All Students Benefit

Heads Messagefrom Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school

I recently went through some boxes in my mother’s house and came across a collection of my elementary school report cards. Year after year, very similar comments went something like this: “Bill would do much better if he learned to raise his hand and not blurt out answers during class discussions.” “Bill needs to be better about handing in his assignments.” “Bill scored highly on tests, but his lower grades reflect the absence of homework.” And “If Bill would only try harder, his grades would be higher.” I talked too much, didn’t raise my hand, and didn’t turn in my homework, but I scored very high on tests. Nonetheless, I felt like a failure, which only compounded the problem.

Many years later, I ran into my fifth-grade teacher, who was delighted to know I had earned a doctorate and was experiencing success in my career. “I always knew you’d do well. You had the highest IQ in the class.” I was stunned and wondered what my academic career would be like if we knew then what we know now about ADHD.

While ADHD affects how we learn, there is no correlation with intelligence. It is similar for learning differences such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia. Neurodiversity is used more frequently to promote the idea that conditions like autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other neurodevelopmental conditions are natural variations of the human brain rather than disorders to be cured. People with learning differences may have difficulty acquiring or demonstrating knowledge in traditional ways, but that doesn’t mean they cannot succeed in rigorous coursework or at schools like MPA.

The percentage of students with learning differences has consistently been on the rise in schools across the country. In a recent survey of independent heads of schools from across the United States, 85% said that supporting the learning needs of neurodiverse students is a priority for them. This reflects a 52% increase in just one year, from 2023 to 2024.

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Reflections From The MPA Class Of 2024 Lifers

The Class of 2024 Lifers then and nowNear the end of their final year at MPA, we had the honor of interviewing many of the MPA Class of 2024 Lifers about their time at MPA, the only school they’ve been at for their entire academic career. A group of dedicated athletes, talented musical artists, Peer Leaders, and proud self-proclaimed robotics “nerds,” each of them shared memories and reflections of MPA past and present, looking toward the future well prepared by MPA. Devneet Biring, Jay Green, Greta Hanson, Sylvia Hawley, Micah Hudock, Khushi Jain, Else Kunze-Hoeg, Logan Miller, Ben Murr, Nora Pederson, Hunter Scheible, David Steinberger, and Molly Vergin will graduate on June 8 and join MPA’s Joanne Olson Club, reserved for students whose entire K-12 or PreK-12 journey has taken place here at MPA.

Choosing a school for 13 years means you’re growing up within a strong community that ensures every child here is known. So we asked: How has MPA’s community supported and shaped you over the years?

Jay: Everything I do pretty much revolves around sports, so what’s been really helpful for me is the community. If I’m in the hallway and I see a parent or a teacher, they always ask me how my game was, and that’s something that I really have enjoyed in my time here because it makes me feel seen. That was very consistent from even when I was in kindergarten, just playing in gym class versus now, when I play three sports at a time. That’s something that’s shaped me into a better person. I think now my focus is trying to give that same opportunity to the younger kids that I see and am coaching. I think the community does a very good job of supporting everyone in it. From my perspective, I feel like I’ve been very well-supported by pretty much everyone around me.

Khushi: I agree with that. Being both a tennis athlete and a nerd in robotics has pushed me to do more of what I love. Through tennis, I’ve learned more about myself, about mental health, and other things. Through robotics, I’ve learned how to be a leader, how to speak up, and how to get the team together. Through all these different clubs and activities that MPA has, I’ve learned different skills from each.

Micah: There are a lot of people who have a lot of different interests in a lot of areas. Everyone’s kind of encouraged to do their own thing and have their own interests, and no one is trying to fit into a category. Everyone’s cool to do whatever they want.

Ben: Elaborating on that, I’ve really enjoyed being able to know my class. To actually know people—having a small, very close-knit group—has really helped us understand each other on a deeper level than just, “There’s a person from my class in the hallway.” I find that nice.

“There's definitely no other school where I could be in three choirs, in three different bands, and then also play three sports throughout the year.” -Jay Nora: I like how integrated everybody is, whether in sports or other things. For example, in basketball, we did this kid’s camp with the boys’ and girls’ teams where we got to work with Lower and Middle School students, so now when I see them in the hallway I can say hi. And with different classes like choir and orchestra, you get to know people in all grades. With track, since it’s a co-ed sport, I get to talk and know people that I wouldn’t normally. It’s just interesting knowing more than one grade.

