“I never anticipated that I would be a faculty member at Minnehaha. I was excited to graduate and be independent. I never would have anticipated coming back.”
Nate was an Art Education major in college. He also did a lot of art in high school, but he was the class clown, and ”goofing around was more the name of the game.” For two years after college, he was a substitute teacher in Twin Cities public schools. He stopped eating lunch in the teachers’ lunchrooms, because they quickly became gripe sessions about the students and administration, and he got tired of the negative talk. “MA is so different--the staff doesn’t do that. It really is an incredibly unique community that we have. So many things are extremely rewarding about teaching at Minnehaha. I have a wonderful rapport with the other faculty members. We have great love and respect for each other--and for the students.”
Returning to Minnehaha
Nate started teaching at Minnehaha in 2002 and was able to write his own curriculum to fit what he wanted to do in his painting, drawing, ceramics, graphic design, and sculpture classes. He also teaches AP Portfolio Art, which helps juniors and seniors create a portfolio for their application to design or art schools. Although he has no education in guidance counseling, he finds himself doing this often for the families and students who want to pursue art school. “It’s a very different beast in a highly competitive environment, and takes a lot of year-long preparation to get ready for it,” Stromberg says. Nate spends significant time with the 2-3 students each year who are on this path; pushing them, challenging them, and preparing them for the next level by the time they graduate.
As a faculty member, Nate experienced the August 2 explosion from afar, as he was out of state on vacation when it happened. He was a part of the move to and taught at Mendota, the temporary Upper School location for the past two years. This summer, he is now moving back to the rebuilt Upper School with the faculty and staff. Nate has also had a unique role with art and design in the revisioning of the Upper School Campus. Nate said, “It’s been fun. I’ve been able to serve on some different committees--I’m very interested in the whole design process.” He feels privileged to sit in on some of the meetings and help make some of the decisions. “The architects who designed the school know what they are doing! When you walk into the new space, there is an openness and a flow to it that feels extremely welcoming. The large windows covering all areas of the building, the view of the trees outside, how light the building is, looking out from the second and third floors towards the river; it all adds up to an incredibly beautiful space.” The last tour he took he was “absolutely stunned” by the kitchen, service space, and the food stations.
Lending His Gifts
In the months before the explosion, the spring of ‘17, he was working with Marketing Director Rebekah Peterson on a large graphic Redhawk covering a wall in the Athletic building. This graphic Redhawk is a collage of historic athletic teams. It was installed a week before the explosion, and alums will be able to look for themselves in the mural at Homecoming or whenever they visit the school. And now, Nate is working to leave his mark, artistically speaking, in the new space. He has been commissioned to create a collage that includes snapshots made of old archival material--pictures of the people, the community and the previous building itself. He has spent many, many hours at the Alumni house with colleague Elaine Ekstedt going through materials--all the way back to the foundations of the school. He is hopeful it will be complete sometime in the late winter or spring of 2020.
An Exciting Future
Nate believes the new building and the reimagining of Minnehaha Academy will be amazing for the future of the school. “Having walked through the building several times, I don’t know how it can’t help our enrollment. You don’t need to be much of a salesman to ‘sell’ MA with the gorgeous building. With the community, the spiritual emphasis, and how amazing the athletics have been, it is all a draw.” He hopes and anticipates it will attract more families and continue to grow the student body.
Nate feels privileged to work with the people of Minnehaha and to feel a part of that “club.” This transition time has unified them and brought them together as faculty. Everyone is extremely excited to think of all the possibilities in front of them. “We are itching to go--it’s going to be great!”