A Breath Of Fresh Air

Panthers first home baseball gameby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

I often say I have one of the best views from my office. That is especially true this year and certainly at this time of year. It is not uncommon for me to see Upper School biology teacher Mitch Thomsen leading a group of students into our reclaimed prairie and rain garden to study its ecology and make observations. If I look in another direction, I can see the tents set up in the west parking lot ready to house classes and lunch. After school, I can take in a boys’ tennis practice or witness the track and field teams trek out to the track.

After months of being cooped up indoors, Minnesotans (and Panthers!) are spending more and more time outdoors. In Minnesota, the arrival of spring is always cause to spend time outside, but it also makes sense as we aim to slow the spread of COVID-19. As part of our move to dial stop one, classes, whenever possible, will be held outdoors this spring. Teachers have access to outdoor tents which are being used as flexible, alternative spaces. Although we still need to take precautions, such as wearing masks, keeping physically distant, and avoiding large crowds, moving outside is certainly a breath of fresh air. Read More


MPA Book Festival Agenda & Activities

two students reading in the library in 2019The MPA Book Festival is a beloved tradition and the Parents Association is looking forward to making it possible virtually! The annual Book Festival provides our MPA community with opportunities to participate in reading activities, purchase great books, and support our local booksellers. The MPA Library will use the donations from the booksellers to purchase books for teachers, classrooms, and the library. Books will be available for purchase from two local booksellers, Usborne Books and Valley Bookseller. Since our event is virtual, you have the ability to purchase any books available through their distributors. You can even purchase a gift certificate for a teacher! Our theme this year is Earth Day, which occurs on April 22. There will also be opportunities to participate in book and Earth-related fun activities, including prize giveaways! If you have any questions, please contact Michelle Mick at michelle_wessely@yahoo.com. Read More


MPA Speech Named Section 4A Champions, 15 Students State-bound

MPA Speech Winning SectionsMounds Park Academy Speech is the Section 4A Champion and sending 15 students to State!

The team was named the overall section team champion, and eight students are individual champions. Congratulations, Panthers!

Advancing to state:
Sana Punjani-CHAMPION in Discussion
Charlotte Bergh-CHAMPION in Ex. Reading
Salmah Elmasry-CHAMPION in Ex Speaking
Isak Dai-CHAMPION in Great Speeches
Ryan Ghose-CHAMPION in Humorous
Emma Cohen-CHAMPION in Original Oratory
Livia Wooldridge-CHAMPION in Poetry
Anna Gaudio-CHAMPION in Prose
Kensi Binstadt-RUNNER UP in Discussion
Garrett Hollihan/Lilly Gasterland-Gustafsson-RUNNER UP in Duo
Hana Miller-RUNNER UP in Humorous
Pahwa Yang-RUNNER UP in Prose
Rohit Iyer-THIRD in Ex Speaking
Lucy Schwieger-THIRD in Poetry Read More


The Best Is Truly Yet To Come

choir singing for the first time on campus this yearby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

I’m generally not a competitive person—unless it is a board game or cards. So much so that my family will no longer let me play Sorry or Uno with them. They say I turn aggressive and vindictive, like Inigo Montoya in the “Princess Bride,” intent on exacting vengeance on someone for having played a “Draw Four” card. Auctions bring out my competitive side as well, and I find myself throwing reason to the wind as I get caught up in a bidding war, much to the chagrin of my husband Ross. For the last several years, I’ve tried repeatedly to “win” a piece of artwork from alumni parent Heidi McKeown whose art I deeply admire and appreciate. Repeatedly, I fail. Fortunately, I will have another chance in just a few days.

Yes, it is that time of year with the annual MPA Spring Auction just a little more than a week away. On Friday, April 16, we will gather virtually from around the Twin Cities, the nation, and perhaps even the globe for our premier auction. More than just a fundraising event, the MPA Spring Auction is about celebrating our community, joining together to build relationships, and honoring every member of our community. There is so much to celebrate after a very trying and difficult year. A year ago, I promised that if we joined together and drew upon our MPA can-do spirit, we would emerge stronger and more resilient. As the end of the pandemic draws near and our school and society open up again, we know for certain that “The Best is Yet to Come.” Read More


Join In For The Virtual MPA Book Festival!

