AI To Advance And Deepen Learning

middle school student coding on laptopby Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school

The debut last fall of ChatGPT and, more recently, Microsoft’s Bing GPT-4 and Google’s Bard have been getting a tremendous amount of press lately and have many in the educational field up in arms and very nervous. I’m not one of them. Instead, I believe that artificial intelligence can benefit students and teachers significantly to advance and deepen learning.

ChatGPT is not a technology to be feared, discouraged, or banned but to be embraced and harnessed. Artificial Intelligence can assist students in understanding complex topics better, provide assistance with homework, and sharpen their critical thinking skills. I don’t believe that AI will ever replace a teacher, but instead, it will provide them with a powerful toolbox to assist them in very practical ways so that they have more time to spend with their students.

Last fall, I wrote about Climate Alpha, a company using AI to understand how climate change will affect property development. Climate Alpha founder Parag Khanna began by asking, “How are cities adapting and investing in infrastructure to protect against climate impacts? Where are jobs growing? Where are people moving now, despite extreme heat or wildfires or sea level rise?” Climate Alpha is an excellent example of the shift from the Information Age to what author and futurist Daniel Pink calls the Conceptual Age. While the Information Age was all about big data, the Conceptual Age is concerned with using the information in new and novel ways to make the world a better place. Read More

Lower School Division News March 23, 2023

Lower School YAM ArtworkIt has been a pleasure welcoming everyone in the Lower School back from a wonderful Spring Break. So many students have lovely stories of their travels and I believe we have a couple of students who returned from Europe on the same plane as our very own Dr. Hudson!

Lower School Student Art Featured At State Capitol
Several of our students also returned to the great news that their art will be displayed at Minnesota’s State Capitol building as part of Youth Art Month! Youth Art Month (YAM) was started in 1961 by The Council for Art Education (CFAE). Youth Art Month encourages support for quality school art programs and promotes art material safety. The honored works are:

Kindergartener’s artwork: Lisa Congdon Inspired Shapes
First grader’s artwork: Northern Lights
Second grader’s artwork: Heart Art
Third grader’s artwork: Jellyfish
Fourth grader’s artwork: Untitled
Fourth grader’s artwork: Notre Dame

Thank you to Ms. Scharfenberg for creating this opportunity for our students!

Lower School Art And Music Show: Thursday, March 30, 6-8 PM
Our whole community is getting excited for the annual spring Art and Music Show. Families are invited to view artwork prior to entering the Nicholson for musical entertainment from kindergarten through fourth grade. We look forward to seeing all families and extended family members there! Read More

Join The Parents Association For Upcoming Events

The MPA Parents Association Spring Reading Book Club with Dr. Hudson
April 6, 6:30-8 PM
Looking for something great to read this spring? Try The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict! This historical fiction novel tells the story of a not-so-famous scientist who not only loved Albert Einstein, but also shaped the theories that brought him lasting renown. This is a great pick for Women’s History month. Dr. Hudson will host a discussion of the book. The MPA PA will be providing copies of the book to those who would like to participate and child care will be provided. Please fill out this form to sign up for the book club and request a book.

Kate ThraneMPA All-School Gluten-Free Cooking Class with Kate Thrane ’16
New Date: April 13, 5:30-7 PM
Please join us in the teaching kitchen for some hands-on cooking, as well as learning about the joy of cooking gluten-free. You can learn more about Kate and her recipes on Instagram at @theglutenlessmaximus. Please RSVP to Staci at so that we can have plenty of ingredients prepared!  Hope to see you there!

Culture Day Cultural Diversity Day
April 26, 3-7 PM
Save the date for the Culture Diversity Day celebration at MPA! Enjoy an evening of food, music and crafts from around the world! Would you like to share your culture through cuisine, music, dance or art? We invite you to be a part of our cultural showcase or host a cooking demonstration. Please email

Please Welcome Camille Johnson!

