Celebrating Our Antidote to Cynicism

MPA Faculty Celebrates the Class of 2019On June 8, 2019, students, families, and faculty gathered in Mounds Park Academy’s Nicholson Center to graduate the Class of 2019. The evening began with the Upper School Band’s rendition of “Pomp & Circumstance” as the junior color guard and MPA faculty and staff presented the graduates. Throughout the ceremony, the Concert Choir and Madrigal Singers shared songs and three members of the Class of 2019 spoke. Gabby Law ’19, Julia Portis ’19, and Valedictorian Ajay Manicka ’19 shared words of pride, encouragement, and inspiration for their fellow classmates.

When head of school Dr. Bill Hudson spoke, he called out the prevalence of cynicism in our society today. He referred to Operation Varsity Blues, the college admission scandal that broke this spring, as an example of the way our education system and society may seem to be heading. However, Hudson explained that while “Modern cynicism tends toward negativity, is judgmental, anti-idealistic, sardonic, and misanthropic,” the MPA education that the Class of 2019 has received has readied them “to act from a place of rational faith in the human spirit.” Before receiving their diplomas, Hudson addressed the Class of 2019, announcing to them, “You are our antidote to cynicism.”

As Hudson expressed, we are so proud of the impact the Class of 2019 has made on our community and are excited to see how they shake the world in the years to come. Congratulations, graduates!  Click here to view special moments from the night.

Another Compelling Chapter Comes To A Close

Julia portis '19 gives out high fives in the senior walkOn Tuesday afternoon, I had the privilege of attending the presentations of three seniors who will graduate having earned a Graduate Certificate of Distinction in the Fine Arts. If you are not familiar with the Graduate Certificate of Distinction (GCD), it is designed for students ready and willing to pursue their passions through additional and focused coursework, research, and volunteerism. The GCD allows students to dive deeper into one area of their choosing: STEM, Global Studies, or the Fine Arts. The depth of inquiry that students experience through achieving a Certificate typically simulates what they will find in college, requiring hundreds of hours beyond the classroom.

I was struck by the growth each student experienced during their time at MPA as they pursued their passion for art. In the words of art teacher Lisa Buck, “Each showed (just) snippets of their artworks in their high school years that spoke to an inner calling, a sense of self-worth and self-image that has now framed who they will become.” The sense of self, discovered and honed, during their time at MPA is perhaps the greatest outcome I could hope for as head of school. To witness, and perhaps be a party, to that transformation is at the heart of an educator. Read More

Meet MPA’s Newest Faculty And Staff

middle school science classby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School 

I consider hiring to be one of the most important aspects of my role as head of school. As a rigorous college prep school, I need to ensure that we have excellent teachers. But because of our mission, we also need to ensure that we have excellent human beings who are going to go beyond the classroom as role models, advocates, and confidants, and even sometimes, act in “loco parentis.” I am continually reminded from my own experience as a teacher that in the long run, students won’t always remember what we taught them, but who we are, how we treated them, and how we made them feel. Early in the hiring process, I make a point to remind each committee that while it is important to fill the position, we are hiring the person first.

MPA has a very rigorous and inclusive hiring process. When an opening presents itself, we first take the opportunity to review the position in light of our mission and the evolving needs of the school. Open positions are then posted both locally and nationally and despite a national teacher shortage, we have had great success in attracting a highly qualified and diverse pool of candidates. Each hiring team is led by a member of the administrative team and is comprised of faculty and staff who work collaboratively to screen resumes and conduct a first round of interviews, culminating with a day on campus and a final interview. As a part of their time on campus, teaching candidates actually teach a class and then meet informally with students. We truly value the student perspective and voice in the hiring process. The final decision rests with the head of school, taking into account the recommendation of the hiring committee and the feedback of the students. Read More

Deepening Our Global Connections

dr. Hudson's trip to Chinaby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

Planes, trains, and automobiles—and even a boat. I write this message while flying over the northern Pacific Ocean on my way back from a one-week trip to China. It was a fantastic experience and I thoroughly enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of the Chinese people and delighted in the wonderful culture and cuisine. Together with several other heads of school from the Midwest, I visited a number of schools in Nanjing, Beijing, and Guangzhou to learn more about the Chinese educational system.

The Chinese educational system is very different than ours in a number of ways. The National College Entrance Examination, Gaokao, is required for college entrance and the score dictates a future path for each student. There is tremendous pressure to earn a high score and get into a top college. Teaching is focused on preparing students for the exam, particularly in math and science, leaving much less time for other subjects or critical thinking. Curriculum is limited, and Chinese pedagogy is very teacher-centered. There is far less attention paid to student engagement and agency. Read More

Carrying On The MPA Tradition Of Excellence

Ms. Rossbach's group hug at the lower school art and music showby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

It is hard to put into words how I feel about coming to school each day. I am incredibly fortunate to work with amazing people who inspire me by their professionalism and by their character. They are kind and caring people who love their area of expertise, their craft, and most certainly, the children they teach. MPA English teachers indeed love literature, but they also love engaging students in the exploration of the most fundamental questions about humanity and meaning. Our math teachers undoubtedly enjoy the intricacies of the relationships of numbers, but they also love awakening the curiosity and problem-solving abilities of their students. The very best teachers do not teach math, or science, or art. They teach students.