Sylvia: The relationships we’re able to build are pretty unique to this school because of the small class sizes. Throughout all my years here, I think all the teachers really make an effort to build a relationship outside of the classroom, to know you on a more personal level. That has allowed me to feel comfortable sharing non-class material with them and getting to know them as people. I think that has shaped my love for learning but also made me want to do more. Read More

Celebrating This Year’s Retirees

from Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school

In 2017, when Edutopia, a well-respected educational foundation, asked its readers to describe the traits of a life-changing teacher, very few of the responses were about test scores or academics. People overwhelmingly said that great teachers make their students feel safe and loved, believe in their students, model patience, and help their students reach their full potential—all qualities that remain largely unmeasured. I can’t think of a better way to describe the impact of fourth-grade teacher Scott Wilson and library assistant Kristy Petrich, who are retiring from MPA this year.

Many people will be surprised to learn that teaching is Scott’s second career. From 1987-1998, Scott owned and operated a successful restaurant in Winter Park, Colorado. He went back to school and earned a master’s degree in elementary education at the University of St. Thomas. Scott began substitute teaching at MPA in 1999 before becoming a permanent teacher in the 2000-01 school year. Since then, Scott has taught kindergarten, first, second, and fourth grades at MPA.

Colleagues and students describe Scott as kind, gentle, patient, and wise. Scott has always been flexible and supportive of his colleagues. “I once heard someone refer to him as the ‘Lower School Handyman’ because if there’s a flat tire, someone stuck in a ditch, or in need of a help hanging lights or fixing a faucet, he is there,” shared fellow fourth-grade teacher DeeDee Stacy.

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Lower School Division News May 16, 2024

from Jennifer Le Varge, Lower School director 

Mark Your Calendars 

  • Friday, May 17: LS PreK Music Family Share, 9-9:30 AM, Panther Center
  • Friday, May 17: LS Grade 1 Poetry Picnic, 2-3 PM, Playground Area; Martin Lenz Harrison Library (rain location)
  • Thursday, May 23: LS Grade 3 Field Trip, 9:30 AM-12:30 PM, Off Campus
  • Friday, May 24: PreK-Grade 12 Spirit Wear Day!
  • Friday, May 24: Senior Walk, 1-1:45 PM, South Entrance
  • Friday, May 24: LS G1 Ms. O’Keefe Class Play, 8:45-9:15 AM, Room 21
  • Friday, May 24: LS G1 Ms. Steingraeber Class Play, 8:45-9:15 AM, Room 21
  • Friday, May 24: LS Grade 3 Showcase, 1:45-3 PM, Family Commons
  • Monday, May 27: No Classes, Memorial Day
  • Tuesday, May 28: LS Field Day, 8:30-11 AM, Soccer Fields, South Lawn
  • Wednesday, May 29: LS/US Grade 4 Introduction to the Instruments Concert, 10:30-11:20 AM, Panther Center
  • Wednesday, May 29: LS G3 Ms. Wermager Class Play, 1:15-1:45 PM, Black Box
  • Wednesday, May 29: LS G3 Ms. Stewart Class Play, 2:15-2:45 PM, Black Box
  • Thursday, May 30: Development Open House & Volunteer Breakfast, 7:30-9:30 AM, Family Commons
  • Thursday, May 30: Retirement Gathering, 4-6 PM, Martin Lenz Harrison Library
  • Friday, May 31: LS G4 Mr. Wilson Class Play, 1:15-1:45 PM, Black Box
  • Friday, May 31: LS G4 Ms. Kimmerle/Stacy Class Play, 2:15-2:45 PM, Black Box
  • Monday, June 3: LS End of Trimester 3
  • Monday, June 3: LS G2 Ms. Scalia Class Play, 8:15-8:45 AM, Black Box
  • Monday, June 3: LS G2 Ms. Fisher Class Play, 9:15-9:45 AM, Black Box
  • Monday, June 3: LS/MS Grades 4 and 8 Moving Up Ceremony, 1:30-3 PM, Nicholson Center
  • Tuesday, June 4: Last Day of School, All School Yearbook Assembly and Signing, 8-10:30 AM, Nicholson Center
  • Tuesday, June 4: Dismissal, 10:30 AM, no afternoon care or transportation home
  • Tuesday, June 4: Kindergarten Graduation And Class Picnic, 9:15 AM-2 PM, Family Commons, Gallery, Playground
  • Wednesday, June 5-Friday, June 7: No PreK
  • Monday, June 10: First Day of PreK

