Minnehaha Academy Blog

French Students Take Home Honors for 2020

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jul 23, 2020


Both Middle and High School French students were honored for their hard work this year. Check out their achievements below!

2020 Upper School French Honors

Minnesota Department of Education Certificate of Achievement at the Intermediate Level (Makes the recipient eligible for up to two semesters of credit at Minnesota State Colleges.)

Avary Lessard
Claire Fortier
Julia Harris
Ava Knight
Josh St. Andrew
Max Yepez
Alexis Jacoby
Ethan Lessard


2020 MS French Exams

Middle School French students have acquitted themselves very well again this year on Le Grand Concours (the National French contest).

Seventh Grade French Honors:
In 7th grade we have 5 students, we had 2 honorable mentions:

Honorable Mention
18th Nationally and 5th in Minnesota
Giselle Geyer

19th Nationally and 6th in Minnesota
Miles Léon Kormann


Eighth Grade French Honors:
8th grade has 11 students.

Honorable Mention
16th Nationally and 14th in Minnesota
Oletha Angélique Collins 

19th Nationally and 17th in Minnesota
Aaron Daniel Melling

18th Nationally and 16th in Minnesota
Owen “Paul” Stanley

20th Nationally and 18th in Minnesota
Evelin Ève Garcia Balmaceda


Bronze Medalists
12th Nationally and 10th in Minnesota
Beckett “Bruno” Pilling


Silver Medalists
8th Nationally and 6th in Minnesota
Tito “Cédric” Sanchez

8th Nationally and 6th in Minnesota
Robert “Xavier” Wilson

7th Nationally and 5th in Minnesota
Kana “Adeline” Try


Gold Medalists
4th Nationally and 2nd in Minnesota
Elaina “Célia” Johnson


Félicitations à tous!

Topics: Awards, Middle School, Upper School, Academics

Upper and Middle School Latin Exam: An Excellent Showing!

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jul 16, 2020


Every year Minnehaha Academy Latin students test their knowledge on the National Latin Exam. This year both Middle and Upper School students continued the tradition of excellence.

Only about 40% of students who take this test win an award of any kind.  At MA, the percentage of Middle School students who earn an award is 73%! 

Upper School students also held their own, pulling in 23 individual awards. Here’s the breakdown of those honors:


Latin IA Awards:

28 students took the test and 18 students won awards. 

Special Certificate of Achievement:
Máximo Maximus Martín
Finley Valeria Lefebvre
A.J. Alma Carlson
B Alma Sahlstrom
Elizabeth Prima Lee Gonzalez
Gisella Viviana Harder
Kaden Ignatius Wali
Benny Tiro Carlson
Leah Lucretia DiNardo
Mimi Veronica Blomgren

Outstanding Achievement:
Audrey Gaia Osterberg
Jaeda Anastasia Hutchinson
Lucas Lucius Eckman
Sophia Aula Verdoorn
Ben Augustinus Noble
Jeffrey Victor Ratliff
Makai Ioannes Bates*
Henry Horatius Olson*

*Missed only ONE question!


8th Grade Latin Awards:

12 students took the test and we had 8 winners. 

Cum Laude (with praise) Award:
Gavin Petrus Beck

Magna Cum Laude (with great praise) Award:
Savannah Silvia Switzer
Charlotte Catharina Wold
Gabrielle Aemilia Wamre

Silver Medal, Maxima Cum Laude (with greatest praise) Award:
Solomon Rufus O’Bert
Aidan Larius Ghylin
Ben Marcus Stromberg
Hailey Tulllllllia Hill 

Gold Medal, Summa Cum Laude (with highest praise) Award: 
Sienna Fulvia Kath

Gratulationes omnibus!  We are so proud of you all!



Level Two

Cum Laude
Victoria Hoekstra
David John

Magna Cum Laude
Simon Poelman
Lincoln Reichenau

Maxima Cum Laude, Silver Medal
Owen Hagedorn
Lars Ramgren
Ellie Novak
Benji Koeckeritz
Owen Hoffner
Geoffrey Shrantz

Summa Cum Laude, Gold Medal
Grace Kassebaum


Level Three 

Cum Laude
Zeke Daniel

Magna Cum Laude
Isaac Kostecky


Level Four 

Magna Cum Laude
Tim Siems
Leah Wasson
Chris Olson
Jordon Bates

Maxima Cum Laude, Silver Medal
Annika Currell
Gabriel King

Summa Cum Laude, Gold Medal
Alexis Stanley (Fourth Gold Medal)


Level 5 

Summa Cum Laude, Gold Medal
Sophie King
Clara Stein
Andrew Karpenko

Amazing job, students! Thank you for your consistent commitment to excellence.

