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2013-14 South Elementary Archive



South PE students enjoy geocaching experience


South Elementary students (grades K-2) recently had the chance this spring to experience the fun experience of geocaching as part of their physical education class, taught by Christi Maloney.


Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.


“This was our first time geocaching with Kindergarten through 2nd graders,” Maloney said. “This was a way I could incorporate our technology with exercise!  What better way to get exercise than to hike using a compass to find our way to a treasure.


“We had 50 minutes and many classes were able to find at least 2 caches during our hike which was equivalent to approximately 1.5 - 2 miles per class.”


At its simplest level, geocaching requires these 8 steps:


*  Register for a free Basic Membership.

*  Visit the "Hide & Seek a Cache" page.

*  Enter your postal code and click "search."

*  Choose any geocache from the list and click on its name.

*  Enter the coordinates of the geocache into your GPS Device.

*  Use your GPS device to assist you in finding the hidden geocache.

*  Sign the logbook and return the geocache to its original location.

*  Share your geocaching stories and photos online.


What are the rules of geocaching?


*  If you take something from the geocache (or "cache), leave something of equal or greater value.

*  Write about your find in the cache logbook.

*  Log your experience at


“When asking students how many have geocached before only 1-3 students per class had ever done this,” Maloney said. “I took each of my classes 3 times to find geocaches and each time was successful!  Just a remind to those who go geocaching...please do not destroy a cache and follow the rules so others who enjoy this adventure can have fun finding caches too.”





Teacher training program is valuable for both South Elementary and MSU-Mankato

Block I teacher candidates spend five weeks learning on the job with local teachers



Twenty-five juniors in the elementary education program at MSU-Mankato took part in the Block I teacher candidate program at South Elementary this spring. They completed their give-week program on May 2.


St. Peter Public Schools and Minnesota State University-Mankato have had a long-standing sense of collaboration that stretches back nearly a quarter decade.


Over the years, that relationship has been crucial in helping MSU-Mankato’s education program produce quality teaching candidates year after year.


Three years ago, a change in the way teachers spend their time here with St. Peter Public Schools has not only made the program better for the future teachers but also for the St. Peter School District as well.


The Block I program (Experience in Elementary Classroom 321-level course at MSU) offers juniors in MSU-Mankato’s elementary education program a five-week, five-day-a-week opportunity to receive first-hand classroom experience at South Elementary Learning Center during the morning hours. The focus of these students during this five week course was helping to meet the literacy needs of the South students.


Two Block I students are assigned to a classroom and during that time they are required to not only observe the teacher they are assigned to but they also get a chance to work with kids in a variety of settings. Among those experiences includes preparing and teaching a lesson planat least once a week giving them a minimum of five classroom experiences before they complete their junior year of college.


“This is probably the first program of its kind in the state of Minnesota,” Scott Lusk, the TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) who works directly between the St. Peter Public Schools and MSU-Mankato as a master teacher who is in the second year of a three-year assignment as a TOSA. “We had 32 Block I students participate in the program last fall and we have another 25 here right now at South.


“We usually average around 25 to 30 teacher candidates for each session of the program,” Lori Piowlski, assistant professor for elementary and early childhood education, said. “This classroom work is very much a part of their development as teachers as we don’t consider them students anymore. Their experience here definitely helps set the tone for the rest of their development.


“Teachers here are willing to work with teacher candidates,” Lusk said. “They put in a lot of work and take a sense of ownership in the program and take time to give constructive advice. This program also allows them to work in small groups and engage the students. Teachers also take away lessons themselves from the teacher candidates.”


Before the teachers-in-training ever step foot inside the South building, they are acclimated early on to the cultural makeup of the building.


“There is a very community-like atmosphere here at South,” Piowlski said.


At least one supervisor is on site at all times -- either Piowlski, Lusk and/or Rick Lund. On-going support system makes it easy for the teacher candidates to receive assistance when necessary.


Scott meets with the students first and then Principal and one teacher from each grade level meets with them for a couple hours to fill them in on aspects of school’s Star Pride model and guided reading.


That preparation has a huge impact on the teacher candidates, according to Piowlski.


“It’s been a great relationship these past three years working with Scott (Lusk) and the teachers here at South Elementary,” Piowlski said. “It’s a big help for our field office as well because we don’t have to find separate placements for each of those students and it’s worked so well that other departments are looking at our model.”


Teacher candidates appreciate opportunity


During an informal survey of six of the MSU-Mankato teacher candidates, they offered many several positive comments on their experience at South Elementary ELC. Some of those comments included:


It definitely has helped me grow professionally. I was scared coming in but everyone here put us at ease right away and made us feel welcome.

* I’ve learned so much during these few weeks...much more than you could ever learn in a college classroom. Time has flown by as we get close to end of our sessions here.