While we are on the threshold of the end of the academic year, and the new beginnings that summer offers, it is important to reflect on our journey thus far. What skills has your child gained over the past 10 months? What were some bumpy spots in their development as humans this year? What were some breakthroughs, triumphs, and successes? These questions could be fun to bring up at the dinner table at home, as we help our students not only set goals for the future but to look back and realize just how far they have come already.

At our final CHAMP assembly for the academic year, we learned about demonstrating self-control. Mr. Sheehan also helped us to understand self-control in the context of playground games and gave us some great tips for being good sports… and great CHAMPs! The children also heard from their Upper School friends about three different ways that they can help take action in our local communities by participating in the hygiene product drive, the plastic film recycling drive, and the clothing drive. Please check out Schoology in the coming days for more information on these worthy initiatives, which are part of the Senior Service Projects in the Upper School. The students also presented the new trash bin that they earned as part of our Earth Day Challenge. Special thanks to our kindergarten community, who spearheaded this initiative!

May Sprit Days: Wear Your MPA Gear
On Fridays in May (May 17, 24, and 31), Lower School students are invited to wear their MPA gear (sweatshirt or t-shirt) as their top, with uniform bottoms. Let’s continue to show our Panther pride throughout the month of May!

Field Day on May 28
Please look out for more information from our PhyEd team on the upcoming Field Day which will take place on the morning of May 28. The team is looking for parent volunteers to help make the event a success. Please check your email for more. Read More

MPA’s Portrait Of A Graduate And Competency Framework

HeadsMessagefrom Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school

As the school year draws to a close, we begin to celebrate the progress and growth of students, including art shows, concerts, competitions, special events, and ceremonies. The pinnacle of our academic year is commencement on Saturday, June 8. This event is a significant milestone for our school and for the 61 members of the MPA Class of 2024 as we come together to celebrate their achievements and honor their journey.

Other accomplishments are also worth celebrating, such as our progress toward realizing our strategic plan. In particular, I want to call attention to the work of a committee comprised of faculty, staff, and administrators that has been working throughout the year to create a competency framework grounded in our mission and actualizing the MPA Portrait of a Graduate. I’ve written many times before about competency-based (or mastery-based) learning and developing our unique MPA competency framework (these articles date back to 2015, but see “A Roadmap for Continuous Improvement” and “2024ward: An Update” for the two most recent). Before I share the latest update, I’d like to provide some context.

The first priority of 2024ward challenges us to “Empower students to live, learn, and thrive in our increasingly complex and globalized society.” We do this by creating customized pathways of learning for students through curricular innovation and leveraging advances in educational technology. In addition to maximizing the use and integration of technology, MPA has been on a multi-year journey to continually enhance our school’s strengths in hands-on, experiential, project-based learning. Read More

MPA Trio Selected For All-State Choir

All-State Congratulations to Warner Reid ’26, Truman Wilgocki ’26, and Chali Yang ‘26, who auditioned and were selected to be members of the 2024-25 All-State Choir program. They were three of 1,491 students who auditioned for the various music ensembles that comprise All-State. Warner will sing in the Mixed Choir under the direction of Jake Runestad, while Truman and Chali will perform as part of the Tenor Bass Choir under the direction of Dr. Derrick Fox. The All-State Choirs convene this summer on the campus of St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN. Camp will conclude with a concert featuring all three All-State Choirs. Warner, Truman, and Chali, we are so proud of you!

Ms. DesLauriers Teams Up With Pilot Light

Liz Pilot LightIt was from a former colleague that Liz DesLauriers heard about Pilot Light, a Food Education organization that works nationwide to refine lessons and evaluate food education.

“A former co-worker told me about this,” DesLauriers said, who joined on a fellowship for the 2023-2024 school year. “I’ve always done a lot of food education in my classroom, so this step to doing this fellowship wasn’t that much of a change or a big difference from what I am already doing.”