Topics: Awards, Middle School, Upper School, Academics

Sixth Grade Poets: Hope, Healing, Humor

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Apr 17, 2020

Our sixth graders just finished learning about poetry.

"We asked the big question: 'Why read and write poetry?' " said Middle School English teacher Ms. Ulferts. "We looked at a variety of poems and found that they are often centered around hope, healing, and humor-which is the approach we took as we began to write some of our own."

Some of our sixth grade students wanted to share their poems with the community. Listen to their poetry below:


  • Gabi: 0:00
  • Naszir: 0:43
  • Maximillian: 1:13
  • Nevis: 1:52
  • Dalton: 4:13
  • Luka: 4:56
  • Cosette: 5:38
  • Adelyn: 6:37
  • Emmett: 7:02


Topics: Middle School, Online Learning

Staying Mentally Healthy During Covid-19

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Apr 16, 2020


Middle School students have spent the week learning how to stay mentally healthy. Our Middle School counselor Sarah Rothstein is virtually visiting them in health class to teach about mental health and provide mindfulness exercises. The students watch the presentation and then participate in a live discussion.

The intent of the lesson is to recognize and acknowledge what students are feeling, give students a place to talk about it and know that they are not alone, and give them tools to use in order to destress.
Middle School Phy Ed classes are also starting each day with a "mindful minute" exercise. Students were given a list of brain break activities to use throughout the day, many of them not in front of a screen. While Minnehaha counselors always are available to provide student support, they are especially focused on giving students simple things that they can do to lessen anxiety and worry, and also fill times of boredom and frustration.  
Check out the presentation as well as the mindfulness exercises below.

Mental Health During a Pandemic 



Mindfulness Exercises

1. Breaking Down our Thoughts Activity

Write down something that you may be worrying about. Then ask yourself…

  • Is my thought based on a feeling or an actual fact?
  • Is it possible for my thought to come true?
  • What’s the worst that can happen if it does come true?
  • Will it still matter to me tomorrow or in the future?
  • What can I do to handle the situation in a positive way?

2. Deep Breathing Exercise

Inhale 4 seconds, exhale 4 second, and repeat.

3. Clenching Fist Exercise

Arms down at your sides, clench your fists as tight as you can. Hold, then release. Repeat 2-3 times. You can do both hands together, or one at a time.

4. Gratitude Exercise

Option #1: Start by observing. Notice the thank yous you say. Just how habitual a response is it? Is it a hasty aside, an afterthought? How are you feeling when you express thanks in small transactions? Stressed, uptight, a little absent-minded? Do a quick scan of your body—are you already physically moving on to your next interaction? Pick one interaction a day . When your instinct to say “thanks” arises, stop for a moment and take note. Can you name what you feel grateful for, even beyond the gesture that’s been extended? Then say "thank you."

Option #2: I’m grateful for three things…

  • I hear
  • I see
  • I smell
  • I touch/feel
  • I taste

5. Coloring Exercise

Find a favorite coloring book, or download and print these coloring sheets.

6. The Connection Challenge

Instead of social distancing, we physically distance together. For the next week, try to connect with someone (same person or seven different people) every day virtually through texting, email, or social media. Check-in and ask them how they are feeling and share how you are feeling, then challenge them to do the same!

7. Someday Soon Jar

Keep a list with your family of things you will do when social distancing is over. Turn frustration into anticipation!

Topics: Middle School, Online Learning

Online Discussion: 5 Tips for Creating Constructive Conversations

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Mar 18, 2020

2020-US-Students-Online-MinnehahaAcademy-Minneapolis-Minnesota-3 copyConnecting through the internet has never been more critical than it is right now. We are thankful for this technology that can bring us together when we can't safely be together in person. We can support each other, learn from each other, and create meaningful connections with classmates, colleagues, friends, and family if we approach our conversations in a mindful way.

Upper School Sacred Studies teacher Dr. Crafton has created these guidelines for participating in constructive online conversations.

"Our online conversations can never duplicate face-to-face conversations," said Dr. Crafton. "So much of our communication is embedded in non-verbal elements: context, tone, timing and rhythm, facial and body language cues, and most importantly personal presence. However, with some effort we can create effective replacements. My hope through these guidelines is to move toward that goal."

