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


Meet MPA Physical Education Teacher Rich Harris

rich Harris and mike scinto at the girls soccer game togetherHow many years have you been at MPA?
This is my first year.

What do you love about MPA?
The community, small classes, the work ethic of the students, and the lunch!

How does MPA inspire students who dream big and do right?
MPA consistently promotes this motto. It encourages its students to always look at the big picture and to always think their dream is achievable. MPA models doing the right thing and this rubs off on the students and community as a whole.

If you have worked at another school, how has your experience at MPA been different?
These students genuinely care for and support one another.

What would you tell a parent considering MPA?
That if you want your child to be encouraged to try new things and always feel supported, then MPA is for them. If they want more individual attention from teachers, then MPA is for them. If they want the child to be in an environment that is kind and loving, then MPA is for them. MPA also has the technology and the classes to prepare their child for adulthood in today’s world. Read More


Meet Ms. McFarland

Student talking with teacherInternational Student Program coordinator
MPA parent

How many years have you been at MPA?
This is my fifth year.

What do you love about MPA?
I love the joy the students experience in simply being at school: in classes, in the cafeteria, on the playground, in the hallways. They work extremely hard, support one another, and strive to learn all they can. And through it all, there is a smile, a song, a hug, a laugh … JOY!

How does MPA nurture students who forever dream big and do right?
MPA teachers and staff don’t shy away from tough issues, instead posing them as discussion topics and guiding students in thinking through them critically and empathetically to arrive at conscientious, thoughtful opinions.

If you have worked at another school, how has your experience at MPA been different?
Again, I’d have to say the sheer amount of JOY in the building. When I came for my initial interview, the feeling was palpable—evident in every classroom and around every corner—and it continues to amaze me five years later, every time I walk through the doors.
Read More


Meet Nate Bander ’09

Coach with studentsUpper School Admission coordinator
Coach

Class of 2009

How many years have you been at MPA?
I’ve been here four years as a member of the admission team and coach. Between 1996 and 2009 I was a student!

What do you love about MPA?
I love athletics at MPA. Our culture has found a way to balance success and participation, skill building and teamwork, competition and collaboration. Athletics were my favorite part of being a student at MPA and have continued to be an integral part of my relationship to the MPA community.

How does MPA nurture students who forever dream big and do right?
MPA is a community of families brought together not by common geography, but by common values. MPA students are surrounded by families who exemplify what it means to be successful high achievers but also global citizens of the world. The abundance of role models in this community makes for well rounded students hungry to emulate the high achievers they surround themselves with.

What would you tell a parent considering MPA?
Mounds Park Academy is an investment in your children. There are families who chose to invest in travel, cabins, and boats, but an MPA family knows prioritizing funds to ensure a strong future for their children is the most important investment. Read More


Welcome To The Family, Ms. Drake!

Lauren DrakeMeet Lauren Drake, who is joining MPA’s faculty as an Upper School English teacher! A veteran English teacher, she has taught in both Northern California and in Colorado and recently relocated back to Minnesota. After graduating from Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., Ms. Drake matriculated to Carlton College where she received a Bachelor of Arts in English (magna cum laude) and then received a Master of Arts in British and American literature from Mills College. Learn more about her below!

What did you love about MPA right away?
I loved how MPA felt like a close-knit community that was warm and inviting. Everyone I met, from teachers, to administrators, to students, was incredibly friendly and I felt at home immediately. I also really enjoyed the portion of my interview with students. They were thoughtful, engaging, mature, and funny–I feel so grateful that I’ll get to work with students like that every day at MPA.

What’s your big dream?
My big dream is to start an experiential learning school on a farm. Through farming, students would learn about sustainability and biology. They then would learn about math, economics, and marketing by selling the produce. Of course, we’d read a lot of nature literature as well!

What are you (and your family, if you so choose) passionate about?
I am passionate about connecting with the land–through gardening, hiking, and environmental stewardship. I love spending time outside and now I get to show the beauty of the outdoors to my two young sons.

What’s your secret talent?
I am really good at making up songs on the spot!

We can’t wait for our entire community to meet you, Ms. Drake! Stay tuned for more extended Q&A profiles of the amazing faculty and staff joining our community in the 2019-20 school year!


Meet Mr. Thomsen

Biology teacher with two studentsUpper School science teacher, parent of an alumna

What do you love about MPA?
I love that it offers a liberal arts, whole child experience. Students spend each day doing a variety of things as they learn about themselves and the world.

How many years have you been at MPA?
I’ve been here for 27 years—since 1991!

How does MPA nurture students who forever dream big and do right?
MPA takes the time to nurture students’ interests and gives them a multitude of experiences to help them see the wide range of things those interests relate to.

If you have worked at another school, how has your experience at MPA been different?
The small size makes it easier to communicate with colleagues and to help ensure that no student gets “lost in the shuffle.” I like that I am in charge of my budget and the chance to obtain materials, in the right amounts, to maximize the learning from each lab.

