Meet MPA Parents Leah And Karl Anderson

The Anderson familyWhat do you love about MPA?
We love the whole child approach MPA takes to learning and development … pushing each child to pursue the best version of themselves that they can be, but in a manner uniquely designed for who that child is. This is the case not just academically, but also socially, artistically, athletically, and musically. And, wrapping a supportive, welcoming, positive community around it all to make asking big questions and sharing ideas safe and possible. It’s a killer mash-up that means we have a kid who jumps out of bed in the morning excited to go to school and nearly always enthusiastically answers “GREAT!” when asked “how was your day?” Really, what more could parents ask for?

How is your child encouraged to dream big and do right at MPA?
MPA’s “there’s more than one way to solve the problem” approach is a game changer. For example, our daughter shared a story just this week about a lesson she working on in math. She said she was struggling to understand it as presented in class but thought she had found a different way to solve for the answer that she told her teacher about. In some schools, the teacher might have said “no, that’s not how you do it.” At MPA, her teacher said, “Great idea! Why don’t you try your approach with some of the problems tomorrow and see if it works.” That is the essence of MPA—challenging our kids to excel and learn and grow in an open-ended way that spawns innovation and creative thinking. Dreaming big about possibilities, being willing to test ideas, understanding that “failing” is okay and part of progress, driving resiliency, and starting all over again.

If your child has attended another school, how has your experience at MPA been different?
Our daughter attended a different school for PreK. She dreaded going in the morning, wasn’t challenged academically, and in general just wasn’t energized by the community around her. It was fine, but it was FLAT. At MPA—it’s the polar opposite: ALIVE, ENGAGING, CHALLENGING, ENERGIZING, you name it. It is just night and day. We have never regretted our decision to send our daughter to MPA and plan to do so until the day she graduates. Read More

Meet Mr. Thomsen

Biology teacher with two studentsUpper School science teacher, parent of an alumna

What do you love about MPA?
I love that it offers a liberal arts, whole child experience. Students spend each day doing a variety of things as they learn about themselves and the world.

How many years have you been at MPA?
I’ve been here for 27 years—since 1991!

How does MPA nurture students who forever dream big and do right?
MPA takes the time to nurture students’ interests and gives them a multitude of experiences to help them see the wide range of things those interests relate to.

If you have worked at another school, how has your experience at MPA been different?
The small size makes it easier to communicate with colleagues and to help ensure that no student gets “lost in the shuffle.” I like that I am in charge of my budget and the chance to obtain materials, in the right amounts, to maximize the learning from each lab.

What would you tell a parent considering MPA?
Consider how MPA offers a wide range of offerings, the small class sizes, teachers who are interested in and get to know all of their students. Teachers and administrators are accessible to their students. Each student can be in a multitude of extra curricular activities without a lot of prior experience.

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Meet MPA Parent Sungwon Koo

Sungwon Koo and sonWhat do you love about MPA?
I love the warmth of MPA. That’s the reason that I chose MPA for my son who had come from so far away to the United States. Throughout the application, school tour, and interview process, I could feel the warmth, respect, and sincerity from teachers, interviewers, and staff. They are all proud of being an MPA family, which makes me feel confident. MPA has something special within their heart to care for students and care for families.

How is your child encouraged to dream big and do right at MPA?
MPA is open, flexible, and encourages students to think big and explore new things. Even though my son is not an athletic person, he immediately loved to run on the Cross Country Team and also enjoyed downhill skiing. When my son is planning and selecting courses and extra activities for next semester, he is happy and really excited about what he is going to choose. He wants to learn new things and is full of high hopes and expectations for classes and teachers.

What would you tell another family considering MPA?
If you want a school that takes care of your child like a family, come and choose MPA. Faculty, students, and families are all inclusive to foreign students and new families in general. Passionate teachers are all proud that they can teach at MPA. Faculty and staff pay attention to and are ready to listen to the voices of students and families. Read More

Meet Ryan Ghose ’21

Ryan Ghose in classWhat do you love about MPA?
Waking up every morning excited about what I’m doing that day, whether it be a fun activity during class, play rehearsal, or a school dance.

How are you encouraged to dream big and do right at MPA?
I am encouraged to dream big and do right through everything MPA offers. My extracurriculars allow me to explore anything and everything I set my mind to. The volunteer work I have been doing on campaigns and for organizations I believe in continue to inspire me to do right for my peers and my community.

What would you tell a family considering MPA?
If you have a child that loves to learn and wants to explore their environment, MPA allows your child to do that in a supportive and understanding environment.

In what ways has MPA prepared you for life?
I’m prepared for life because MPA provides the tools for me to build an understanding of the world around me, and how I fit into that world and how I can contribute to it.

What do you dream for yourself in 20 years? 
Leading and working in a marketing position while maintaining my love of the performing arts.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your MPA experience?
As an MPA lifer, I have seen this school change dramatically from when I started in 2008. From this, I know two things for sure: every year MPA becomes an even better school and I become an even better person.

Mounds Park Academy, a PreK-12 private school in Saint Paul, is currently accepting applications for the 2019-20 school year. For more information about admission and to schedule your tour, visit We look forward to getting to know your family!