* This has been a phenomenal experience.

* Teachers here have been nothing but encouraging to us.

* All our hard work in classroom prior to this is paying off well.

* There is a very good sense of community here. The staff was very welcoming and willing to give you tips.

* I feel very fortunate and blessed to be a part of this group.

* It has been a tremendous privilege getting involved in a program like this early on in our college training.




Doreen Oelke named new principal at South Elementary ELC

New administrator comes to St. Peter after 28 years in education in Waseca


After an extensive search, Doreen Oelke has been officially announced as the new principal for South Elementary Early Learning Center in St. Peter. Oelke’s hiring was approved by the St. Peter School Board at a special meeting on Wednesday, April 9.


Doreen is a great fit for South,” St. Peter High School Principal Paul Peterson, who will take over as District 508 Superintendent on July 1, said. “Her experiences in the primary setting along with her wonderful personal characteristics make her a fantastic selection to lead student learning at South.”


Oelke was chosen out of a pool of 34 candidates who applied for the position. Eight candidates were interviewed from among that pool and then out of that two candidates emerged as the finalists, including Oelke.


“Young children amuse and amaze me on a daily basis and I am extremely excited about assuming the role of Principal at South Elementary Early Learning Center,” Oelke said. “From the moment I walked in the door I could tell that I was entering into an environment that cares deeply about kids and each other.


“I am looking forward to getting to know the students, staff and parents of South, and my husband and I are looking forward to becoming a part of the St. Peter Community."


South’s new leader comes to St. Peter from Waseca where she is currently the Title I Lead and Targeted Services Coordinator for Waseca Public Schools. She will complete this school year in Waseca before assuming her new duties in St. Peter on July 1.


"St. Peter is a very progressive community and has an excellent reputation for promoting learning for all ages," Oelke said. "I am anxious to find my niche in helping to continue this tradition. 


Oelke received a educational specialist’s degree from Minnesota State University-Mankato, a master’s degree in education from the University of Minnesota, and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a kindergarten endorsement from MSU-Mankato.


During her 25-plus year career in education she has taught kindergarten, first grade, and third grade at Hartley Elementary School in Waseca. In 2010, she was named Waseca Public School’s Teacher of the Year.


New single point of entry/reception office opens at South



Students and staff returning to classes on Wednesday for the first time in 2014 got to see first-hand the new front office changes as the new single point of entry office area is now in use near the buildings main entrance.


The new office area will house the school’s two receptionists, Denise Roggow and Lois Warren, along with a new office for Principal Darin Doherty and a new conference room.


“We are excited to see most of the work has been done and to be able to move in here in time for classes to resume after the holiday break,” Doherty said. “These changes should make our building a lot safer from an access standpoint and give us a little bit more space which we’ve already filled up quickly.”


Those entering South before and after school hours can do so like they did before. However, those visiting during school hours (from 8 a.m. to 2:40 p.m.) will be required to stop at the single point of entry/reception office before they are allowed access to inside the building or when they are picking up their students.


The new and improved space has allowed Doherty and his staff some flexibility for additional classroom space.. The former main office/reception area has been converted into a larger special education classroom for instructor Beth Kallaus with some adjacent office space. A kindergarten play area, which had been set up temporarily in the cafeteria, has been moved into Kallaus’s former room.


Also, the former principal’s office has been converted into an office for the school’s case facilitiator/social workers while English Language Learners instructor Tom Bollum has moved into the former conference room from a temporary space in the South media center.


“Even though we did lose some space by converting classroom #1 into the new office, by shifting some things around it has helped us alleviate that space crunch a little, but things are still tight,” Doherty said. “The kindergarten play area was needed because when we moved all the kindergarten rooms to the main level we lost some activity and storage area in those rooms because they are smaller than the typical kindergarten classroom. It is nice to utilize the old special education room for the play area.”




Single point of entry project at South is underway



Construction crews at South Elementary have been busy converting a part of the girls locker room into a single point of entry office area. The project is supposed to be completed and the new office operational when school resumes after holiday break. (Kurt Hildebrandt - School Information Coordinator)


Construction crews have been busy recently working on the new single point of entry projects at both the North Intermediate and South Elementary buildings.


Both of the renovation projects are being done to help enhance the safety and security of each building and give staff at both schools better control of those entering and exiting the building during the normal school day.


Met-Con of Mankato is the contractor the district hired to do the single point of entry projects and were on the scene over the holiday weekend getting a good start on some of the work that may have been disruptive during a school day. They will continue the work during the school week and plans are in place to minimize noise and disruptions for the students.


The construction portion of the project is slated to be done by December 20 and staff at both schools confirmed they hope the new office spaces will be up and running when school reconvenes on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, after the lengthy winter holiday break.


