compassion, empathy, and justice for all people and the environment.

What are you (and your family, if you so choose) passionate about?
I am passionate about young people and their futures, the environment, mental health and mindfulness, spending time outdoors, and reading a good trashy mystery novel (my goal is one every month).

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
I LOVE gardening, but I am not very good at it. I love that I get better each year, and every autumn, I wipe the slate clean and try again next year. I love to grow (and eat) tomatoes the most.


Meet Ms. Hernandez

Congratulations to Lauren Hernandez who is moving from Communications Coordinator to Communications and Marketing Manager. Get to know Ms. Hernandez!

What do you love about MPA?
There is so much I love about MPA. I love the energy, the joyful students, the dedicated faculty and staff, and the sense of community. I love collaborating with my colleagues and dreaming up big (and small!) ideas. And of course, I really love getting super cute notes and drawings from kiddos!

How does MPA inspire students who dream big and do right?
MPA is full of role models that even I as a staff member look up to! The faculty is extremely dedicated and creative, but I think what’s especially inspiring is the environment that MPA creates, representative of different talents, passions, skills, backgrounds, and resources .

If you have worked at another school, how has your experience at MPA been different?
At the school I worked at before coming to MPA, my office was in a different building, separate from life on campus. At MPA, I am so connected to everything that goes on. I get to truly feel the joy that is ever-present throughout this school.

What would you tell a parent considering MPA?
Being a part of this community is a gift for your entire family. The educational journey your child will experience and the relationships and friendships you will make are so special.

What do you hope for MPA students in 20 years?
I have seen such brilliant and motivated change-makers graduate from MPA that I have no doubt about the impact they will make on our world. What I hope is that they’ll remember to reach out to us in 20 years so we can continue to share their stories!


Meet Michael Moran

Michael MoranMichael Moran is the Academic Technology Integrationist.

How many years have you been at MPA?

This is my first year.

What do you love about MPA?

MPA has an incredible staff dedicated to the mission of the school. The family-feel culture and inclusivity of MPA was something I wanted to be a part of and is something very important to me. I love the fact that I started my position mid-year but immediately felt that welcoming and supportive environment.

How does MPA inspire students who dream big and do right?

It is all about the environment created by our teachers. We teach our students to take ownership of their work and ideas through support and guidance. However, teaching to the whole student is the most important part of what we do. We like to say we inspire our students but many times our students inspire us. Read More


Meet Jenny Portis ’16

Jenny Portis HeadshotWhat are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?
Right now, I’m on a gap year after graduating from Carleton College in June 2020 and attending Stanford Law School in August 2021. During this time, I’ve been working for Panther Club at MPA, volunteering for the ACLU-MN, and clerking for Judge Edward T. Wahl, Fourth Judicial District.

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?
Honestly, I’m still having trouble figuring out how and why everything ended up falling together so nicely for me this year. It’s probably some mix of networking (with both MPA and Carleton contacts), persistence, and a healthy dose of good luck. Being able to intern at legal advocacy organizations and firms was a big help for not just making contacts but also getting some real-world confirmation that this career path is a good fit for me. Read More


Meet Assistant Director of Admission for Middle and Upper School Alli Capasso

Alli HeadshotHow long have you been at MPA?
I have been at MPA for just under one year.

What do you love about MPA?
I love everything about MPA. I love that we are a community that looks out for each other and takes care of one another. I love that I hear conversations every day about how to best teach children. I love that our definition of success includes being a kind and decent human being who thinks critically about their role in the world.

How does MPA inspire students who dream big and do right?
MPA inspires students to dream big and do right by teaching them problem solving and allowing them to encounter failure. We give them the skills to look critically at the world around them and have the confidence to know that they can change it. I think one of the most impressive examples I have seen of our mission in practice was within our Social Conscience Club and Racial Justice and Equity Club this past spring and summer. After the murder of George Floyd, these two clubs came together hosting meetings and organizing guest speakers for the community. They then moved beyond talk into action by helping register voters within the community surrounding MPA. I was incredibly moved and inspired by their passion, tenacity and, frankly, their guts. Read More


Meet Assistant Director of Admission for Lower School Robyn Hare

Robyn HeadshotHow long have you been at MPA?
I have been at MPA for 10 months.

What do you love about MPA?
I love seeing how my son Charlie’s perspective on school has changed. To say it has been transformational would not be an exaggeration. He loves coming to MPA every single day!

