Lower School Division News June 2, 2022

from Renee Wright, Lower School Director

Get Set For the Final Week of School!

Lower School Vocabulary Bee: June 6
Monday, June 6 is the long-awaited Vocabulary Bee in Lower School. Students have learned new vocabulary words throughout the year through our “Word of the Week” program. Developing a broader vocabulary is essential to learning to read, write, and communicate. The greater number of words children know, the more they can interpret ideas from others and express their own ideas verbally or in writing. Learning new vocabulary also builds reading comprehension, which is essential to learning to read more complex materials.

Twenty students qualified to be in the vocabulary bee this year. They will participate in the bee on June 6 and share their vocabulary knowledge. Lower School students and the participants families and friends are invited to watch the bee unfold.

2022 Moving Up Ceremony: June 7
Students in grade 4 and grade 8 will be honored at the Moving Up Ceremony on Tuesday, June 7 at 1:30 PM in the Nicholson Center. Families and friends are invited to this celebration as students transition to Middle and Upper School! Moving up to a new division is a milestone and reason to celebrate!

Last Day of Classes: June 8
It is hard to believe that the end of the school year has arrived. Wednesday, June 8 will be a festive day starting with the Yearbook Assembly at 8:15 AM in the Nicholson Center. After the assembly students will gather in the Lower School for yearbook signing and a final good-bye for the school year. Kindergarten Graduation will take place in the Kindergarten classrooms following the Yearbook assembly.

Things to Note:

  1. Dismissal is at 10:30 AM
  2. No PM Panther Club Available
  3. No bus service available for pick-up

Calendar of Events

June 4: MPA Graduation at 6 PM
June 6: Vocabulary Bee at 8:30 AM
June 7: Grade 3 Drama Production @ 8:30 AM and 9 AM
June 7: Moving Up Ceremony at 1:30 PM in the Nicholson Center
June 8: Last Day—Yearbook assembly at 8:15 AM in the Nicholson Center
Kindergarten Graduation following the assembly (Classrooms)
Dismissal at 10:30 AM Read More


Parents Association News & Events June 2, 2022

Open Garden with Michelle Mick
Saturday, June 4 from 3-6 PM
565 Arlington Avenue West, St Paul, MN 55117

For anyone who would like to wander through a rather wild unruly but fun garden in St Paul, our gardening guru, Michelle Mick has graciously offered a tour of her gardens this Saturday, June 4. All are welcome from 3-6 PM to come on over and wander through her gardens. The irises are starting to bloom, as well as many other lovely plants; many natives share their beautiful colors. For those interested, there are three rain gardens out back, boulevard gardens, and solar on the roof too! If there are seeds around, you are most welcome to have some too!

End of Year Grade Events
Pre-K: Saturday, May 28, 2-3:30 PM, MPA playground. Renee Roach, reneetroach@gmail.com
Kindergarten: Wednesday, June 8 at 11 AM Powers Lake Pavilion, Woodbury
Grade 1: Party has already taken place!
Grade 2: June 6, 3:30-5:30 PM, West Park Pavilion and Playground, White Bear Lake nelsonhe5@yahoo.com, latodero@gmail.com
Grade 3: June 8, 11:00 AM-2 PM, SkyZone in Oakdale, Jumping and lunch! nelsonhe5@yahoo.com
Grade 4: June 11, 9:30 AM-12 PM, 10145 Bush Lake Rd., Bloomington, MN 55438. heatherthurmes@gmail.com
Grade 5: June 30, 2-4 PM, West Park in White Bear Lake adenight@siscovers.com
Grade 6: June 8, 5-7 PM, Lake Elmo Park Reserve, North Pavilion, Lake Elmo darcyjerome@comcast.net
Grade 7: June 8 at 11:30 AM, Wakefield Park Shelter #2, Maplewood, MN
Grade 8: June 8, 11 AM-1 PM, Lake Elmo Park Reserve, North Pavilion, Lake Elmo, chrisandmatt1289@gmail.com
Grade 9: June 8, 11 AM-2 PM, Ojibway Park, Ojibway Dr, Woodbury, MN 55125 juliebixby1@gmail.com
Grade 10: June 8, 2-4 PM, Lake Elmo Park Reserve, North Pavilion, Lake Elmo sbhehe42@icloud.com
Grade 11: June 8, 6-8 PM, Ojibway Park, Ojibway Dr, Woodbury, MN 55125
Grade 12: TBD, Valleyfair Event canceled due to COVID.