What would you tell a parent considering MPA?
Consider how MPA offers a wide range of offerings, the small class sizes, teachers who are interested in and get to know all of their students. Teachers and administrators are accessible to their students. Each student can be in a multitude of extra curricular activities without a lot of prior experience.

Read More


Meet Ms. O’Keefe

Teacher in Makerspace with young studentFirst grade teacher

How many years have you been at MPA?
My first, first grade class is currently in ninth grade … making my career at MPA nine years!

What do you love about MPA?
I love that MPA reaches every aspect of the whole child and that they respect every child as an individual.

How does MPA nurture students who forever dream big and do right?
MPA nurtures students who forever dream big and do right by inviting students from a very young age to express their dreams, teach them that no dream is too big, and help them on a path to discover how to reach those dreams while being respectful citizens.

If you have worked at another school, how has your experience at MPA been different?
MPA has an amazing understanding of students at each educational level (Lower School, Middle School, and Upper School) and how each relates to one another. Having the span of pre-kindergarten to graduation from high school under one roof is a unique quality in a school. Read More


Meet Ms. Johnson

Teacher with student at laptopMiddle and Upper School world language teacher

How many years have you been at MPA? 14 years

What do you love about MPA?
Everything! I love the MPA community.

How does MPA nurture students who forever dream big and do right?
By providing them with multiple opportunities in school as well as out of school. i-Term in the Middle School, is a great example.

If you have worked at another school, how has your experience at MPA been different?
What a I truly love about MPA is having all grades PreK-12 on one campus. We all benefit from seeing all age levels on any given day.

What would you tell a parent considering MPA?
This is a great school! Students want to learn and be successful. They are kind and supportive of each other and make great connections with students, teachers, and the community at large.

In what ways are you preparing students for life in the 21st century?
To be thinkers, doers and to have the confidence to go out there and make change in the world.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your MPA experience?
As an educator, I am constantly being pushed intellectually. I appreciate the support and opportunities to do so, be it through conferences, lectures, classes, traveling, etc.


Meet Mr. Habermann

Choir teacher directing studentsMiddle and Upper School music teacher and choir director

How many years have you been at MPA?
Eighteen years as the choir director. I was hired by Barb Bradley to vocal direct and accompany the musicals in 1996. I have been walking MPA halls for nearly half of my life!

What do you love about MPA?
The joy, positivity, passion, and drive exhibited by faculty, staff, and students.

How does MPA nurture students who forever dream big and do right?
We instill in our students the idea of possibility. What can we do now? The world is at your fingertips. Why not dive in and experience all that you can?

If you have worked at another school, how has your experience at MPA been different?
You can be yourself at MPA. Your uniqueness is celebrated. You are important and have something to “bring to the table.” It is like a choir … everyone’s voice is important and we want to hear what you have to say (or sing, in my case!).

What would you tell a parent considering MPA?
You will be jealous of your children’s education!

In what ways are you preparing students for life in the 21st century?
In choir, we are a community. What one person does affects not only you, but the whole. We may be independent thinkers, but we are interdependent beings. Music-making teaches discipline, perseverance, creativity, and the importance of deep listening. Read More


Meet Mr. Ethier

Math teacher with middle school studentsMiddle School math teacher

How many years have you been at MPA? 27

What do you love about Mounds Park Academy?
The students. Every day I get to work with students who are curious, motivated, eager to learn, and willing to do the hard work to solve challenging problems. We talk about the joy of learning, but it’s a joy to work with students like this! As a coach, I get to hear positive things about our students from others they encounter. It might be the neighbor who noticed some of our runners stopping to pick up trash at Goodrich, or the bus driver who always looks forward to driving MPA students because they’re the best.

How does Mounds Park Academy nurture students who forever dream big and do right?
One of the really important things we do is create an environment where students can be themselves. Each student is unique, but each student feels right at home at MPA. Here, it’s cool to be smart, cool to be a math nerd, a drama nerd, a speech nerd, or whatever type of nerd allows you to explore your passion. That welcoming environment is critical to allowing students to have those big dreams and sets an example they can carry on to welcome others.

If you have worked at another school, how has your experience at Mounds Park Academy been different?
I only worked one year at another school—a public school in northern Minnesota. It was like night and day comparing that experience to my experience at MPA. I remember giving a simple problem solving assignment to one of my classes and the students had no idea how to approach it. Nobody had ever asked them to do problems like that before! MPA students jump right in when given those kind of challenges. They’ve been given many opportunities to do open-ended, problem solving, creative activities, and they don’t back down from a challenge.

What would you tell a parent considering Mounds Park Academy?
At MPA, we ask students to solve challenging problems and give them the support they need to be comfortable doing that. Whether it’s solving interesting algebraic problems in sixth grade, writing a novel in seventh grade, doing a research paper in eighth grade, we ask a lot of our students, but we also provide the nurturing environment that helps them feel safe in taking those academic risks. Read More