How does MPA inspire students who dream big and do right?
I think there are so many ways that we do this. My son comes home and wants to research interesting topics he learned in school. He’s so curious and interested in everything, whether it is learning new ball handling skills in PE, humming new songs he’s learning in music, or researching more about science topics he has been introduced to. It’s so fun to see his eyes opened to all the possibilities ahead of him! Read More


Meet Director of Admission and Communication Natalie Waters Seum

Natalie Head Shot

Favorite teacher to strike up a conversation with walking down the hallway?
Ms. Peterson, kindergarten teacher, because she always has a creative project underway, often with a social justice or service focus. And her energy is contagious!

How long have you been at MPA?
I have been an MPA parent in the Class of 2023 for 11 years and on staff for almost five. My history here extends even further back as my mother-in-law was a faculty member and Upper School administrator for many years prior. I’ve known and loved MPA for nearly 25 years.

If you have worked at another school, how has your experience at MPA been different?
During and after college, I worked at an educational cooperative that served both students who were struggling and students who were excelling. The faculty there were particularly adept at hands-on, experiential learning, especially service-learning, similar to MPA. It was there where my passion for serving children and families was born. I could see that even from the administrative office, my work could have a direct impact on students, families, and teachers. If I couldn’t be a teacher (we were already putting my husband through graduate school), this was the next best thing. From there, I went on to the consulting world serving education-related nonprofits, so that I could be home more with my son. I had my eye on the director of communications position at MPA and when the call came from Dr. Hudson, the timing was perfect. In the fall of 2019, I added admission to my scope. There’s nowhere else I’d rather spend my life, both as an administrator and as a parent.

Favorite space on campus?
It is hard to choose just one, but I’d have to say the Benz Courtyard because I love seeing Upper School students enjoying recess. Read More


Meet Boys Basketball Coaches Rich Harris, Nate Bander, and Matt Bander

Meet Boys Varsity Basketball Coach Rich Harris

Rich Harris in front of MPA BannerWhat was your playing career like?
I played four years in high school in Oklahoma and was the starting point guard my senior year. I then played point guard at Southwestern College, an NAIA school in Winfield, Kansas, graduating in 1996.

What coaching experience do you bring to MPA?
After finishing my college career, I stayed on for one year as a student assistant. Since, I have coached a variety of different levels of basketball and many schools. Some highlights include coaching the freshman boys team at Southeast High School in Wichita, coaching JV boys and then Varsity boys at the American School of Doha in Qatar (we went undefeated in 2011), assistant coaching girls Varsity and then boys Varsity at American School in London, coaching Middle School and High School boys at the International Schools Groups in Saudi Arabia (we went 21-4 record and won the conference championship during the 2018-19 season), and coaching girls JV here at MPA. The girls at MPA taught me compassion and commitment and I will never forget that.

What is it about MPA that makes it a great place to coach?
The kids! MPA has such wonderful students who want to succeed. Also, the faculty and staff has been very supportive. Read More


Meet Spanish Teacher Mariajose Johnson

Mareajose virtual learningHow many years have you been at MPA?
The 2020-2021 school year is my third year at MPA.

What do you love about MPA?
I love the environment of student focused, high energy teachers all over the building! I love the fact that students have the opportunity to learn a second language starting in Kindergarten, as well as having physical education, arts, music, technology, library, drama and the Makerspace! I love being a teacher at MPA and bringing the love of teaching/love of students kind of energy every day. It is energizing and motivating!

How does MPA inspire students who dream big and do right?
I believe that MPA inspires students who dream big and do right by promoting flexibility and creativity in the curriculum, and really encouraging extracurricular activities with the no-cut policy. Read More


Meet Nate Bander ’09

nate bander and yahya madarMeet 2019-20 Alumni Association Board member Nate Bander ’09!

MPA Class of 2009 alum Nate Bander is MPA’s admission outreach coordinator and Upper School admission coordinator at Mounds Park Academy. He also coaches boys basketball and the varsity track and field and cross country teams at MPA. After attending MPA K-12 and the University of Minnesota, where he majored in Communications Studies with a Spanish Studies minor, Nate moved to Baza, Spain and worked in an adult language academy as an English teacher.

“The single biggest impact that my MPA experience had on me was inspiring me to learn about the world. MPA is a wonderful, diverse community of parents, students and educators who place a high value on education. I feel prepared to speak about the greater world, travel to faraway places, digest complex theories and thrive as a global citizen. MPA connected me to the broader world.”

But Nate’s MPA moments did not stop as a student and alumni. In fact, he didn’t make one of his fondest memories until coaching in 2019.

Nate recalls, “I first met Yahya Madar (Class of 2019) when he came out for my ninth grade basketball team. That season, I benched him in a game and he almost quit the team.” But, Yahya persevered and in 10th grade, he came back out for the basketball team. He also tried high jumping in track and field for the first time, and something clicked. Read More