The South project will involve moving Principal Darin Doherty and his secretary Lois Warren along with the school’s main receptionist Denise Roggow into former room #1. Visitors to the building will be required to enter the new office during the school day before access is granted to other parts of the building.


The current South principal/main office area will be converted into classroom and work areas to make up for space lost during the transition of room #1.


The main entrance will remain open for parents and visitors to use during the school day, but students are using alternative entry and exit points at the start and end of the school day.


The North project involves converting a portion of the girls locker room on the east side of the gym into an office where school receptionist Kristi Davis will be able to monitor those who enter or exit the building during the school day. North’s main office and principal’s office will remain in the same location.

The main entrance at North will remain open as usual during the construction project.




South students tour store to learn about healthy eating


South Elementary Early Learning Center second graders had a chance to tour the Family Fresh Market grocery store  in downtown St. Peter recently to learn more about nutritional guidelines for eating healthy.


Included in the MyPlate tour was the chance for the students to sample some of these nutritional foods.


“We visited with Lisa Danielson who is a dietitian with Family Fresh Market and he discussed the new 'MyPlate' nutritional guidelines for eating healthy,” Jodi Nixon, one of South’s second grade teachers, said.. “The students toured the store and learned about healthy vegetables, fruits, proteins, grains and dairy. They also enjoyed some samples of these nutritional foods.”


Danielson emphasized that these grocery store tours are part of the Well Balanced program that Family Fresh Market stores offer.


“This is a way for the store to help customers make healthy food choices,” Danielson said. “Offering grocery store tour to school age children and teenagers is to way to show the kids the grocery store and give them hands on experience with making healthy food choices.


“During the tour we stop in each department and talk about what part of the MyPlate diagram it fits on. In the produce area I have each student pick out a fruit or vegetable of each color of the rainbow and put it in our grocery cart. At the end of the tour we discuss what the produce items are and how they grow. At the meat counter one of our associates shows the students different meats, and some seafood such as lobster, crawfish and frog legs. In the cereal and bread aisle we talk about whole grains and the importance of fiber in their bodies. We also discuss water and milk as a healthy drink option instead of pop or energy drinks.


“Throughout the tour we have samples of different foods that students may not have eaten for example: fruit-holiday grapes, pomegranate; vegetables-red pepper; dairy/grains- greek yogurt topped with whole wheat cereal, whole wheat bread with natural peanut butter.


“Kids and young adults have so many options including a lot of not so healthy options.  If they understand why each food group is important for a healthy body, it may help them make more educated decisions about what they are consuming on a daily basis.”


South & North students ‘skate’ by in phy ed class

South Elementary physical education instructors Christi Maloney (in gray sweatshirt) and Bill Stuewe (background right) work with first graders on rollerskating fundamentals. (Photo by Kurt Hildebrandt - School Information Coordinator)

By Kurt Hildebrandt – School Information Coordinator

Rollerskating is a physical activity normally associated with the days of yesteryear as inline skating (aka rollerblading) and similar activities became more popular and mainstream.

Nonetheless, around 16 years ago a group of physical education instructors within the St. Peter Public School system saw the benefits of youngsters whirling about on the more traditional four-wheel skates. Those benefits continue to this day as the past few weeks students at both South Elementary and North Intermediate have laced up the skates as part of their regular physical education regimen much to the delight of many of the youngsters.

“The goal is to provide the students with lifelong skills, something everyone can do at some level,” North physical education instructor Steve Sizer said. “I think most of the kids have enjoyed it. Some have had to work hard at it, but they did it.”

“The first year we did the rollerskating unit was back in 1997 and it was funded by a St. Peter Education Foundation grant as a trial to see if it was something our department wanted to build into our curriculum,” South physical education instructor Christi Maloney said. “Yes, a majority of the kids love it!  At the end of class we hear the moans when we tell them it's time to take the gear off.

“For most kids at our school it is one of the highlights of their year and definitely a memory for most.  I've had past students come back to help in a class and they talk about how much fun it was to skate.”According to Maloney and Sizer, the fitness and health benefits of the rollerskating unit include:

* Great cardio-respiratory workout (rated 18 out of 21 by the Presidents Council on Physical Fitness)

* Focus on balance, coordination and improved motor skills will help students excel in other physical activities.

* Roller-skating is coed, individualized and for all ages. You’ll see your students improve quickly as they develop their skills and confidence.

* Most of all, skating is fun! Students feel less competitive pressure and can simply enjoy this form of fitness...for a lifetime.

* Basic skills are taught, such as putting gear on correctly, standing up safely, t-stand, marching in place, forward skating and falling safely.  First grade is introduced to forward crossovers as well and second graders are introduced to t-stop and backward skating. 