Meet Some New Families Over the Summer!
Join us for summer fun and to meet new friends and families. We’ve organized a number of events to bring the MPA community together over the summer. All events are for new and returning families. For all the details, download the pdfs below. Read More


Providing A Safe And Secure Space

from Lamar Shingles, Director of Equity and Belonging

One Thursday per month you will see a guest Head’s Message from a member of the Institutional Advancement Team. We hope these additional perspectives will help you catch a glimpse inside the inner-workings of your school.

As the sun begins to set on my first year at MPA, I have become increasingly reflective of my experience over the past 10 months—a cerebral space where many educators find themselves to be on the eve of commencement and summer break. What can I say, introspection is my jam! I have learned so much about education that I didn’t already know and engaged with amazing people across this community. What has really stood out for me and made a profound impact on my experience thus far is the time I’ve spent with students in the Middle and Upper School BIPOC affinity groups.

When I think back on my own experience as one of only a few black students in my class, every day was a reminder that I was different from my peers. I recall my mom’s reaction when I begged her to let me bleach my hair blonde. I remember the feeling I got in the pit of my stomach when racial epithets were read aloud in class text—the bewildered eyes that descended upon me throughout the classroom as my peers searched for my response. Mostly, I remember an overwhelming feeling of loneliness. As a child, I didn’t have the terminology, adolescent social development models, or supportive resources to help define how I felt—but knew, I just wanted to fit in.

So what are affinity groups?

In a recent conversation with two of our Lower School teachers, Ms. Santiago and Mr. Moore, I thought they summed it up very well:

“Affinity groups provide a safe and secure space for students to explore and develop their sense of identity in a facilitated environment where they do not feel isolated, but connected. This enables them to grow into strong advocates for themselves and others”.

Affinity groups provide an opportunity for students to speak from the “I” perspective, at a critical time when they are formulating who they are among their peers and the broader community. These spaces can serve as a powerful mechanism for self and group affirmation by reducing feelings of isolation and discomfort that many students face—and instead, encourages students to be confident and proud of who they are.

At MPA, there are currently three BIPOC affinity groups—fifth and sixth, seventh and eighth, and Upper School—that were established in 2021 out of a request from students of color who wanted a safe space to gather and reflect on their experiences, without feelings of marginalization. More than 30 students have consistently attended facilitated group meetings and engaged in dialogue across a broad range of topics throughout the year.

It has been a privilege to see firsthand how affinity space can positively influence the sense of belonging for students at MPA, while also demonstrating the value of our commitment to becoming more inclusive as a community. Looking back on my own journey, I can’t help but to wonder, what may have been different if I had the benefit of a safe space that celebrated the most authentic version of me? Looking ahead, I am incredibly optimistic that we will continue to create opportunities that ensure all are students will never have to ask that question.


Two National Merit Finalist Scholarship Winners in MPA’s Class of 2022

Congratulations to Elissa Frankel and Ruihan (Leo) Yu, recently announced as winners in the 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program! Elissa and Ruihan (Leo) entered the scholarship competition when they took the PSAT as juniors in October 2020 and scored in the top percentile. This past fall, they were among 16,000 Semifinalists chosen nationwide state-by-state, based on their scores relative to other Minnesota students. After submitting a substantial scholarship application and supporting materials from MPA, they were chosen as National Merit Finalists this winter.

