Welcome To MPA, Dana Distad!

Welcome to MPA, Dana Distad! This fall, Dana will join us as a Lower and Middle School counselor. We are so excited to introduce her to our community!

From what school/organization are you coming?
I previously worked for the Academy of Holy Angels High School.

Tell us about your education and past experience.
I have a master’s degree in school counseling and in clinical counseling. As a school counselor, I provide group services aimed at proactive social-emotional learning (SEL) skills. I also engage in 1:1 sessions aimed at targeted goals and small peer groups.

What did you find appealing about MPA?
Dream Big. Do Right. The idea that the school is based on the whole individual.

What lasting impact do you plan to have on MPA?
The greatest joy for me is seeing a child apply the skills we have worked on to real-world situations.

What’s your big dream?
I am living it! My big dream has always been to help youth become their best selves.

What are you and your family passionate about?
I am so passionate about the little moments. We live in such a fast-paced world that it’s easy to always be thinking about the future. I love being in the moment and allowing time to slow down. Enjoying time with my family is the best way I am able to practice this every day.

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
I am an eternal optimist and even joined the International Optimist Club!


Welcome To MPA, Katie Bruns!

Katie BrunsWelcome to MPA, Katie Bruns! Katie will join us this fall as a Middle School physical education teacher, and we are so excited to introduce her to our community!

From what school/organization are you coming?
I am coming from River Grove Elementary School.

Tell us about your education and past experience.
I have a master’s in physical education with an emphasis in adventure education and outdoor pursuits. I have taught physical education and health in a variety of settings and at all grade levels. I have a passion for creating fun and innovative activities for students to learn, and I love living a healthy lifestyle. I have my 200-hour yoga teaching certification and ropes course instructor certification, and I have coached a variety of sports.

What did you find appealing about MPA?
When I read, “Students are challenged to apply their understanding to stir the human spirit, stand for justice, and shake the world.” on MPA’s website, I knew I wanted to work here. MPA has created a foundation that truly inspires students to want to be producitve world citizens, and I felt that when I met the staff, students, and toured the school. I’m excited to be a part of a team that truly makes a difference.

What lasting impact do you plan to have on MPA?
I would love my lasting impact to be students and staff leaving my classes and conversations inspired to challenge and grow their fitness and health journey. I want to motivate people to find their own fitness passion and pursue it. Overall, I want to be part of a team that supports us all as we develop into better versions of ourselves.

What’s your big dream?
To continue to teach and travel in my free time!

What are you and your family passionate about?
My husband and I love to spend time outdoors; we trail run, mountain bike, disc golf, golf, and much more. We also recently bought our first home, have chickens, and partake in novice vegetable gardening!

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
I love to read, I know how to crochet, and I have completed a few ultra marathons!


Middle School Division News May 30, 2024

MS Division Newsfrom Dr. Jenn Milam, Middle School director

Mark Your Calendars 

  • Thursday, May 30: Retirement Gathering, 4-6 PM, Library
  • Friday, May 31: MS Grades 5/6 Canoe Trip, 8-3 PM
  • Friday, May 31: MS Grades 7/8 Valleyfair Trip, 8-3 PM, Valleyfair
  • Monday, June 3: MS/US End of Quarter 4
  • Monday, June 3: MS Grade 8 Passion Projects, 12:30-1:30 PM, MS Hallways
  • 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
  • Thursday, June 20: MS Summer Gathering (Meet at Mini Golf), 5-7 PM, The Burrow (Oakdale)

Happy last days of school!

As this is my final “News and Notes” to you, my beloved Middle School division, I want to extend my deepest and most sincere gratitude to you all—parents, grandparents, caregivers, students, and friends, for your love, your support, your partnership, and your hearts! Raising “middles” is hard work, and it’s beautiful work—work we’ve done together through joy and sadness, pandemics and parties, field trips and overnights, and all the while we’ve grown up together with our young people. My youngest, Keith, was in fifth grade when we came to MPA, and he spent four years in this division. It wasn’t always easy, and certainly being the “principal’s kid” was NOT cool, and yet it was a gift to experience life with him and to grow in my own person, leadership, and parenting along with all of you.

Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your kindness. Thank you for your trust in my leadership and that of our team. Thank you for choosing MPA. Thank you for sharing your young people with me. It’s been an honor of a lifetime.

Under Beds, In Closets, and Stuffed In Drawers
Please have your students look in all the familiar spaces for books, materials, and other MPA-issued property that needs to be returned! We appreciate you returning gently used items that can be used by future students. If an item is damaged, billing will be initiated via TADS. Read More


End of the Year Milestones at MPA

Heads Messagefrom Dr. Bill Hudson, head of school

You may have heard that I turned 60 last Friday. To my surprise, I was serenaded by the fourth grade in the morning and again in the afternoon by all those gathered for the Senior Awards Ceremony. It was a memorable day, to be sure. I am still coming to terms with turning 60, mostly because I think of myself in my late 40s. As a milestone, however, it reminds me to approach this phase of my life in gratitude for a life well lived and for the many more opportunities ahead of me.

In Roman times, every mile was marked by a stone along roadways with a number that signified the number of miles coming or going from Rome. Today, a milestone signifies a momentous life event or accomplishment, such as a birthday, marriage, graduation, or retirement. Like the days of old, these events mark our journey through life and are a way to measure growth, literally or figuratively. Milestones serve as reminders to pause and reflect and celebrate what matters most in our lives.