The MPA Book Festival will again be a virtual event this year! Save the date to join us for the annual treasured MPA Book Festival! Mark your calendar for Monday, April 19 through Saturday, May 1.

The annual Book Festival provides our MPA community with opportunities to participate in reading activities, purchase great books, and support our local booksellers. The MPA Library will use the donations from the booksellers to purchase books for teachers, for the classrooms, and the Library. Books will be available for purchase from two local booksellers, Usborne Books and Valley Bookseller. Since our event is virtual, you have the ability to purchase any books available through their distributors. You can even purchase a gift certificate for a teacher!

Our theme this year is Earth Day, which occurs during the Book Festival on April 22. There will also be opportunities to participate in book and Earth-related fun activities, including prize giveaways!

If you have any questions, please contact Michelle Mick at michelle_wessely@yahoo.com.


Where Every Child Is Known

bJason Schwalen teaching his classy Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

Each time I pop into the Office of Admission, they are excited to have recently welcomed another exceptional student home. After a tremendous year in 2020-21 with 113 new students and 27 midyear transfers, enrollment for the fall of 2021 is off to a great start. New student applications have nearly doubled year over year and enrollments are following suit. By all accounts, interest in MPA is an at all-time high.

The good news is that even with strong enrollment (MPA grew from 466 in 2019 to our current enrollment of 538), our average class size and student teacher ratio are here to stay. We are deeply committed to offering an intimate learning environment. This is a very important part of who we are.

MPA, like many independent schools nationwide, was previously under enrolled in a few grades. Of course, small classes are critical and they are likely one of the main reasons your family chose MPA, but too small of class sizes aren’t healthy for students’ academic experience, especially at the Lower School level. “When class sizes are too small in the Lower School, we run into challenges with socialization. A peer group that isn’t big enough to support the social skills that students need to develop can be detrimental,” says Lower School director Renee Wright. “Social emotional skills are so foundational in the lower grades, and so much of what we do is based around collaboration and group work. With a really small class, it is harder for students to interact with differing perspectives from other peers, something that we value tremendously.”

There’s a sweet spot. And for us, it’s averaging 15 students in a classroom PreK-12 and an 8:1 student-teacher ratio. For comparison, Minnesota averages are nearly double this at 27 and 16:1, respectively. From additional opportunities for hands-on learning, to greater teacher access, to more differentiation, classes at this size provide the best possible learning environment for our students.

I recently asked a group of faculty members what they can do because of MPA’s commitment to small class sizes. Naturally, the responses were fantastic and I’d like to share a few with you.

  • “Everything. We’ve been designing and testing wind turbine blades and measuring their peak electrical output. We’ve also been learning about circuits and applied this to creating a solar powered house and grid. Each student was able to have their own equipment and be actively involved in the hands-on building and testing for these projects. They also had easy access to me throughout the labs so I could teach them what they needed to know when they needed to know it.” – Hannah Sullivan, Upper School science faculty
  • “So many things. We are getting ready to do our melodrama project in fifth grade. Students plan, write, act and film their own short melodrama. This collaborative work is very student centered, but I am there to help problem solve and facilitate. I cannot imagine doing this in a crowded room. Added to this, this class size gives us the space to move and act. The students aren’t overwhelmed in a noisy room.” – Heather Mastel, Lower and Middle School drama faculty
  • “To be honest, you can’t teach writing with 30 students in a class. You can practice writing with very specific outcomes and cursory feedback, but if you want to teach writing, you must work closely with students on their work, include multiple drafts in the process, and make the feedback comprehensive.” – Jason Schwalen, Upper School English faculty
  • “I can listen to every single child play a pattern back on their soprano recorders. It’s amazing. Their classmates cheer for their successes and support them through their challenges. I can listen to every single child’s idea for a collaborative movement piece. I can give individual attention to each child AND keep the flow of the class going!” – Mari Espeland, Lower School music faculty

It is not just anecdotes that govern our class size sweet spot either. It is research on long-term student success, too. A number of high-profile studies concluded that students in MPA-sized classes obtain higher test scores, are more engaged in school, and demonstrate better behavior. For example, Project STAR (also known as the Tennessee Study) found that an average student assigned to a smaller class had a reading score nearly eight percent higher than students in the medium-sized classes. The smaller-class students, on average, also achieved nine percent higher math scores. A report from the Policy Research Institute in Wisconsin determined that students in smaller classes in elementary grades perform better in a number of academically measurable ways: they record higher test scores, earn better grades, and display superior attendance.