Elissa is one of only about 1,000 students nationally who will receive a corporate National Merit award. Corporate sponsors provide National Merit Scholarships for Finalists who are children of their employees, who are residents of communities the company serves, or who plan to pursue college majors or careers the sponsor wishes to encourage. Elissa will take her scholarship, sponsored by 3M, to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, where she plans to major in neuroscience. At MPA, among other things, Elissa sang in Concert Choir and Madrigals, led the Social Consciousness Club in discussions of national and international subjects, initiated a voter registration drive, and co-captained the girls varsity soccer team.

Ruihan’s scholarship is funded by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. He is one of only 2,500 Merit Scholar designees from across the country, assessed by NMSC to have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills, and potential for success in rigorous college studies. Ruihan (Leo) will attend Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, where he plans to study economics and philosophy. Ruihan (Leo) also is a strong advocate for the liberal arts at MPA, co-leading the STEM Education Club over the past four years, playing cello in the Orchestra and keyboards in Jazz Ensemble, serving on Student Council and competing with MPA’s varsity baseball team.

We also congratulate the following MPA graduating seniors who scored well on the PSAT as juniors and were recognized by National Merit as Commended Students: Skyler Burnett, Rohit Iyer, Kaija Kunze-Hoeg, and Ruby Schwieger.


Parents Association News & Events May 26, 2022

We Love our Faculty and Staff!
On Friday, May 20 all Staff at MPA were treated to a Pop-Up Staff Appreciation event. This event also coincided with the release of Harry Styles’ new album, so it also doubled as an album release party. At MPA , we appreciate our great staff and great music.

Eighth Grade Moving-Up Ceremony
Tuesday, June 7 from 1:30-3 PM
Our Middle School days are coming to an end very soon! To celebrate our wonderful rising ninth graders please plan on attending the moving-up ceremony on Tuesday, June 7 from 1:30-3 PM.
We will honor each student during this commemorative event and ask for your help to make sure everyone is included. Each student will have their own slide during the presentation to celebrate just them!

Please send three (3) pictures of your eighth grader:

  1. From when they were young
  2. One that captures their personality
  3. One with middle school buddies

You can provide your THREE (3) pictures two ways:

  1. Upload to the PARENTS ASSOCIATION GROUP (Class of 2026) Schoology Group: Album – Eighth Grade Moving Up Photos. Albums are found on the left-hand navigation when you are in the Class of 2026 Parent Association Group.
  2. Or if it’s easier you can email the photos to Christine Larson, Grade Rep at chrisandmatt@hotmail.com

Your photos are due today. If your eighth grader has a fluid identity, may not want pictures of their youth, or any other worry about photos, they can submit any photos they’d like. We just want everyone to be represented and happy!

If you have any questions or concerns about the ceremony, presentation or photos please connect with Dr. Milam.

Open Garden with Michelle Mick
Saturday, May 28 from 9-11 AM and 3-5 PM
565 Arlington Avenue West, St Paul, MN 55117
For anyone who would like to wander through a rather wild unruly but fun garden in St Paul, our gardening guru, Michelle Mick has graciously offered a tour of her gardens this Saturday, May 28. All are welcome from 9-11 AM and 3-5 PM to come on over and wander through her gardens. The irises are starting to bloom, as well as many other lovely plants; many natives share their beautiful colors. For those interested, there are three rain gardens out back, boulevard gardens, and solar on the roof too! If there are seeds around, you are most welcome to have some too!

The address is 565 Arlington Avenue West, St Paul, MN 55117. You can’t miss it, there is a free-stacked stone wall, very English looking! michelle_wessely@yahoo.com

Gardening at MPA
Thursdays at 8 AM
Calling all those who want to spend some time outside, at MPA, in the gardens! You’re invited to spend time in the gardens tidying up, building, sowing, and spuddling around in the dirt. Come for a few minutes or stay for an hour or two. All are most welcome. We’ll meet outside under the flagpole at the Lower School entrance, with gardening tools in hand!