There are many milestones at MPA this time of year. In just over a week, we will celebrate the high school graduation of 61 remarkable young adults. We will hold a Moving Up Ceremony to mark the matriculation of the fourth grade to Middle School and the eighth grade to Upper School. Tonight, we will celebrate the careers of dedicated educators Scott Wilson and Kristy Petrich. Read More


Future Collegiate Athletes Share Emotions

College RecogCongratulations to the six MPA students who were celebrated on College Athlete Recognition Day! Izzy Espinosa, Jay Green, Else Kunze-Hoeg, Ben Murr, Nora Pederson, and David Steinberger will all continue on to the collegiate level to compete in their respective athletics. Aiming to capture some of the emotions shown through on the day of celebration, the six shared sentiments from the day.

Jay Green
School: Macalester College
Sport: Football, track and field
Why did you choose Macalester College? “I chose Macalester because, right away, I think I’m going to be able to play, and the academics are really good.”
What are some of the emotions you are feeling today? “I’m feeling really excited and good about it.”
Who would you like to thank for helping you get to this position? “I want to thank my parents, family, and all my coaches. They always pushed me and got me to where I wanted to be.”

Ben Murr
School: Luther College
Sport: Cross country, track and field
Why did you choose Luther College? “It felt like a really good fit for me. The opportunities to have a flexible cross country program where I could still pursue academics and my other interests pretty heavily is something that really interested me and made me want to choose the school I did.”
What are some of the emotions you are feeling today? “It’s pretty exciting. This is something I wasn’t expecting going into my college search, and it’s pretty incredible that I get to do it.”
Who would you like to thank for helping you get to this position? “I’d like to thank my parents for always encouraging me to do running and track and my coaches, coach (Adam) Pettipiece, Declan (Dahlberg ’18), and Ms. (Bev) Docherty, especially, for really pushing me through these past couple years of cross country despite the pandemic messing with things.” Read More


Welcome To MPA, Andria Mattlin!

Andria MattlinWelcome to MPA, Andria Mattlin! Andria joined us as the admission and communication assistant and began on May 28. We are so excited to introduce her to our community!

From what school/organization are you coming?
I am coming from St. Paul Public Schools.

Tell us about your education and past experience.
After graduating from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in public relations, I worked as a communications coordinator for a school district. Realizing I wanted to return to the classroom, I completed Hamline University’s teacher licensing program and taught elementary school for 12 years in St. Paul. I am thrilled to combine my passions for education and communications here at MPA.

What did you find appealing about MPA?
I first visited MPA as a prospective parent and was so impressed by the confidence displayed by students and the warm and welcoming nature of the staff. I love the connection across the school community and how individuality is celebrated.

What lasting impact do you plan to have on MPA?
I hope to bring laughter to MPA each day and celebrate the school community’s achievements, both big and small.

What’s your big dream?
My big dream is to positively impact those around me and see orcas in the wild.

What are you and your family passionate about?
My husband Andrew and I have one son, Dawson, a rising kindergartener at MPA. We enjoy reading, spending time with our extended family, and visiting the Children’s Theatre Company.

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
I can make balloon animals, a not-so-useful skill I learned from a book my grandma gave me as a child.


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.

Read More


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.

Read More


Middle School Division News May 16, 2024

MS Division News from Dr. Jenn Milam, Middle School director

Mark Your Calendars 

  • Thursday, May 16: MS/US Band Concert, 7-8 PM, Nicholson Center
  • Monday, May 20-24: MS Grade 7 Washington D.C. Trip
  • Thursday, May 23: MS Grade 5 Inventor’s Fair, 2:20-3 PM, Family Commons
  • Thursday, May 23: MS Grade 5/6 BIPOC Affinity Group, 2:20-3 PM, Panther Center
  • Friday, May 24: PreK-Grade 12 Spirit Wear Day!
  • Friday, May 24: Senior Walk, 1-1:45 PM, South Entrance
  • Monday, May 27: No Classes, Memorial Day
  • Tuesday, May 28: MS Field Day, 12:30-3 PM, Soccer Fields, South Lawn
  • Thursday, May 30: MS Grade 7/8 BIPOC Affinity Group, 2:20-3 PM, Panther Center
  • Thursday, May 30: Development Open House & Volunteer Breakfast, 7:30-9:30 AM, Family Commons
  • Thursday, May 30: Retirement Gathering, 4-6 PM, Library
  • Friday, May 31: MS Grades 5/6 Canoe Trip, 8-3 PM
  • Friday, May 31: MS Grades 7/8 Valleyfair Trip, 8-3 PM, Valleyfair
  • Monday, June 3: MS/US End of Quarter 4
  • 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

There are just 12 1/4 days of school remaining (who’s counting?), and it’s most definitely a sprint to the finish! As we move through the next two weeks, please reach out to the Middle School office if you have any questions or need clarification.

Spring Sports: Calendars, Cancellations, and Coordinating Schedules!
Spring sports seasons are upon us and schedules can be very fluid, depending on the weather. Please know that we, along with the Athletic Department, do our best to avoid last-minute cancellations of games and practices, but sometimes they cannot be avoided. Please bookmark the MPA Athletics website on your phone and check the weekly athletic schedule regularly to plan and organize your family activities. Additionally, please ensure that Dawn Zimmerman has your most current contact information to be in touch as needed. You can reach her at dzimmerman@moundsparkacademy.org.

Middle and Upper School Band Concert Tonight!
Please join us at 7 PM for our final performance of the year. Students should report to Mr. Skrove at 6:15 PM—dressed in concert black—ready to perform! Our Middle and Upper School bands will be sharing their talent and growth this evening in the Nicholson Center.

Under Beds, In Closets, and Stuffed In Drawers
Please have your students look in all the familiar spaces for books, materials, and other MPA-issued property that needs to be returned! We appreciate you returning gently used items that can be used by future students. If an item is damaged, billing will be initiated via TADS. Read More