Camille JohnsonWhat position will you be holding at MPA?
Extended day and Summer Panther assistant, and night desk attendant.

Tell us about your education and past experience.
I’m working toward my degree in child development. Prior to MPA, I have worked as a childcare assistant, PreK teacher, and as a direct support professional for young adults with autism.

What did you find appealing about MPA?
The people who work at MPA and the students are so amazing! I feel like I have a great family here. I like that it’s well-structured and the students are focused, and the parents are there for their kids. Everyone is positive and always polite to me. You all make me feel so welcome, and I thank you so much.

What’s your big dream?
To be happily employed! I’m very happy to be here! And to live, love, and laugh comfortably! Read More

Ten Things To Consider When Choosing A Private School

students working on lab togetherWith spring around the corner, private schools all around the country are in the thick of their own season–admission season! Here at MPA, decisions are released on March 24 and the enrollment deadline quickly follows on April 7. This means families are currently facing a decision, and sometimes that decision can be difficult. So with the help of our community, we collected a list of ten things families should consider when deciding on a private school.

1. Your Community
When choosing a school, you’re not looking for a community just for your children, but for yourself and your entire family.

The MPA community is robust. We are built upon shared values and firmly committed to freethinking, collaboration, diversity, and connection. Lower School parent Andrea Goldstein recalls her first impressions of MPA early in their school search. “We wanted a great school for the kids, but we wanted a space, community, and home for us as a family,” she said.

She also noted how seamless it was to become part of the community after enrolling at MPA. Andrea began volunteering as an MPA Parents Association grade representative, finding the responsibilities to be a great opportunity to get to know people quickly and easily. “You don’t have to put in that much to get a lot out of it,” she said.

2. The Pedagogy
MPA’s highly rigorous education does not challenge top students by piling on busywork, nor does it take away support and individual attention from a teacher, but rather by promoting and instilling a deep understanding of what they are learning. We deeply value purposeful academic rigor in a hands-on, experiential, college-prep environment.

Middle School parent KiJuan Ware is elated to see his daughter enjoying this type of learning environment at school, finding the balance of academics and extracurriculars, and constantly trying new things. “The Makerspace is where she is hands-on, doing what she wants to free her mind,” he said. “There’s a lot of discovery when it comes to learning, and homework reinforces comprehension.”

3. Areas For Growth
Natalie Waters Seum, director of admission and communication at MPA, says that this is such an important piece to consider when making your decision. “The things that we at MPA are transparent about working on are just as important as the things that we are already exceptional at,” she said.

One of MPA’s opportunities for growth–which is also a priority in the current strategic plan, 2024ward–is faculty and staff diversity. With nearly 40% of current MPA students identifying as students of color, there is an opportunity to have faculty that reflects the diversity in the student body.

Lucia Simon, an MPA Class of 2022 graduate, says she appreciates seeing MPA’s other areas for growth fulfilled during her time as a student–namely, “Growth in resources for student mental health, stress management, and creating affinity groups for BIPOC students,” she said.

Quote by Lucia Simon4. The Return On Investment
We have many excellent public schools in the Twin Cities, and families often ask what the value is in tuition at MPA. Matt Larson, a parent of three MPA students, says that it is “The array of opportunities that our children have had.”

When Matt and his family were looking at where they wanted to invest over the next 15 years, education was at the top of their list. “We are prioritizing tuition in our budgets every single day,” he said.

Families should look at the investment as a foundation for success in college and preparation to be successful, including building upon students’ skills and interests. In addition to being prepared for life, Matt says that the relationship his children have with the school and their teachers are invaluable for their education at MPA.

“We want our kids to be seen and valued, and that is something we’ve realized in every way we’ve imagined,” he says.

5. Class Size
At MPA, the average class size is 15, with a student-teacher ratio of 7:1. Small classes allow for more time in class, adding value through more ideas, perspectives, and voices. Lucia says that this was one of her favorite things about MPA.