Since the discovery, DesLauriers has found Pilot Light to be a way to further ignite her cuisine teaching in her French classroom to benefit MPA.

“Since joining the fellowship, I’ve definitely put deeper meaning into my food education lessons and approached it from different angles,” she said. “I was using food as a venue for culture, which I still do a ton, but now I’m bringing in different aspects of where your food comes from, how does your food benefits you, and what you can do with food your food yourself as a young student to feel healthier or feel creative. I feel like we are diving deeper into cultures because of that.”

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MPA Hosts Haiti Celebration

HaitiMPA’s ongoing commitment to fostering global awareness and cultural appreciation took another step as we hosted an amazing cross-age celebration focused on the country of Haiti, dubbed the Haiti Celebration! Students gathered in the Commons, Library, and Gallery to experience firsthand the wonders of Haiti. Together, we explored various aspects of Haitian culture, including its geography, history, language, cuisine, music, and art. Highlighting the event included the sampling of Soupe Joumou, also known as “Freedom Soup!”

The celebration was a collaborative effort between world language faculty member Liz DesLauriers, and MPA parent Moira Duverneau-Salifu, and her family. We are incredibly grateful to Moira for her invaluable guidance, expertise, and willingness to share her beautiful culture with all of us.

Lower School Division News May 2, 2024

LS Division Newsfrom Jennifer Le Varge, Lower School director

Mark Your Calendars

  • Thursday, May 2: Grades 4-8 Transition Meetings, 6-6:45 PM
  • Friday, May 3: Connect With MPA’s New Middle School Director, 8:15 AM, Library
  • Friday, May 3: New Family Panther Party, 4-5:30 PM
  • Friday, May 3: PreK-12 After School Library Hours, 4-5:30 PM, Library
  • Monday, May 6: Head of School Candidate Meet & Greet: Current Parents & Caregivers, 2-3 PM, Library
  • Tuesday, May 7: Head of School Candidate Meet & Greet: Current Parents & Caregivers, Alumni, & Parents of Alumni, 11 AM-12 PM, Zoom, see email for link to join
  • Wednesday, May 8: PA LS LGBTQ+ Family Group Meeting, 11:30-12:30 PM, Panther Center
  • Thursday, May 9: Head of School Candidate Meet & Greet: Current Parents & Caregivers, 2-3 PM, Library
  • Friday, May 10: Head of School Candidate Meet & Greet: Current Parents & Caregivers, Alumni, & Parents of Alumni, 11 AM-12 PM, Zoom, see email for link to join
  • Tuesday, May 14: LS Duty Free Lunch, 12:15-12:50 PM, Family Commons
  • Wednesday, May 15: LS CHAMP Assembly, 8:15-9 AM, Family Commons
  • Thursday, May 16: Head of School Candidate Meet & Greet: Current Parents & Caregivers, 2-3 PM, Library
  • Friday, May 17: Head of School Candidate Meet & Greet: Current Parents & Caregivers, Alumni, & Parents of Alumni, 11 AM-12 PM, Zoom, see email for link to join
  • Friday, May 17: LS Grade 1 Poetry Picnic, 2-3 PM, Playground Area; Martin Lenz Harrison Library (rain location)
  • Friday, May 24: Senior Walk, 1-1:45 PM, South Entrance
  • Monday, May 27: No Classes, Memorial Day
  • Tuesday, May 28: LS Field Day, 8:30-11 AM, Soccer Fields, South Lawn
  • Wednesday, May 29: LS/US Grade 4 Introduction to the Instruments Concert, 10:30-11:20 AM, Panther Center
  • Thursday, May 30: Retirement Gathering, 4-6 PM, Martin Lenz Harrison Library
  • Monday, June 3: LS End of Trimester 3
  • Monday, June 3: LS/MS Grades 4 and 8 Moving Up Ceremony, 1:30-3 PM, Nicholson Center
  • Tuesday, June 4: Last Day of School, All School Yearbook Assembly and Signing, 8-10:30 AM

The calendar and fun programs and offerings in the Lower School are ramping up! Please read on for updates:

Our next CHAMP assembly is May 15, and we will be learning about having self-control. Please send your child(ren) to school on May 15 wearing their CHAMP colors!

