Upper School Division News May 5, 2022

from Mark Segal, Upper School Director

There are some childhood experiences that fade away and others that last a lifetime. I am unsure why this is the case, but know that it is true. One of those experiences that has lasted a lifetime with me was when my father brought me to a business gathering where Rod Carew was the featured speaker. For those unfamiliar with him, Carew was a major league baseball player who played for almost 20 years for the Minnesota Twins and California Angeles. Appearing in 18 straight All-Star games and holding the highest MN Twins batting average (.388), Rod Carew was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991, the first year he was eligible. The event and what Carew spoke about are distant memories, but what remains is my vivid recollection of meeting one of my childhood idols. Thankfully, there was a picture taken of our meeting and in it he and I were shaking were shaking hands and looking each other directly in the eye.

Earlier this week, local businessman and author Harvey Mackay wrote an article in the Star Tribune entitled, “Rediscover the Lost Art of Eye Contact and See the Magic.” In the article, Mackay shares that, “unfortunately, eye contact has become a lost art.” He refers to the frenetic pace of people’s lives and the seemingly frequent draw to looking down at a smartphone, even though someone may be right in front of you.

There have been several studies on the importance and necessity of making eye contact. In virtually every one that I reviewed, the research showed that eye contact is one of the most powerful ways to make someone feel recognized, understood, and validated. A 2002 MIT study fund that infants were more likely to follow an adult’s eye movement rather than just their head movements. The study validates the bond and importance of eye contact in an infant’s upbringing. Recognizing this, however, still can present a challenge for some. Mackay shares that, “making eye contact is a skill that can be learned. It might take a little practice, but it can have a significant impact on your work and personal life.” As a school administrator for the past quarter century, I have found that much can be said and explained by students without them actually saying a word. Eye contact, or the lack thereof, plays a vital role in both verbal and nonverbal communication. It is for this and multiple other reasons that the art of eye contact through communication (including listening) is a focus at MPA. Starting at a young age our students work on presenting to their classmates and peers in activities like the Parade of States and CHAMP Assemblies, in middle school they present their Future City projects and facilitate club and organization meetings, and in upper school they make proposals to the administration and present their Senior Performances to their peers or the full upper school community.

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Parents Association News & Events May 5, 2022

Thank You!
A huge thank you to everyone who set up, baked, decorated and delivered cookies to all MPA staff on Tuesday, May 3. The Teaching Kitchen was full of volunteers and the sweet smell of freshly baked cookies in celebration of National Teacher Appreciation Day. All employees could grab a cookie or two during lunch and sign up to get a small box delivered to them later in the day. Most boxes had a heart shaped window to go with the National Teacher Appreciation theme, “Teaching is a Work of Heart”. Again, thank you for joining the Parents Association in this event giving back to our MPA staff. – Bakari, attached are a couple of photos if you can use them

Gardening at MPA is Back!
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!

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. Please vote for the Executive PA Board for 2022-23 here!

We are also seeking volunteers for the 2022-23 school year. Please consider getting involved. It’s 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 getting involved or have any questions, please contact Staci Banks Herberger (sbhehe42@icloud.com).

Co-Presidents: Christine Larson and Staci Banks
President Elect: Michael Soto
Secretary: Seema Anwar
Treasurer: Adi Boeder Risner
LS Division Lead: Michelle Mick
MS Division Lead: Michelle Mick
US Division Lead: Julie Bixby
Communications: Susan Knapp
Community Development Lead: open

Welcome To MPA, Meem Fahlstrom!

MeemMeem Fahlstrom

What position will you be holding at MPA?
K-5 Spanish Sub

From what school/organization are you coming?
Wayzata Public Schools

Tell us a little bit about your education and past experience.
My favorite job was being a 2 week program facilitator for El lago del bosque – Concordia Language Villages. I got my masters in World Language Intruction through Concordia College. I’ve taught at Armstrong High School, Totino-Grace high school, The Churchill School and Center (For Students With Language Based Learning Disabilities) and Wayzata public schools. Fun fact, I’m also licensed to teach Biology/Natural Sciences 5-12.

What did you find appealing about MPA during the interview process?
I met one teacher who said they went to school there and they wanted to teach there – that’s the kind of story that proves the school has major impact on people. Honestly….I saw the tree in the library and the mini door and knew it was the place for me. Also, the Spanish classroom had non-binary pronouns up on the wall as options, which made me feel included. (I’m leaving a district that was less inclusive). Also, all 3 directors are very genuine and easy to connect with.

What’s your big dream?
My big dream is to grow old and still be close with my two nieces.

What are you (and your family, if you so choose) passionate about?
I bike each day after work and read each night. My girlfriend and I enjoy knitting. I own a lot of plants and even name them….I’ve had a pathos named Viney for 14 years. My family revolves around local social justice/activist/art causes…mainly housing/renter rights and environmental stuff.

What’s a fun fact about you that our community would love to know?
I grew up surrounded by Croatian elders. I only have one great aunt left and we are very close.