End of Year Grade Events
Pre-K:  Saturday, May 28, 2-3:30 PM, MPA playground. Renee Roach, reneetroach@gmail.com
Kindergarten: Wednesday, June 8 at 11 AM Powers Lake Pavilion, Woodbury
Grade 1: Party has already taken place!
Grade 2: June 6, 3:30-5:30 PM, West Park Pavilion and Playground, White Bear Lake nelsonhe5@yahoo.comlatodero@gmail.com
Grade 3: June 8, 11 AM-2 PM, SkyZone in Oakdale, Jumping and lunch! nelsonhe5@yahoo.com
Grade 4: June 11, 9:30 AM-12 PM, 10145 Bush Lake Rd., Bloomington, MN 55438. heatherthurmes@gmail.com
Grade 5: June 30, 2-4 PM, West Park in White Bear Lake adenight@siscovers.com
Grade 6: June 8, 5-7 PM,  Lake Elmo Park Reserve, North Pavilion, Lake Elmo darcyjerome@comcast.net
Grade 7: June 8 at 11:30 AM, Wakefield Park Shelter #2, Maplewood, MN
Grade 8: June 8, 11 AM-1 PM, Lake Elmo Park Reserve, North Pavilion, Lake Elmo, chrisandmatt1289@gmail.com
Grade 9: June 8, 11 AM-2 PM, Ojibway Park, Ojibway Dr, Woodbury, MN 55125 juliebixby1@gmail.com
Grade 10:  June 8, 2-4 PM, Lake Elmo Park Reserve, North Pavilion, Lake Elmo sbhehe42@icloud.com
Grade 11: June 8, 4-8 PM, Ojibway Park, Ojibway Dr, Woodbury, MN 55125
Grade 12: TBD, Valleyfair Event canceled due to COVID.

Vote for Next Year’s PA Board
The Parents Association (PA) is an organization formed by and for the MPA parents. Every family is automatically a member and eligible to vote. This is your last week to vote for the PA Board. Look for results in the June 2 Panther Post. Please vote for the Executive PA Board for 2022-23 here!

The board position of Community Development Lead is open. This person helps coordinate the Grade Rep Program, organizes a few community events during the year, and attends monthly board meetings. We would love to have a full voting board for the 2022-23 school year.

We are looking for a Grade Rep for the current fourth/rising fifth grade, as well as some co-grade reps at a couple of grade levels.

The PA will be forming Lower School, Middle School, and Upper School committees next school year to help plan our traditional division-specific events.

Please consider getting involved! It is a great way to meet the school community, show our appreciation to faculty and staff, enrich our children’s school experience, all while making new friends and seeing old ones. A willingness to help is the only experience needed. New families are especially encouraged as it’s a great way to get to know your fellow parents. If you are interested in any of these opportunities or have questions, please contact Staci Banks-Hehenberger (sbhehe42@icloud.com).


Lower School Division News May 19, 2022

Lower School student working in the Makerspaceby Renee Wright, Lower School Director

Planting A Seed
Sunday, May 1 was College Decision Day and fifty one seniors at MPA and across the nation announced their college decision. MPA seniors will be going off to thirty-eightdifferent colleges and universities next fall. In celebration of this special day Lisa Pederson, college counselor, along with many MPA seniors attended the Lower School Monday Morning Meeting this week to share where they will be going to college next year. Lower School students listened intently and were in awe of the college choices and reasons why these seniors selected their college. I predict they were thinking of the day they will make their college choice and go off to college.

When you enter through the south door, you will notice the College Choice bulletin board by the kindergarten rooms. You will see pictures of the Class of 2022 and personalized pennants announcing the college they will be attending in the fall. A careful look at the board will reveal that our MPA seniors have chosen colleges from 19 different states and Washington D.C. We are truly proud of our seniors!