May Sprit Days: Wear Your MPA Gear
On Fridays in May (May 3, 10, 17, 24, and 31), Lower School students wear their MPA gear (sweatshirt or t-shirt) as their tops with uniform bottoms. This Friday is our first spirit day. Let’s show our Panther pride throughout the month of May!

A Note About What to Wear on CHAMP/Spirit Days
We have received some questions about this, so please note that students are invited to wear their CHAMP shirts (on CHAMP days) and MPA spirit wear (on spirit days) along with uniform bottoms.

There Is An Increasing Anxiety In U

Heads Messagefrom Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school

I’ve been an educator for over thirty years and have accompanied countless students and parents through the college search process. I’ve written numerous college recommendations. I’ve been the head of two college preparatory schools for 12 years. But when it matters most, accompanying my own daughter, I give myself a failing grade. Well, maybe a D. Yet my daughter succeeded largely because of her own initiative (for which I credit her middle school years at MPA). Many times throughout the last three years, I wished she could have benefitted from the outstanding college counseling program at MPA.

Yesterday, our PreK-12 school celebrated College Choice Day, and joined together to revel in the success of our seniors in gaining admission to their “right-fit” college or university. We purposely avoid celebrating the particular school they chose as much as we celebrate the culmination of a thoughtful process that resulted in a match of each individual student’s interests, abilities, and aspirations and provides opportunities for further growth and accomplishments. I am extremely proud of our seniors and their choices.

There seems to be an increasing anxiety in U.S. culture around the college search process, driven in part by an inflated importance of attending the “best” college instead of the “right-fit” college. The best fit for one student is not the right fit for the next, even among high-achieving, academically strong, and otherwise talented students. In his book, “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania,” author and former New York Times columnist Frank Bruni attempts to refocus the college search process. Bruni hopes to “restore the excitement of going off to college, which should be a time for taking intellectual and social chances, for finding or confirming a passion, and for discovering yourself,” rather than getting caught up with getting into the colleges and universities perceived as elite.

The mission of the MPA College Counseling Office is to provide information, structure, and attention to each class as a whole, as well as to each student individually. We share a common goal—a college choice that fits each child well and provides opportunities for further growth and accomplishments. Our integrated and multi-faceted approach includes our seminar and advisory programs, individual student and family meetings, special speakers and events, test-prep resources, and practice test opportunities.

Like our approach to education, the college admissions selection process at MPA is grounded in the whole child. College selection is driven by a student’s unique set of interests, preferences, and aspirations. Students also explore their own learning styles, personality, and ideas about career possibilities. Just as MPA balances arts, academics, and athletics, we encourage our students to strive for academic excellence and become well-rounded individuals through artistic pursuits and extra-curricular involvement.

Carefully considering each student’s individual interests, priorities, and aspirations and balancing that with the current college admission landscape takes time and reflection. With this in mind, students are led through a personalized and thoughtfully designed curriculum that starts in ninth grade and continues through junior and senior years. In each grade, MPA integrates developmentally appropriate elements of career exploration and college counseling through our advisory program and seminar programs, mindful of where the students are on their educational journey.

I often wish that I had access to the college counseling available at MPA when I was in high school. It was clear that my parents expected me to go to college, but I lacked the support at home or at school to engage in the kind of search afforded to students at MPA. In retrospect, I enjoyed a solid undergraduate education complete with incredible opportunities to grow and discover who I am, my strengths, and my passions. I was fortunate. I “fell into” my college rather than embracing a choice after a thoughtful and deliberate process.

According to the American School Counselor Association, the national student-to-school counselor ratio in 2022-23 was 1:385. The National Association for College Admission Counseling reports that of the many responsibilities of high school counselors, post-secondary admission counseling accounts for only 22% of their time. At MPA, students benefit from two full-time college counselors whose sole responsibility is advising and guiding students through the college search, application, admission, and selection process.

I want to encourage you to shake off any anxiety you may have about college admissions: you’re already well positioned for the college search adventure by having your child attend MPA. With the wisdom, experience, and guidance of our faculty and our outstanding college counselors, the college search can indeed be an exciting opportunity to dream big and do right, to embrace their individual interests and talents, and to become the people they are meant to be.

To see photos from College Choice Day, click here.