Meet International Student Alum Peter Wu ’19

Peter Wu '19 What are you currently doing professionally and personally?
I am working as an art teacher at an elementary art institute. At the same time, I am a freelance animator, film director, and production designer.

Where did you attend college, and what experiences or relationships have inspired you along the way?
School of Visual Arts, New York City. Observations, stories, and people from different backgrounds have inspired me to create different film ideas to speak for minorities in society. My connections with famous artists and producers such as Bob Camp and Mario Menjivar have led me deeper into the filmmaking industry.

How was your experience at MPA different than other schools?
Since I transferred from another American high school to MPA, I have seen that MPA is more accepting of students with diverse backgrounds. Not only the education, but the faculty and students are more supportive. Read More

Meet Second Grade Teacher Tami Fisher

Tami FisherWhen and how did you first come to MPA?
I learned about MPA from Randy Comfort, former MPA guidance director, who is an extended family member. I first helped out as a proctor for a variety of Upper School tests. He spoke highly of the school and was always trying to bring me into the fold. At the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, my substitute teacher position morphed into a year-long position as the second second grade teacher.

What memories do you have of your first days at MPA?
It was a bit of a whirlwind, but I just dove right in. It was a unique year, due to COVID restrictions and scheduling, and both cohorts shared teaching duties. It was wonderful to get to know the entire second grade that first year

What’s the best thing about being a teacher at MPA?
The students and their families. The smaller class sizes allow you to really develop strong relationships. I am also appreciative of the collaborative environment among colleagues.

Describe your typical day.
Our days are busy. We start each day with our morning circle which includes a mindful moment, a greeting, a share, an activity, and announcements. I truly believe this grounds us in community, provides opportunities for each student to be seen and heard, and establishes a cooperative classroom. Math is usually our first core subject of the day, then depending on the day, students are engaged with anywhere from 3-5 specialists, and then return in the afternoon when we focus on literacy and end our day with community as we reflect on our accomplishments, challenges, and share a joke of the day. Read More

Please Welcome Annie Stewart!

Annie stewart '11What position will you be holding at MPA? 
Third-grade teacher

From what school/organization are you coming?
Edina Public Schools and Mounds Park Academy

Tell us about your education and past experience.
I graduated from St. Olaf College with a degree in theater in 2015. After working as a full-time stage manager in Minneapolis, I came back to MPA as a building substitute teacher and PreK teaching assistant. In 2019, I completed my Master’s Degree in elementary education from the University of St. Thomas and started working as a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher in the Edina Public Schools.

What did you find appealing about MPA?
MPA teaches the whole child and truly helps each student grow and find their unique passions and interests.

What lasting impact do you plan to have on MPA? 
As an alumna, it is an incredible experience to be back working at the school that helped me flourish as a student. I hope that as a Lower School teacher I will be able to spark the same joy of learning in my future students.

What’s your big dream? 
My big dream is to one day be an elementary school principal.

What are you passionate about? 
I have many passions, but recently I have been spending a lot of time paddle boarding, camping at Minnesota State Parks, and checking off my summer reading list!

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know? 
I love to run triathlons. This summer, I will be completing my fifth one!

Meet The Johnston Family

The Johnston FamilyKate Johnston is an MPA Class of 1998 alum. Now, her son Emmett is a ninth grader at MPA.

What do you love about MPA?
MPA has a special energy that is warm and welcoming. It is an inclusive community that truly cultivates joy and a love of learning. I love that MPA prioritizes music and art. I also love that MPA encourages curiosity and creativity and is committed to teaching the whole child. I love the small class sizes and amazing teachers that make it a school where each child is truly seen, heard, and valued. MPA teachers and staff build strong relationships with students and encourage them to shine their unique light.

What initially attracted you to MPA?
I graduated from MPA and have always been grateful for the amazing education I received. When my husband and I were considering a school change for our oldest son, we decided to look at MPA. We wanted small class sizes and a school that was inclusive and committed to growth and progress. When we visited the school, I was happy to see that MPA continued to grow and change in many ways while staying committed to its mission and values. The energy was wonderful, and it felt like a place that could be an incredible partner for us as we raise our boys. Our son is in his second year at MPA, and we feel blessed to have him there. Read More

Meet The Tanwongsval Family

Tanwongsval FamilyWhat’s the best thing about being part of the MPA community?
A bit of context–our family is an international nomad and our kids have studied in international schools in Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and China. What we seek in a school is positive diversity (not just cultural but viewpoints), appropriately challenging academics, a small teacher-to-student ratio, a small and tight-knitted community, and warm and welcoming educators and administrators. MPA ticked all the boxes and can easily rival any top international schools we’ve experienced throughout our moves.

What is your favorite MPA tradition or event?
We love the orchestra. Our daughter is not much of a musician, but she enjoys the supportive environment and the opportunity to perform with her friends.

Complete this sentence, “MPA teaches my child…
to be caring, curious, and courageous (3C’s). Read More

Meet Upper School Science Teacher Mitch Thomsen

Mr. Thomsen working in the gardens with studentsWhen and how did you first come to MPA?
August 1991. I had moved back to Minnesota in 1989, got married and taught for a year at St. Bernard’s school in St. Paul. I wanted to make a change and interviewed at MPA and St. Thomas Academy. I was offered a job at both schools. I really liked the atmosphere at MPA, knew Chris Jensen, and felt that MPA was the best place for me.