Lower School Summer Reading Program
Reading is an essential skill for students and helps children find joy in books, which leads to lifelong reading. Keeping students reading over the summer helps students retain their reading skills, builds comprehension, keeps children curious, and builds knowledge. Nance Lage and I have collaborated on a summer reading program, Growing Summer Readers, for Lower School students and their families. Each Lower School student will receive the gift of a special book the week of May 31. Book festival proceeds were used to purchase books for this program. Along with the book students will receive a reading calendar and fun activities to do with the book and promote summer reading. It is our hope that families will read together over the summer and bond over books and reading. You can look forward to receiving the book and more information in the next few weeks! Read More


Honoring All Who Make MPA Great

from Bill Hudson, Head of School

Great schools depend on great teachers and staff. I am reminded of that each day as I travel from my morning post in Lower School to my office in Upper School. It’s the informal conversations, not necessarily the perfect lessons, that most often illustrate that for me. It’s the quick reminders, the high fives, the quiet conversations. What I have learned from my past experience is that one can become a better teacher or staff member, but someone needs to have the heart of an educator first and foremost. MPA has been fortunate to have a strong school culture built and fostered by faculty and staff who not only have the heart, but they are also masters of their craft. They are all committed to continuous improvement and lifelong learning.

As a community, it is our privilege and responsibility to honor the people who make our school great. And next week, we have the opportunity to not only honor faculty and staff who are retiring dating back to the 2019-2020 school year, but the larger community as well. MPA would not exist without the vision of the founding families and generosity of time and resources of so many through the years who have built our incredible community and beautiful campus. This year we are celebrating 40 years of MPA—40 years of faculty, staff, alumni, parents of alumni, grandparents, trustees, and friends coming together to demonstrate their love for and commitment to the MPA way. Read More


A Match To Be Made

from Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

I don’t think I ever fully realized the value of college counseling until I came to MPA. I was the first in my family and extended family to go to college. We didn’t have a college counseling office or program when I was in high school, and for the most part, we were left on our own. Although I had a wonderful undergraduate experience, the only reason I initially applied was that there was no application fee or essay required. My worldview was pretty narrow, and my college search did not extend beyond the borders of Michigan. Even the two high schools I worked in did not have such a thoughtful, comprehensive, and personalized college counseling process as we are fortunate to have at MPA.

May is one of my favorite times at MPA because of the many joyful celebrations and events. One in particular, College Choice Day, was celebrated last Wednesday and is on my top 10 list. Sporting their chosen college apparel, seniors gather in and around the College Counseling Office to create their college pennants and feast on cake and punch. The pennants and senior pictures hang in both Upper and Lower Schools. It is enjoyable to see our younger students look for their Upper School buddies and try to find the locations of all of the different colleges and universities on the map.

Fifty-one seniors will be attending 38 different colleges and universities in 19 states and Washington, D.C. They have chosen large research universities, public and private institutions, small liberal arts colleges, Ivies, art schools, and women’s colleges. Students will be attending schools in urban and rural locations that are across town, in-state, and across the country. One student is taking a gap year, and another plans to attend a trade school. Read More


Parents Association News & Events May 12, 2022

Microfunding in Action
Recently through a microfunding grant, the PA funded the student-run newspaper, MPA Freethinker, to use the School Newspapers Online, SNO platform which supports and promotes student journalism. PA micorfunding also enabled the third and fourth graders to see eleventh grader Jack Peterson in Diary of a Wimpy Kid at the Children’s Theater. Microfunding provides funds for projects and programs, existing or new. It’s open to student organizations, teachers and parent volunteers.
Gardening at MPA is Back!
Thursdays at 8 AM and Saturday, May 14 from 9-11 AM
Calling all those who want to spend some time outside, at MPA, in the gardens! You’re invited to spend time in the gardens tidying up, building, sowing, and spuddling around in the dirt. Come for a few minutes or stay for an hour or two. All are most welcome. We’ll meet outside under the flagpole at the Lower School entrance, with gardening tools in hand!

Read More


Meet Retired Faculty Member–Martha B. Castellanos

Martha B. Castellanos

Position while at MPA
Spanish Teacher

How many years did you work at MPA?
31 years

What do you miss most about MPA?
Everything!

What have you been up to since leaving MPA?
In 2020, COVID limited my life of service in the community. Unfortunately this year I was sick, I am still recovering from major surgery. My plans for the future are still uncertain!