“Having a small class size allows for so many more opportunities between students, teachers, and the material,” she said. “Having been at a big public school before MPA, I definitely felt lost within big groups. I felt I was only regarded as whatever my grade was. That promoted a competitive environment to be in. I didn’t feel seen as who I was. At MPA, I found amazing relationships where I can be myself and what I bring to the classroom.”

When classes are small, teachers are able to form relationships not just with a student, but with their parents, too. Teachers quickly recognize the things parents are trying to work and focus on at home, and can therefore reinforce them daily in the classroom.

6. College Preparation
At MPA, we take college counseling very seriously. It starts in ninth grade and walks students through the process every step of the way during their time in Upper School. MPA’s college-going culture is based on each individual student’s unique set of interests, priorities, and aspirations.

“It’s really interesting to see the difference in how taken care of we are by our schools throughout the search. I don’t have any need to go beyond MPA and find resources to help me because it’s completely provided,” recalls Lucia. “We have an actual class for juniors and seniors completely committed to the college search process.”

When Lucia came to MPA, she was encouraged to apply early decision to help her get into her dream school–which she did. Not only was she ecstatic to have her top choice, but the entire process decreased her overall stress. “They know what you need and are here to listen and work with you,” she said.

But the college prep and search process at MPA does not exist in a vacuum. Throughout the entire educational journey, MPA ensures that students develop skills for success in higher education. Confidence in their ability to communicate, give presentations, and work in teams is one of the key takeaways Matt Larson has seen from MPA graduates over the years.

“Their communication skills are developed every day, layered in, threading in practice opportunities. And by the time they graduate, they are some really incredible communicators. Not only are they learning things, but learning how to give voice to what they’re learning and become articulators for themselves in the world around them,” he said. “It is not enough to know things–you have to be able to communicate what you know and use it across disciplines.”

7. Diversity And Inclusion
When prospective families ask how diverse the school is and whether it is inclusive of all families, we are proud to say that it is central to who we are as a community. Equity, belonging, and inclusion are a part of MPA’s DNA. We find that because this attracts families with mission-aligned values in the first place, the commitment continues as our community grows. Our school environment is enriched daily by students and their families from around the world.

KiJuan chose MPA for his daughter because of the challenge, voice, and diversity she would find here. He recognized that the MPA community comes from all walks of life and different backgrounds and beliefs, and that she would have to learn to navigate that space. Learning about the differences in academic background, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation promotes an environment of understanding and appreciation. “At MPA, she has the opportunity to do that,” he reflects.

Quote by Matt Larson8. Collaborative vs. Competitive
Learning should be fun and inclusive, with no students left behind. At MPA, we value collaboration over competition. And as a student, Lucia says she benefitted from MPA’s collaborative learning environment, which guided her to discover what she sought in a college as well because she thrived at MPA.

“MPA fosters rigor in a way that I am working with my friends constantly around the material.
There’s no embarrassment, and students are asking why they got something wrong and how they can solve it,” she says. “Teachers want to see you succeed and enjoy the material.” Having a collaborative environment gives so much more space for that exploration without consequences.

9. Your Feelings
Making your school choice is going to be a very feelings-based decision that comes down to how you and your children feel when you’re here. When asked how they feel when at MPA, Andrea, KiJuan, Matt, and Lucia said: Comfortable. Authentic. Energized. Hopeful.

When you come to MPA, you are so much more than just a number. You are a member of our community–part of the fabric of our school.

“I felt so seen as a new student,” Lucia recalls. “Sometimes at smaller schools, you feel nervous because everyone already knows everyone else, but that is so far from the truth.” She adds that it was “Amazing to walk through the halls and have teachers, students, and various people in the building ask how you’re doing and being really genuine about it. That definitely adds to the energy of the environment.”