Belonging At MPA

from Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

It has been a hectic several weeks for members of the MPA community! We had a wildly successful Spring Auction with more than 250 parents, alumni parents, alumni, grandparents, faculty, and staff gathered at A’Bulae in St. Paul to celebrate MPA and raise much-needed funds for our students. It was a full house, and everyone seemed to have fun and were undoubtedly happy to be together again.

Yesterday, we hosted Grandparents and Special Friends Day with several hundred attending for Lower, Middle, and Upper School students. For some, it was their first time in the school and the first time experiencing a little bit of the magic that happens each day at MPA. In my opening remarks to the grandparents and special friends, I shared research highlighting the importance of grandparents and mentors/role models to young people’s academic, social, and emotional health and well-being.

The importance of a strong sense of community to the growth and well-being of young people cannot be understated even more so as we emerge from the pandemic. Belonging is an essential human need, and we all require and long for caring, genuine, and ongoing connections with others. In a school environment, students deeply desire to be accepted, respected, included, and supported by others in the school social environment.

A recent article in the New York Times caught my attention and presented evidence that all educators and parents feel instinctively. While I have been concerned about student mental health for some time now, and MPA has made it a priority to address, the article powerfully but sadly presented the current reality of our young people in a post-pandemic society.

There is some good news. In many instances, young people are avoiding high risk behaviors. “Young people are more educated; less likely to get pregnant; use drugs; less likely to die of accident or injury,” said Candice Odgers, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine. “By many markers, kids are doing fantastic and thriving. But there are these significant trends in anxiety, depression, and suicide that stop us in our tracks.” For example, emergency room visits for suicide attempts rose 51 percent for adolescent girls in early 2021 compared to the same period in 2019. The figure rose four percent for boys.

This winter, Middle and Upper school students participated in a survey asking them to share their stressors, anxiety, and ways to address their mental health. The results are encouraging. For example, Upper School students overwhelmingly agree that teachers are available to help them, answer their questions, and talk about their concerns. Nearly every student agreed that at least one adult in the school cares deeply about them and their success. Almost 80% of Middle School students agree that their teachers care about them and are there for them when they need help. A vast majority feel like they fit in, belong, and are happy to be at MPA. An even greater majority report feeling safe at school.

The more we as parents know, the better we are at anticipating, recognizing, and helping our children. I was pleased with the participation at last week’s Middle School parent education presentation and conversation on the middle school years. In partnership with Lamar Shingles, director of equity and belonging, our wonderful Parents Association has offered several parent education programs this spring. One is scheduled next Monday to support LGBTQ students.

Addressing MPA students’ social, emotional, and mental health happens each day, in small and big ways, both obvious and less noticeable. As the recent student survey found, the role of teachers and trusted adults at MPA cannot be understated. Programs like CHAMP and advisory in Middle and Upper School interweave social and emotional learning. All new students and students in ninth and eleventh grades participate in annual suicide awareness education and screening. We openly address mental health and resources available to students in ninth-grade health and eleventh-grade wellness classes. Counselors are also a part of our ninth-grade seminar class.

Belonging affects a variety of social, emotional, and academic variables. It nurtures self-esteem and self-confidence, leads to higher academic achievement, fosters resiliency, and helps build positive peer relationships. In an uncertain and rapidly changing world, community and belonging provide an anchor for our young people. We need one another. The Spring Auction and Grandparents and Special Friends Day are evidence of what can be when we join together in partnership.

Recognize The Signs Of Anxiety And Depression

  • Approach with sensitivity: Be direct, but with compassion and understanding.
  • Offer health ways to manage emotions: Exercise, meditation, and journaling.
  • Get the correct diagnosis: Be critical consumers by doing your research and finding the right doctor.
  • Carefully consider medications: Partner with physicians by being well-versed in options available.
  • Don’t forget the basics: Sleep and physical activity are essential.

Source: New York Times

Parents Association News & Events

Faculty and Staff Appreciation Day
Tuesday, May 3
Do you like to bake? Smell freshly baked cookies? Make people happy? Thank a teacher or MPA staff member on National Teacher Appreciation Day, May 3. Sign up to come to the Teaching Kitchen and bake some sweet treats for our staff. The Parents Association will provide everything necessary. Sign up here.

Please adhere to MPA Peanut/Tree Nut Awareness for Beverages and Snacks. No peanuts or tree nuts please. Refer to the MPA Food Allergy Guidelines for more information.

Questions? Please contact Tara Matthews Lafferty, TMattRN@aol.com.

Gardening at MPA is Back!
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!

Birdhouse Gourds Return
If you followed our gardening posts from last year, you’ll know that our accidental planting of birdhouse gourds was a huge success. We’ll be planting them again this year. For the full story, click here.

MPA Moments That Matter

from Natalie Waters Seum, director of admission and communication

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.

In honor of the conclusion of MPA’s treasured Book Festival, I want to share with you a book I’ve been listening to on my commute. I believe this book should be required reading for everyone in the business of people: “The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact,” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, the bestselling authors of “Switch” and “Made to Stick.” Like all great books, it was recommended to me by a trusted friend and colleague as one that directly applies to our work in admission and communication.