Single point of entry project is underway at South

Room #1 at South Elementary is in the process of being converted into a single point of entry office which will help control those coming in and out of the building during the school day. (Kurt HIldebrandt - School Information Coordinator)
An alternative dismissal procedure at South Elementary Early Learning Center will be put in place at that school once the major construction has begun on the single point entry office project. That could be as early as this week (Nov. 11-15).
The dismissal plan calls for those in rooms 2-16 to exit the school through the playground doors while rooms 17 to 24 will leave the school building through the ECSE doors.
The alternative dismissal procedure will remain in place until further notice. This project is scheduled to be completed by around December 20.

Corie Walters named Teacher of the Week

South Elementary first grade teacher Corie Walters (back row, left) poses with her class and a representative from Z99 after earning Mt. Kato Ski Area Teacher of the Week honors. 
A South Elementary Early Learning Center first grade teacher received a prestigious honor recently.
Corie Walters was named by Z99 Radio (Three Eagles Communications) as its Mt. Kato Ski Area Teacher of the Week and was honored at a brief ceremony in her classroom on Thursday afternoon.

Corie was provided with a gift package from Becky’s Floral, Indulge Salon andTanning and Mt. Kato while students in her class received a prize package from Mt. Kato, Aquafina/Pepsi-Cola of Mankato, Snell Mothers, Culvers and Jake’s Pizza.
Walters is the second South first grade teacher to receive this honor this school year. Kelly Rands received the ward in early October.




SAC program at South has record participation



Amanda Rathman-Edwards (left) has taken over as interim coordinator for the SAC program at South from Sarah Jamieson (right) who recently moved out of state after more than three years at the helm of the program. 



By Kurt Hildebrandt

School Information Coordinator


There has been a substantial increase this school year in the number of participants enrolled in the SAC (School Age Care/St. Peter Adventure Club) after-school program, hosted at the South Elementary Early Learning Center.


“In the past we’ve had as many as 50 students signed up for our program, but this year we have 75 registered,” Sarah Jamieson, outgoing SAC coordinator, said. “There are so many kids signed up we had to put a hold on any further registrations because we simply don’t have enough room or workers.


“It’s a good problem to have knowing that the program will be able to fund itself through the registration fees, but at the same time you really don’t want to turn kids away either.”


The SAC program begins at 2:45 p.m. each school day and has students there as late as 5:45 p.m. Participants can partake in a variety of activities ranging from art projects and board games as well as activity and play areas and other toys. SAC participants also have the gym available to them at select times and other special activities are also planned during the afternoon.


The program is designed to meet the needs of children of working parents and aims to provide high quality care for children in grades kindergarten through sixth grade. It offers a fun, safe and caring environment that fosters education, recreational and developmentally appropriate experiences that compliment the child’s school day.


“We consistently have about 50 kids here after school and they come from both South and North,” Jamieson said. “We have a free-choice environment and while we encourage the children to participate in the activities, they aren’t required to do so.”


There are three different cost options for parents to consider in signing their children up for the program. Those include:
* A 4 p.m. pick up option which is $4.85 per day.
* The full daily plan (2:45 to 5:45 p.m.) which costs $9.45 per day
* The drop-in plan which is $14 per time and requires a 24 hour notice.
(Note: Bus transportation to South for SAC participants is available, but must be arranged by the parents/guardians of the participants.)


Jamieson’s duties with the SAC program officially ended on October 25 as she is moving out of state. Taking over for her on an interim basis is Amanda Rathman-Edwards, who has worked with Jamieson over the past few years.


There are three other assistants on staff to assist with the SAC activities and several Gustavus Adolphus College work study students also work throughout the week.


“We had so many kids sign up this year we had to add an additional staff person,” Jamieson said. “It’s a good situation to be in, because we’d rather have so many taking advantage of this great program then the other way around.


“It’s going to be tough leaving here, especially since we have so many wonderful people involved with the program. However, I’m very confident I’m leaving the SAC program in good hands with Amanda and the others as well as whoever they hire to take over my position permanently.”


For more information on the St. Peter Adventure Club’s SAC program contact the St. Peter Community & Family Education Office at (507) 934-3048.

Local firefighters visit with South students
As part of the recent Fire Prevention Week festivities, members of the St. Peter Fire Department spent a good portion of Tuesday visiting with students at South Elementary Early Learning Center.
Firefighters Jerry Yushta, Ed Johnson, Danny Dvorak and Tom Roessler talked to the students about fire safety and prevention tips.
Among the topics of discussion were the need for students to “stay low and go” if they were in a fire situation, using their “noisy” voice if ever inside a burning building and to “stop, drop and roll” if they or someone around them ever catches on fire.
The firemen also reminded the students to make sure their family’s smoke detectors are working properly.