10. Your Values
Do your family’s values align with the school? Natalie says that this is the most important question you can ask of yourself and the school. By pondering these ten questions and knowing your own family, only you can answer this question best.

“Creating the whole person by educating ourselves, having school spirit, making sure we’re educated spiritually, and taking care of our bodies is how we live as a family. MPA gave us the opportunity to educate our daughter academically and athletically, while being able to fit her schedule. We take care of educating her spiritually. That’s what it’s all about–it fits our values, and we love it,” said KiJuan.

Keep asking those questions and grappling with that really important school choice. We’re here to support you at MPA.

Please Welcome MPA’s Lower School Director!

Dear MPA Community,

I am overjoyed to be writing to formally introduce you to Ms. Jennifer Le Varge, MPA’s permanent Lower School director. The search for Ms. Le Varge began last September and engaged many members of the MPA community, extending from students to teachers to families and beyond. The search was wide and thoughtful in partnership with Carney Sandoe, resulting in many highly qualified candidates. We were fortunate that Jennifer was among the finalists. She rose to the top through the process based on her deep experience, varied skills, and beautiful alignment with MPA’s mission.

Ms. Le Varge comes to MPA from the Luanda International School in Angola, where she is the Primary School principal. Before that, she was the Seoul Campus principal at the Korea International School. For 12 years, she has served as principal at schools in Asia and the Middle East. Before that, she spent valuable time in the classroom teaching PreK and early elementary. She holds a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from Boston University and a Master of Arts in anthropology (ethnography of education) from the American University of Beirut.

One of the things that stood out most to me in getting to know Ms. Le Varge is her alignment with the MPA way. She believes in the power of experiential learning, the importance of collaboration over competition, and the significance of strong school-home relationships. She makes sure that student learning is at the center of all decision-making.

“During my finalist visit, the positive community of MPA stood out to me. Everyone I met was kind, enthusiastic, and focused on student learning. I was also impressed by the focus on creativity and well-being in the MPA approach. I am really excited to join the community as both an educator and a parent,” she shared. You can learn more about her professional philosophy here and more about her personally here.

I am so excited to introduce Ms. Le Varge to more community members! As her relocation plans fall into place, I will invite you to a series of gatherings on campus. Please be sure to look for those to be scheduled and shared soon.

I also intend to provide time and space to show our immense appreciation for Dr. Ann Jurewicz, interim Lower School director. We are all indebted to her for sharing her expertise, wisdom, and energy with us this year. Watch for opportunities to thank her for her service to MPA at the end of the school year.

Thank you in advance for giving Ms. Le Varge a warm MPA welcome. Please let me know if you have any questions. I wish you and your family a joyful spring break and look forward to seeing you on campus soon.


Dr. Bill Hudson
Head of School

Welcome to MPA, Jennifer Le Varge!

What position will you be holding at MPA?
Lower School Director

From what school/organization are you coming?
Luanda International School

Tell us about your education and experience.
I have taught in six countries over my career so far. I grew up in a multicultural home, where my parents spoke different mother tongues, and I navigated other cultural worlds. The same can be said for my children who are “third culture kids.” I have a Bachelor of Science in elementary education and a Master of Arts in anthropology (focus on the anthropology of childhood). I am passionate about constructivism, inquiry, multilingual education, and the Reggio Emilia approach. Starting my career as an early years and lower primary teacher, I have also enjoyed being a department leader, curriculum coordinator, Assistant Principal, and Principal. I continue to work with WASC as a school visitor; and the International Baccalaureate as a workshop leader, school visitor, and consultant. I have also had the opportunity to present at several international education conferences in the areas of early childhood education, the Reggio Emilia Approach, and culturally responsive leadership.

What did you find appealing about MPA?
During my finalist visit, the positive community of MPA stood out to me. Everyone I met was kind, enthusiastic, and focused on student learning. I was also impressed by the focus on creativity and well-being in the MPA approach. I am really excited to join the community as both an educator and a parent!