One piece in the Wisconsin study particularly spoke to me. The study found that MPA-sized classes improve students’ growth in “non-cognitive” abilities that are not necessarily noted on tests or report cards, like grit, drive, and confidence, but are all linked to success in academics and beyond. Seeing MPA students, I witness first-hand how their small class sizes lead directly to grit, drive, and confidence, as they grow up, graduate, and positively impact our world.

In the end, MPA’s class size sweet spot ensures that students are known, understood, and seen by their teachers. They receive help when they ask for it, and they are encouraged to share their opinions and describe their perspectives. Middle School director Jenn Milam shares that our class sizes allow MPA teachers to know everyone in their classes, giving each student voice and presence. “Our class size allows teachers to know kids’ social patterns, emotional needs, academic strengths and weaknesses, and the joys of their heart in a way that helps us connect with them in a more meaningful way.”

Even with another banner year of enrollment success projected, MPA will always be the place where every child is known, loved, and understood.


All Are Welcome On MPA’s Sailing Team

MPA Sailing Team on the waterby Samantha Forgosh ’22, team captain

Would you like to have a snowball fight on open water, or race across a lake to the nearest ice cream shop? You can do all of that, and so much more on the MPA sailing team! Here at MPA, we offer 7-12 graders a one-of-a-kind opportunity as both a fall and a spring sport. Through White Bear Sailing School, students compete for MPA at the city, state (and often national!) level as a sailor. No experience is necessary, and boats and coaching is provided.

Sailing is certainly a group effort. You will sail 420s, each with a skipper and a crew, and compete against other schools in regattas. Since MPA practices with Mounds View, Hill Murray, White Bear, and Mahtomedi, you’re bound to make friends with those you end up competing against. Read More


Save The Date For Book Festival!

students looking at books in the librarySave the date to join us for the annual treasured Virtual Book Festival!

Mark your calendar for Monday, April 19 through Saturday, May 1 to encourage the love of reading and to support local bookstores, MPA teachers, classrooms, and the library. Books will be available for purchase from two local booksellers, Usborne Books and Valley Bookseller. Our theme this year is Earth Day, which occurs during Book Festival on April 22. There will also be opportunities to participate in book and Earth-related fun activities, including story times and prize giveaways!

If you have any questions about this year’s Virtual Book Festival, please contact Michelle Mick at michelle_wessely@yahoo.com.


Finding Solace In A Challenging Week

a tree blooming on campusby Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

I’m particularly thankful to have our students back on campus this week. The positive energy radiating from their return has uplifted our entire community and helped us find joy in an otherwise tragic week of national headlines. From Atlanta, to Philadelphia, to Boulder, gun violence and hate have dominated the news and taken the lives of far too many, while altering the lives of countless more.

Though much is still being uncovered about each of these devastating events, I’d like to share my thoughts on the broader narrative that has emerged from the March 16 Atlanta area spa shootings. At the time of this writing, these shootings have not officially been designated a hate crime, but the fact that six of the eight victims were Asian Americans brings up an important point that all of us must reckon with: egged on by the dangerous, false ideals of white supremacy, anti-Asian hate is far more prevalent than many have previously acknowledged.

I’d like to pause here and affirm that MPA firmly stands with our Asian, Asian American, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander students, parents, alumni, and community members. We wholeheartedly condemn anti-Asian racism, hate, and violence in all forms. To our international students from China and South Korea, we value the experiences and perspectives that you bring to our community and we recognize the particular challenges you have faced throughout the pandemic. Read More


MPA Transportation Options in 2021-2022

middle school students getting on the busMPA is excited to announce additions to the 2021-22 transportation options! Ridership pending, families from five Twin Cities communities will be able to take advantage of this safe and reliable way for students to get to and from school. MPA provides extra care, especially for younger students, to ensure that every student boards the correct bus safely. MPA plans to offer bus transportation with group stops to St. Paul (Highland Park/Mac-Groveland neighborhoods), North Oaks/Roseville (with a possible bus stop in the North Oaks neighborhood of Rapp Farms), Woodbury, Stillwater/Lakeland and Southwest Minneapolis. In addition, families living within the bounds of North St. Paul, Oakdale, Maplewood can sign up with District 622 to arrange transportation.