What memories do you have of your first days at MPA?
The joyful return of the students at Back to School Night. Camille Wainwright doing interesting demos in chemistry. Chris Jensen keeping the biology classes moving. I remember feeling that I was in a “fast” crowd. Here, at MPA, all the faculty were very talented and hard-working. The goal is creative, student-involved education and everyone, everywhere was doing this. The school was alive with positive action. I felt I needed to “raise my game” if I was going to be an effective part of this hard-charging group. There was such a collegial feeling between all the teachers. The male teachers had to wear a shirt and tie. This is where I started my biology tie collection. Mostly I was quiet and I listened. There was a lot to learn.

What’s the best thing about being a teacher at MPA?
I have the freedom to do what is best for my students. I can explore new ideas with colleagues and come up with interesting things for myself and the students to do. I can bring in new best practices and keep my classes current with what is happening in the world now. I can use the garden area as an ongoing research resource. I have connections with Ramsey Washington Metro Water Shed District and their expertise and support has been critical to the success of the rainwater gardens at school. I have the support of the administration and they have been instrumental in encouraging me to be involved in the garden, new classes, and new technologies. I have a wonderful relationship with my fellow science teachers. Every day is like a department meeting as we talk and share new ideas, and activities in a very collegial setting. We work together well as a team and we support and help each other. Read More

Meet The Peterson Family

The Peterson FamilyMiddle School math teacher Chris Peterson has been a teacher at MPA for eight years, but became a parent to an MPA Panther himself this school year!

What’s the best thing about being part of the MPA community?
The people. It is a great feeling coming to a school where I know I have colleagues I can count on, families who are involved, and students who are engaged with their academics.

What is your favorite MPA tradition or event?
There are a lot to choose from, but I really enjoy going on the fifth and sixth grade canoeing trip.

In what ways has MPA prepared your child for life in the 21st century? 
From an early age, teachers work with students to be independent and think for themselves. Students have to learn how to work independently and with other students of different ability levels and personality types.

Complete this sentence:
MPA teaches my child: How to be independent, work with their peers while also learning, and how to be respectful to one another.

What advice do you have for another family considering MPA?
MPA accepts students for who they are and works with them where they are at. If you want a school that focuses on the whole child, choose MPA.

Please Welcome Jay Dean to MPA Permanently!

What position will you be holding at MPA?
Assistant Upper School director

From what school/organization are you coming?
The Blake School

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
I earned my B.S. in Producing for Electronic Media from Syracuse University and earned my M.A. in School Counseling from Loyola Marymount University. My teaching and administrative experience includes time at The Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences in Santa Monica, California (2002-11) and The Blake School (2011-22). At Blake, I served as Middle School director for five years. I also served in the interim assistant Upper School director role here at MPA during the 2022-23 school year.

What did you find appealing about MPA during the interview process?
What initially drew me to MPA is the focus on the whole child, its progressive approach to teaching and learning, and the recognition of the importance of social-emotional learning and DEIJ work. After being here for nearly a year, what keeps me at MPA are the people. I have deeply enjoyed my experience working with the talented and dedicated teachers and our curious, creative (and often hilarious!) students. I want to spend more time with them here!! MPA is a “transformative” partner for students and families, and I am excited to continue being a part of that. Read More

Meet Lower School Art Teacher Ellen Scharfenberg

Ellen ScharfenbergHow long have you taught at MPA?
I came to MPA in the fall of 2021. I was looking to move back to the Twin Cities area after having taught elementary art in rural Wisconsin for four years to be close to my family.

What’s the best thing about being a teacher at MPA?
I think the best thing about being a teacher at MPA is the wonderful people that I get to work with. Not only are the faculty and staff at MPA truly amazing teachers and professionals, but some of my closest friends.

Describe your typical day. 
My typical day at MPA begins with prepping art materials for my classes that morning and probably talking to Ms. Mastel across the hallway. I usually teach three Lower School classes in the morning, followed by a great lunch by our Sage staff. I always try to take time to eat and connect with my colleagues. After lunch, I either help with Lower School lunch or recess and teach two more afternoon classes.

Do you have a favorite lesson to teach?
I think that one of my absolute favorite lessons to teach is the second grade fall cabin project. This lesson is a great way for second graders to practice using a one-point perspective and learn about the other elements of art such as space, overlapping, and making objects smaller as they get farther away. Read More

Meet International Student Mina Kim ’26

Mina KimMina Kim has been at MPA since eighth grade. She is from Seoul, South Korea, and is currently living with an MPA host family. Learn more about our international student program and becoming a host family here!

What do you love about MPA?
What I love the most about MPA are the opportunities given to me. MPA offered me a chance that I can study abroad, then a whole new journey in my life began. While I have continued my study in MPA, I, fortunately, was able to have enough opportunities which satisfied my academic desires. MPA provided me with a challenging and engaging social environment through well-driven people, multiple projects to express my creativity, and open chances for everyone. For instance, I am involved in band, debate, soccer, and student council. I take these as opportunities that allow me to build many good relationships with teachers and teammates and be passionate and responsible at my tasks. I deeply appreciate these great opportunities that I enjoy in MPA.

How is your experience at MPA different than your former school?
I spent most of my youth in South Korea. I am grateful that I was under an excellent education system with rigorous and challenging academics throughout my former school years in South Korea. It helped me develop my own study habits and have confidence, which led me to MPA to discover new academic challenges. Besides the academic aspect, I really liked that respecting and cooperating with others was always strongly emphasized in Korean schools in a social manner. Now, as a proud member of MPA, I recognize that the MPA community is more liberal and diverse. Chances that are given to me of choosing electives and clubs helped me out with enhancing my own abilities and how to efficiently use them. I learn and adapt a lot from interchanging ideas with people from different backgrounds and histories. Further, a deep encouraging sense of community and easy interaction with teachers has become a solid ground for me to navigate academic paths. Read More