Online Discussion Guidelines

  1. Speak your ideas online as you would in the classroom. Imagine that you are having a conversation in person with your classmates and your teacher when you write. 
  2. Respect your classmates and teacher. The same rules we have when face to face apply online; and please remember that it is easier to fall into bad habits online than it is when face to face. Here are some ways you can show respect:
    • Actively engage with your teacher and classmates by considering what others are saying and by contributing your own ideas.
    • Discuss rather than argue or debate; respond to ideas, don’t attack people.
    • Make sure that you understand what others are saying before deciding whether you agree or disagree.
    • Be honest and genuine in what you say; earnestly seek after truth.
    • Assume the best of others.
    • Snarky or derogatory comments are not allowed; be careful about using humor – it is much harder to interpret humor appropriately online than it is in person.
    • Observe confidentiality; you are encouraged to talk about ideas outside of the context of the class, but not about people who are in the class.
  3. Write in full sentences or phrases using good spelling and grammar; don’t use the shorthand typical of texting. And DON’T WRITE IN ALL CAPS – it’s annoying and sends the wrong message.
  4. Add to the communal conversation; simply posting “I agree” or “good idea” is not enough. Say why you agree or disagree.  And don’t simply repeat what someone else has said.
  5. Be brief and on point — remember that the other members of the class will be reading and responding to you, too.

Topics: Middle School, Upper School, Online Learning

Top 8 Tips for Online Learning

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Mar 17, 2020

2020-US-Students-Online-MinnehahaAcademy-Minneapolis-Minnesota-4 copyAs teachers and students plan for online learning, we wanted to share these top eight tips that will help set students up for success during online learning (or distance learning).

  1. Attend class: This may seem like a basic tip, but the best way to get the most out of online learning is to treat it just as you would a school day. Show up to class on time and ready to learn.
  2. Complete assignments: Assignments given during online learning are just as important to complete as assignments given during a more typical class experience. By completing your assignments on time and with care, you'll keep up with your studies and be ready to hit the ground running when you are back in the classroom.
  3. Create a workspace: Set up a special spot for you to complete your classwork and join online class discussions. Having a set spot for your learning will ensure you have the tools you need to do your work. Think about what you'll need for your class (pencils, art supplies, paper, books, digital device, headphones, etc). 
  4. Set a schedule: Your teacher will most likely provide a daily schedule for you during the school day. Keeping a schedule will help you stay on track with your work, will remind you to take breaks, and will help you create a rhythm to your day. It's also rewarding to look back at your daily schedule and see all of the amazing things you've accomplished!
  5. Reduce distractions: Working from home can be quite distracting. When you set up your workspace, find a quiet space to sit. Remember to shut off the TV, music, and eliminate social media distractions- just as you would if you were in a classroom. 
  6. Think about how you learn best: When do you do your best work? Is it in the morning or afternoon? Plan on doing work that requires creative energy and thought at those times.  Also, consider how you learn. Do you learn best through listening, reading, or doing? Work with your teacher to determine ways you can learn the material using your preferred learning method. 
  7. Participate: Just because you aren't sitting next to your classmates and teachers doesn't mean you shouldn't join in on the learning. Chime in on class discussions and set up times to chat with classmates to work on group assignments.
  8. Take Breaks: Remember to step away from your desk to stretch, take a walk around the block, play a game, or spend time with your family. It's important to take breaks that will leave you feeling refreshed. It can be easy to sit in front of a screen all day, but remember that you'll do best by stepping outside for fresh air or a conversation with family.

We've also included this Online Etiquette Guide for online learning created by our Middle School science teacher Emily Firkus with her students.

Google Meet Etiquette white background


Topics: Middle School, Upper School, Lower School, Academics, Online Learning

Visiting Minnehaha's Upper School [Photos]

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Feb 5, 2020

"What's it like at the Upper School?" 

This is one of the big things on the minds of eighth graders as spring comes into view. 

Last week, these students had the opportunity to find out for themselves what Upper School is like! Eighth graders spent the morning visiting classes such as physics, English, world history, and phy ed, participating in activities and meeting teachers. They learned about what ninth grade courses had in store for them and the fun things they would learn.

After a snack break, students learned about electives such as fine arts and world languages. 

We can't wait to welcome these students to the Upper School halls next fall!

See the entire photo gallery.

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Topics: Middle School, Upper School

A Spectacular Revival: The Minnehaha Fundraiser

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Jan 25, 2020

The Spectacular Revival was a spirit-filled evening of fun and fundraising for Minnehaha Academy. 

Thanks to all who attended, donated items, and gave their time to make the evening a wonderful event. 

People stepped under the tent for revival-style music and festivities.

Following a delicious picnic-style dinner, Brother Blake and David Hoffner performed an entertaining skit written by Nathan Stromberg. Attendees spoke up and gave testimonies on how Minnehaha has blessed their children and families.