What lasting impact do you plan to have on MPA?
I hope to get to know the MPA context over the upcoming years, with the lasting impact of helping MPA go from strength to strength as we further realize our vision and mission. Read More

Community Is At The Heart Of Our Mission

from Bill Hudson, head of school

I was away from school last week, attending the National Association of Independent Schools annual conference held in Las Vegas this year. I have to admit that it was a bit surreal. While the conference center was first-rate, staying in a hotel casino was disconcerting. At the risk of sounding like a fuddy-duddy (even using the word makes me feel like I should be a patient of Dr. Rick in the Progressive Insurance commercials), the noise level, the smoking, and gambling were discombobulating (more evidence I need Dr. Rick’s help).

However, the conference itself was very good. Independent school heads of school and educators from around the country gathered to learn, share best practices, and celebrate independent schools. There is much to celebrate, including record enrollment, academic innovation, and student success. There is also much to be concerned about. Social polarization, political acrimony, the “Great Resignation,” the lingering effects of the pandemic on learning, parental angst and anxiety, and the increasing accessibility of artificial intelligence are all negatively impacting the academic, social, emotional, and mental well-being of our children.

The news is not good. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH) recently released the results of their biannual Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). Forty-two percent of high school students report that they “experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness during the past year,” up from 36.7% two years ago. Females and gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth are struggling the most, although increases across all racial and ethnic groups worsened also. While there are many reasons to explain the worsening of the mental health of young people, the internet and social media seem to have the most significant effect. Read More

Comings and Goings

We have several comings and goings to and from MPA that we want to share with the community.

Russ Purdy, Extended Day & Summer Program director, has resigned and his last day will be Friday, March 17. Russ joined MPA in January 2017 and had the joy of seeing his two children, Eli and Milo, grow up at MPA and graduate in 2022. During his time on staff, Russ was always enthusiastic with the students and a fun face to see in the morning and afternoon. He made MPA a welcoming place for all, dedicating himself to the program. He expanded the Summer Program class offerings and grew the popularity of Panther Club and Den tremendously. His warm presence on campus will be very missed.

Elizabeth Flinsch, Middle and Upper School visual arts faculty and MPA alum from the Class of 1998, has resigned. Elizabeth taught photography, printmaking, and general visual arts at MPA for three years and had a profound impact on our students. She mentored students both inside and outside of the classroom, ensuring that they could see themselves as creative beings. Senior Prescott Hutton shared, “She was the one who turned photography from a hobby into a passion for me. She inspired me to go crazy with creativity!” She will be very missed by her colleagues and students alike. Samah Fahmy remains at MPA as the long-term substitute art teacher in Elizabeth’s place.

We are pleased to announce the addition of Pauline Wambui, who started at MPA on Monday as the Extended Day and Summer Program site manager, replacing Hollee Towner. She is a familiar face as one of our substitute teachers. She brings 23 years of PreK-12 teaching experience and a passion for teaching, tutoring, and mentoring. She has much experience working with diverse backgrounds and ages and very strong mentorship abilities for assessing and guiding students to achieve growth and success. Get to know Pauline here!

Please join all of us at MPA in wishing Russ and Elizabeth a warm farewell and Pauline a wonderful welcome!

Minnesota Independent Schools Diversity Career Fair

MPA is proud to be a part of this year’s Minnesota Independent Schools Diversity Career Fair on Saturday, March 4 from 9 AM-12 PM at Breck School in Golden Valley. Faculty, staff, and school administrators who identify as Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) are welcome to learn more about employment opportunities at a number of independent schools in the Twin Cities. Participating schools include Blake, Breck, City of Lakes Waldorf, Groves Learning Organization, Lake Country School, Minnehaha Academy, Mounds Park Academy, Shattuck-St. Mary’s, St. Paul Academy and Summit School, and Visitation School. Please feel free to share this event with your networks to raise awareness! For more information and to register, click here.