Whether by retirement or life changes, we will say goodbye to several of these remarkable MPA educators in a few short weeks. Most of us have left jobs behind because we were dissatisfied with working conditions, or because we were bored or underappreciated. Rather than leave MPA behind, these educators move toward new chapters in their lives. While it is difficult to bid farewell to them, I do so with gratitude for the mark they have had on this community and with joy for what lies ahead of them.

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Why We Make At MPA

Lower School Students making sculptures in the Makerspaceby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

As I attend the concerts, art shows, and special grade-level events this month, I am reminded that May is a wonderful celebration of the maker mindset cultivated throughout the curriculum at MPA. I recently came across an article that explained the purpose of a makerspace. I found it descriptive of what happens in our own Makerspace and affirming of the pedagogy behind why we do what we do in that space. However, upon further reading and reflecting, I found that the maker mindset described extends to every classroom and the principles on which our school was founded.

Classroom teacher, university professor, and author John Spence defines a makerspace as “simply a space designed and dedicated to hands-on creativity,” he explains, “and the key thing there is they’re actually making something. Creativity is sometimes idea generation, it’s sometimes problem-solving. But (in) a makerspace, you’re actually going to create some kind of product.” It has been my experience that at MPA, one could easily take out the word makerspace in the above quote and insert “music classroom,” “art studio,” “physical education class,” “science classroom,” “playground,” etc. Throughout every area of the school, MPA teachers encourage, and the curriculum reflects, core values of design thinking including problem-based learning, critical thinking, divergent thinking, among other common values within the makerspace movement. Read More

MPA Inspires Me

middle school boys high fivingby Jenn Milam, Ph.D., Middle School Director

Editor’s Note: On the first Thursday of each month, you will find a guest Head’s Message here from one of MPA’s division directors. We hope you enjoy reading their thoughts and reflections about life at MPA.

It seems almost unbelievable that as you read this, we have just 21 days of school left before we depart for sunnier days, fewer lunches to pack, and more time to explore this great big world around us. For me, it seems even more unreal that just a few days from now my family and I will have been here for only nine months. As one of the newest members of the MPA family, I often get asked “What’s been the best thing about coming to MPA?” And depending on the day, sometimes the time of day, that answer varies—I do work with middle schoolers, after all! The one thing I always return to, though, is that it is easy to acclimate to goodness here because there is so much of it. I am grateful for my newness to the community because it has allowed me the privilege and joy to see the good, first hand, with a fresh set of eyes.

This week, I want to share with you, our MPA community, my top 10 list of things that have inspired me this year—the top 10 reasons why I am so happy to call MPA my home, to have my own children at MPA, and to serve your children. Read More

I Know We Can

Thomas smiling with his donation to Together, We Dreamby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School 

One of my favorite childhood stories was “The Little Engine That Could.” I remember my father reading the book to me when I was a child, telling me that no matter the obstacles that I face in life, if I work hard and believe in myself, I can do anything. His words have inspired and comforted me throughout my childhood and adult life. Whether it was earning a canoeing merit badge on a windy day as a teen, surviving finals week in college, or writing my doctoral dissertation, I have found the reserve to know that I will be able to persevere and ultimately succeed. It wouldn’t have been unusual, even up to his death, for my dad to send me a note with no words but instead a simple drawing of a train making its way uphill.

I have the same confidence today that together we will meet our goal of $4 million by the very important deadline of May 1 so that we can continue with Together, We Dream: The Campaign for MPA projects. While we have met our goal to fully fund the new cafeteria and kitchen, we are just shy of the amount needed to build the new library. If we do not reach $4 million by May 1—if we do not act now—the library construction phase of the campaign will not be able to start this summer, and costs will increase. From the beginning, our intent was to fully fund these two important projects without risking our short-term and long-term financial sustainability and reaching this milestone will help ensure that. Read More


PosterMake plans to attend the fabulous CHICAGO: HIGH SCHOOL EDITION this weekend!
April 25, 26, & 27, 7 PM
Nicholson Center

Ticket Prices:
$10 – Adults
$5 – Students/Seniors

Tickets may be purchased here or at the door.

In roaring twenties Chicago, chorine Roxie Hart murders a faithless lover and convinces her hapless husband, Amos, to take the rap…until he finds out he’s been duped and turns on Roxie. Convicted and sent to death row, Roxie and another “Merry Murderess,” Velma Kelly, vie for the spotlight and the headlines, ultimately joining forces in search of the “American Dream”: fame, fortune, and acquittal. (source: samuelfrench.com)

The show is most appropriate for ages 13 and older.

See photos from the show at moundsparkacademy.org/chicagophotos!

The Long-Term Outcome Of An MPA Education

by Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

I’m one of the few people who actually enjoys painting a room or even a house. Several years ago, we had our 100-year-old house re-stuccoed, which required scraping and painting the wood trim around the windows. In order to save a few dollars, we decided to do it ourselves. More than 30 windows later and a lot of work, the job was done, and the house looked great. Whether its painting, cooking, or refinishing old furniture, I like seeing the rapid transformation of a finished job. In contrast, the work of educating young people is never finished and there are not often opportunities to see an immediate outcome. Read More