Then Auctioneer Dan led a live auction of fantastic items donated by our community.

Following the live auction, Rev. Dr. Harris led the group in a gospel song.

A great time was had by all. 


Topics: Middle School, Upper School, Lower School

Selfless in a Selfie World

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jan 7, 2020

2019-Winter-Ben-and-Katie-Jane copy

It’s mid-September. Through the floor-to-ceiling windows of Mr. Sauer’s third floor classroom you can see the first flickers of fall color speckling the green canopy below. Class is over, and senior Peter Shaffer grabs his books, ready to move on to the next class.

"Shaffer," Mr. Sauer stops him. "I have something for you."

Kris Sauer, English teacher and assistant cross country coach, slips a white envelope into Peter’s hands. "I don’t know what’s in it," he says.

Peter looks at the envelope, confused. It’s a letter from former cross country and track teammate, Chris Schold, written four years earlier and filed away in Mr. Sauer’s cabinet for safe keeping. Today Chris studies economics at St. Olaf and is preparing for his upcoming position at Optum, but during these four years the letter made a trek from the rubble of the old building, to Mendota, and finally to Mr. Sauer’s new classroom.

"What is this about?" Peter wonders.


Peter Shaffer just before qualifying for State.

Later that evening, when Peter opens the letter at home, he understands. Mr. Sauer often gives his students the opportunity to write a letter to their future selves. Four years after they graduate, he mails those letters back to the students so they can see and remember the wishes they had for themselves on the cusp of leaving MA.

Chris Schold, however, chose not to write to himself, but to write to Peter, who was just in eighth grade at the time.

Now a senior, Peter opens the letter to find words of encouragement and an exhortation to continue forward in excellence. "I was surprised at how much he noticed about me in seventh and eighth grade, and that he thought to write to me about it," Peter shares, adding that he felt humbled to be on the receiving end of such a gesture.

For his part, Chris considered just doing the assignment and writing to himself, but, "I started to think about how this assignment could actually be used to bring greater good to the team."

Letter from Chris to Peter copy

Peter's positive attitude and willingness to "stick with it" when things got tough impressed Chris throughout their time in cross country. "I wanted to let him know that he was a great student and athlete and it was a pleasure to get to know him. It seemed like a good way to finish out the year and make an impact on someone else."

Chris’s decision exemplifies a key value that staff and faculty at MA hope to nurture throughout the community: Considering the needs and feelings of others, and how you can be part of making someone else's life better.

In a world where popular media and culture often glorify self promotion, faculty continually challenge students to consider how their actions and choices impact not only themselves but also those around them.

Class Constitution

2019-Winter-Nichole-With-Students-1 copy

Each teacher has his or her own way of offering this challenge throughout the school year. If you step into fifth grade teacher Nichole De Haven’s class early in the year, you might catch her working on the Class Constitution with her students.

"How do you want others to treat you this year?" she asks her students. "What are your hopes for the ways others do or don't interact with you?"

The students brainstorm a list together that goes up on the whiteboard.

"Do you notice anything interesting about this list?" Ms. De Haven asks the group.

Inevitably students start to recognize that their peers hold similar hopes and values (kindness, truth telling, etc.) as themselves. This revelation plants seeds of empathy and nudges students to consider how their words or actions may impact their peers.

Fifth grader Katie Jane shares this realization: "It’s important to hear other people’s ideas and what they have to say. I don’t want someone to ignore me when I’m talking, so I should respect them when they are talking."

As they work through these values, the students develop a Class Constitution—a series of agreements they make for how they want to treat each other.

"It’s really helpful to have their wording, not just mine," says De Haven, noting that the process gives the students a sense of ownership. The class then agrees as a community to "uphold the Constitution" that they’ve created.

Random Acts of Kindness

2019-Random-Acts-of-kindness-Board-2 copy

Middle School Counselor Sarah Rothstein also works hard to reinforce the community values on campus. Herself a transplant to Minnehaha with experience in two public school districts, she shares that she’s witnessed firsthand the uniqueness of the Minnehaha culture.

"I’ve never worked in a school where for the most part kids tell you the truth, and when they make a mistake and they own it," she says.

Rothstein is quick to clarify that Middle School students at MA aren’t perfect, and they definitely aren’t immune to the many quirky friendship dramas and behavior issues adolescents are famous for, but, she says, "As a whole the kids here really want to do the right thing. Although they make mistakes, they own them; although they have friendship troubles, they want to work them out."