Meet Ms. O’Keefe

Teacher in Makerspace with young studentFirst grade teacher

How many years have you been at MPA?
My first, first grade class is currently in ninth grade … making my career at MPA nine years!

What do you love about MPA?
I love that MPA reaches every aspect of the whole child and that they respect every child as an individual.

How does MPA nurture students who forever dream big and do right?
MPA nurtures students who forever dream big and do right by inviting students from a very young age to express their dreams, teach them that no dream is too big, and help them on a path to discover how to reach those dreams while being respectful citizens.

If you have worked at another school, how has your experience at MPA been different?
MPA has an amazing understanding of students at each educational level (Lower School, Middle School, and Upper School) and how each relates to one another. Having the span of pre-kindergarten to graduation from high school under one roof is a unique quality in a school. Read More

Meet Evan W. ‘24

Students playing soccerWhat do you love about MPA?
How people are very kind and inclusive. Another thing that I really like about MPA is that the class sizes are very small, so the teachers really get to know you and your personality genuinely well. That makes it easy and comfortable to ask them for help.

How are you encouraged to dream big and do right at MPA?
What encourages me is that the teachers are always supportive. If you have an idea and you tell one of your teachers, they would never make you think that your idea is stupid or not good. They would actually encourage you to try it and help you with it.

If you have attended another school, how has your experience at MPA been different?
One of the things that is different is that there are 10 times more teacher help than at other schools. Because MPA has such small class sizes, the teachers will give you lots more help and you will be able to get all your questions answered.

What would you tell a family considering MPA?
I would tell them that the environment at MPA is super welcoming and nice and that there are great people at the school, so you will be able to make friends very easily. Read More

Meet Isaac ’29

What do you love about MPA?
My favorite part of MPA is playing with friends, especially in phy. ed. class. Mr. Sheehan is my teacher and he is always nice. He’s just a fun person. I also love math because I use my whole brain and I work together with my friends.

How do you dream big and do right at MPA?
Dream big and do right means being nice to my friends. I make sure to give (my best friend) a hug every morning when I see him, and he gives me a hug.

What would you tell a friend considering MPA?
MPA is a very fun place because you have everything you need. You have friends, you have a really good hot lunch, you have a big playground, you have lots of books in the library. The library is a place I really like because I love books, especially books about football. I also really like Ms. Espeland’s music class and Ms. Mastel’s drama class. I really can’t pick which of those I like best because I like them both so much. 

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Meet Brenna Bray ’02

brenna bray '02What are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?
In December 2018 I successfully completed my Ph.D. in biomedical sciences (neuroscience specialization).

How did you get there? Where did you attend college? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?
I graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield in 2006 with a psychology major and media studies concentration. That summer I attended the Denver Publishing Institute then accepted a position in textbook publishing in Seattle for two years. I became very interested in the science books I was representing, and subsequently moved back to Minnesota to pursue a career in the health care industry. I worked as a medical scribe in the emergency department while taking pre-med courses back at my alma mater (St. Olaf College). I spent two years in a middle management scribe position, helping to start- and manage new emergency department scribe programs nation-wide, then returned to my coursework. I took a research class one summer and fell in love with it. In 2013, a mentor at St. Olaf received an e-mail from my now former advisor stating she had an opening for a graduate student in her lab. I got in touch with her, her work was very similar to the research I was doing at the time, and I was quickly accepted into the Division of Basic Biomedical Sciences in the Graduate School at the University of South Dakota/Sanford School of Medicine. Read More

Meet Aneesh Syal ’19

high school student in classWhat do you love about MPA?
MPA is one big group of people, striving for the same goal: to make this world a better place. All of us come from different backgrounds, different families, and different religions yet we all work together to help one another. I believe the soul of MPA is embedded within the students, teachers, and administration. The reason I love MPA is because the people.

How are you encouraged to dream big and do right at MPA?
MPA constantly reminds us that while we are fortunate enough to receive a wonderful education, we have to constantly check ourselves. We are developing as a society, and I believe MPA students are on the front lines of this. We stand up for what we believe, we do what we preach, and most of all we listen to our peers. MPA gives us the motivation and ability to do what we want. Read More

Meet Ryan Martin ’94

MPA alum speakingWhat are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?
I’m a professor and chair of the psychology department at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. I’m an anger researcher and just recently did a TEDx talk called “The Upside of Anger.”

How did you get there? Where did you attend college? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?
I went to the University of St. Thomas for undergrad and studied psychology. I earned my master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Southern Mississippi in counseling psychology. After a year as a visiting professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, I got a job as an assistant professor here at UW-Green Bay.

How did your MPA experience prepare you for your life today? How did MPA help you dream big and do right?
There were a lot of little things that I learned at MPA that set me up for success (writing skills, public speaking, etc.), but honestly, what I’m most thankful for are the teachers who continued to believe in me even when I was difficult. I was not a great student and there were many times teachers could have given up on me. I am very thankful for those teachers who supported me and continue to support me. Read More