The premise is that moments matter—our lives are defined by moments—and through intentionality, some moments can matter much more than others. The opportunity lies in our ability to engineer moments that will have a lasting impact on those we serve. They describe in detail the four elements impactful moments often contain and how to build in these elements: Read More

Upper School Division News April 21, 2022

from Mark Segal, Upper School Director

Over the course of the past year, the other two division directors and I have committed to writing an article for the Panther Post every other week. Even though I enjoy writing as a way to express my thoughts and know there is so much to share with families of upper school students, I often find myself waiting until the last moment to write my bi-weekly article. It would be easy to come up with valid and justifiable excuses (spending time with students, responding to emails and voicemails, meetings, etc.), but in reality it is pure and simple procrastination – the act of delaying or postponing something. Now in my twenty-seventh or twenty-eighth year of working with adolescents, I understand that the art of procrastination is real and that it impacts most of us in some way. We may avoid something that is challenging, find alternative things to do, or fear not doing the task “well enough.”

Psychologist and author Alice Boyes published a study in The Harvard Business Review that shared some findings and assumptions of procrastination, and made suggestions to counteract them. The first assumption is that those who procrastinate are undisciplined and do not have the self-control to do what is necessary. Although there may be some truth to procrastinators being headstrong and set in their ways, Boyes suggests that habits and systems be established by setting up a consistent schedule for completing the assigned work or task. The author also found that, “We tend to avoid tasks that stir up negative emotions.” Additionally, the belief is that when experiencing feelings of uncertainty or anxiousness negative emotions are brought to the surface and we are more apt to procrastinate. In this case, the suggestion is to disentangle our emotions from the task, and find a way to make it fun and reward yourself when it’s done. Lastly, the HBR article shares that we often find ourselves stuck in a pattern of unhelpful thoughts that occupies all we think of. The researcher suggests to break this cycle that we, initially, limit ourselves to short work periods and slowly built upon them, like training for a marathon.

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Parents Association News & Events

LogoBook Festival Update
A huge thank you to all who contributed to this year’s Book Festival. Thank you to the vendors, Valley Bookseller in Stillwater and Usborne Books & More. Valley will donate $775 to our library; they sold 170 books ($3877 total). Usborne sold 79 books ($1046 total) and will provide MPA with a $523 credit to purchase new books. The gently used book sale raised approximately $400. The total raised this year for the library is $1698!

Thank you to all the students, faculty and staff who contributed their time and talents to the reading of stories and poems. Thank you to the many people who made and distributed bookmarks, decorated the library, and coordinated events. Thank you to the IT department, and a huge shout-out to Bakari in Communications, who was instrumental in bringing our ideas to life.

Finally, a whole-hearted and deep thank you to all those who contributed by purchasing books, for their families and for our teachers. It is by your generous contributions that the Book Festival was a great success, even in the virtual format. A sincere and heart-felt thank you from the entire Book Festival committee! Read More

Defining Character

Senior Service project fundraiserAt home, you teach your children values. Shouldn’t their school do the same? Respect and integrity are integral components of the Mounds Park Academy mission, and character development is woven into the MPA experience. Rooted in the idea that the human character is malleable and children are exceptionally capable of positively impacting the world, character has been taught as one part of the whole child at Mounds Park Academy since 1982.

Respect, integrity, and global responsibility are as central to the mission of the school as intellectual ambition and effective communication. Varied, creative, and always evolving, how each teacher approaches character education is as unique as their own DNA. Teacher autonomy applies to all disciplines at MPA and is highly valued by teachers and administrators alike. It relies on mutual trust and is based on the idea that teachers are professionals who know their students best.

When the desire for formal character education during the early, foundational years of MPA rose to the surface, in true MPA fashion, leadership turned to our in-house experts—teachers. A committee composed solely of teachers was formed to establish CHAMP, a cohesive program with a strong academic foundation. The key components of CHAMP (Character Happens At Mounds Park) still hold true today: a partnership between home and school is essential; character education is embedded into the full curricular and extracurricular experience; adults intentionally model the character we expect; strong character and positive behavioral choices should be practiced; and ongoing evaluation and evolution are needed to ensure the program’s viability. Seven character traits of the program were identified—friendship, compassion, respect, self-control, responsibility, cooperation, integrity—with inclusiveness, courage, and mindfulness being added in recent years. Read More

The Importance Of Reading

Head's Messagefrom Dr. Bill Hudson, Head of School

I delight in the number of students who come into school in the morning with a book in their hand and a finger holding their place. Clearly, they love reading as much as I do. Reflecting on the great books I’ve read, from Dr. Seuss to Chaucer, I see how reading has changed my life. Through reading, I have plumbed the depths of despair and witnessed the triumph of the human spirit. I’ve lived through momentous battles and traveled the world. Reading has transformed me and made me into the person I am today. While my parents actively encouraged reading, it was in lower school that I learned to love reading, and it was my teachers who introduced me to great books.

The 22nd Annual MPA Book Festival (April 5-17) is a true reflection of our mission as we choose to celebrate reading in such a joyful way. By coming together to celebrate reading, we send a powerful message to our children about its importance. I am very grateful to the MPA Parent Association for sponsoring such a fantastic event. Funds raised from book purchases support the MPA library and directly impact students. Read More