Wanting to reinforce the good she already saw happening as well as broaden students’ ideas about serving and loving others, Ms. Rothstein instituted the Random Acts of Kindness board. Each year she writes out cards that recommend ways to serve others or help others feel safe and included in school. Over the course of a number of weeks, students chose cards from the board and then report back on what they did.

2019-Random-Acts-of-kindness-Cards-1-3 copy

Some examples include:

  • "I let someone go in front of me in line."
  • "I told someone that I was thankful for her because she always makes me laugh."
  • "I helped babysit for my neighbors."

Serving Others With Our Bodies

2019-Leaf-Raking-Shoot-MinnehahaAcademy-Minneapolis-Minnesota-12 copy

Even in the more unexpected places, like physical education class, instructors work with students on developing an awareness of others.

On a blustery Wednesday morning in October, fourth graders from Jordan Fitch’s phy-ed class toted rakes as big as themselves into a yard just a few blocks from the school. After a brief prayer for their time together and the family who owned the home, the students got to work pushing leaves into piles and then bagging them up.

In all, students served six neighborhood families through raking this fall.

"I’ve been trying to teach our PE students that our bodies aren’t just here to serve our needs alone, but that we are called to serve God and serve others with this gift that we’ve been given," shares Mr. Fitch.

2019-LS-Leaf-Raking-MinnehahaAcademy-Minneapolis-Minnesota-2 copy

Students praying for the people whose yards they would be raking that day.

Before raking he shared this scripture to help set the tone:

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." (Mathew 25:35-36)

While Fitch loves sports and loves the growth that comes from learning to be part of a team or to push oneself physically, underneath everything he wants students to connect their faith with all aspects of life.

"I would love students to see everything they do in PE as an opportunity to serve God and to honor Him," he says, reaffirming that a primary way we serve God is to serve others. "Raking was a unique experience to do that."

Full Circle

While these examples are just a few of the many ways faculty encourage students towards an awareness of and empathy for those around them, they typify an undergirding mindset seen in classrooms across campus.

Upper School Spanish instructor Anne Calvin notes, "Ultimately it’s about being the body of Christ. We call out the good in our students but we also name the things that are undesirable such as, 'that doesn’t have any place here.' The desire is to have an environment that is Christ-like, where the Holy Spirit is present. It’s not just a poster on the wall, but it’s rooted in something much deeper and more profound in how we view one another, that we do bear the image of God."


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Topics: Middle School, Upper School, Lower School, Caring Community

Student-Led Book Fair Marketing

Posted by Amy Barnard on Oct 10, 2019

A special thanks to the parents , teachers, and former parents whose artistic skills made this year's trip to Oz all the more special!

In order to connect the classroom more tightly to real-world scenarios, the Middle School called on eighth graders to take a lead role in marketing this year’s book fair.

Through the project, the students learned to examine and evaluate marketing materials, think through diverse audiences, pitch a concept, receive critique, and make adjustments based on feedback.

Product Conception

Taking the cue from methods used in current marketing practices, library assistant Susan Besser and art instructor Steve Taminga introduced the needs of the customer (the Lower and Middle School Library) to the marketing team (eighth grade art students).

They explained that the library was partnering with Scholastic to be the publisher’s “brick and mortar” store for the week October 7th, and they needed help advertising the event through promotional posters.

The instructors and students discussed the differences between their two primary audiences (Lower and Middle School students) and examined sample marketing materials, thinking through things that have and haven’t worked well in the past.

Taking Critique


From here the students were sent off to prepare pencil sketches of their proposals, which were then presented to Ms. Besser and Mr. Taminga for critique before making further revisions.

Once they had an approved design concept, students worked on their final project which they presented to the class as a whole, opening up the floor for “cool” and “warm” comments.

“We had students from the audience share what worked or what they thought could use improvement,” says Ms. Besser, explaining that being able to give gentle but constructive feedback (as well as being able to receive that feedback) is an important element of the unit.

Finally, faculty displayed the promotional posters along the main hall of the school as a way to draw students’ attention to the upcoming event.

One Step Further


In addition to posters created in the fine arts room, students who were part of Ms. Wildes’ 8th Grade Technology class designed promotional advertisements on Canva using the skills they’ve been learning this semester. Ms. Besser spoke to the students, presenting them with a similar challenge that she presented to the arts students, and then Ms. Wildes set them free to begin designing.

This opportunity to use their newly developing marketing skills in a real-life situation deepened students’ understanding of their craft as well as nudged them into new layers of receiving critique and finding ways to improve their work based on constructive feedback.

Topics: Middle School, Academics, Fine Arts, Cultivating Potential, Exceptional Academics

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