K-4 News and Notes

North elementary logo
Kurt Hildebrandt

Students at North Elementary school took part in Junior Achievement (JA) programming lessons taught by local business volunteers over the last few months. JA grade level and standard based learning lessons are delivered through local business leaders who volunteer their time in the classroom.

Principal Darin Doherty was enthusiastic at the opportunity this year to continue to enhance the relationships with local businesses and our students while reinforcing work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills through experiential learning.  

“This program is a great avenue to strengthen what students are already learning in the classroom as our teachers continue to inspire students to dream big and reach their potential,” Doherty said.   

Students in second grade participated JA Our Community, by exploring production methods through a simulation game as they reinforced what they are learning about taxes, decision making and how money flows in the economy. Third grade students engaged in JA Our City, connecting financial literacy and learning objectives for third-grade social studies, including money management and the importance of economic exchange within a city. JA Our Region, followed the 4th grade social studies learning objectives by emphasizing what they are learning in the classroom about money-management skills, goods and services and global markets through a hands on activity of starting a business and making smart decisions about managing money.

Junior Achievement, Kindergarten-12th grade programming, is sponsored through a scholarship by a local business.  

North elementary logo
Kurt Hildebrandt

Student Council, which had goal of 500 items, collects 1,509 items for St. Peter Area Food Shelf

  North fourth grade Student Council members, along 
  Principal Darin Doherty, dropped off 1,509 food/non-
  perishable items at the St. Peter Area Food Shelf on 
  Friday morning. 

North Elementary’s Student Council hosted its annual Food Drive the week of November 26-30 and students in grades 2-4 collected 1,509 food and non-perishable items during this year’s drive. The final weight of those donated items was 1,026 pounds.

Student Council members, under the direction of advisor Brenda Guappone, had a goal of collecting at least 500 items this year and the final tally more than tripled that goal. North fourth grade Student Council members, along with Principal Darin Doherty, transported the collected items to the St. Peter Area Food Shelf on Friday (Nov. 30) morning.

"I am proud of the students at North Elementary School," Guappone said. "The Student Council set a goal that 500 food items would be collected during our Food Drive. The students at North blew that goal out of the water with a collection of over 1,500 food items, with a weight over 1,000 pounds!

"The St. Peter Area Food Shelf was pleased with the donation. I am happy to help sponsor this collection every year. It is great to see the students make a difference in other people's lives, and in their community."

The fourth graders led with 547 items collected during this year’s North Food Drive while the third and second graders were close behind with 528 and 434 items collected, respectively. The top class in each grade will be treated to a donuts and apple juice party at a later date. Those winning classes included:

* Fourth grade -- Mr. Noble’s class (139 items)
* Third grade -- Ms. Steele’s class (170 items)
* Second grade -- Ms. Koepp’s class (101 items)

The logo for south elementary
Kurt Hildebrandt

  Mrs. Noble helps one of her first grade students at
  South Elementary during the reading relay.

Students at South Elementary (grades K-1) are wrapping up their annual Read A Thon and the Star Pride team put on a 'reading relay' as a way to complete the contest and further promote reading.

The goal of the relay was to have someone at school reading all day long, so each classroom in the building was assigned a time slot for their students to read. 

The 'Reading Bear' made a special visit to each classroom when it was their turn to read and was set outside the door letting people know the relay was in session. 

North elementary logo
Kurt Hildebrandt


Quinn Rassbach (right) and North third grade teacher Breanna Steele (left) with the items donated for this year's Clothes Closet drive.

   Quinn Rassbach (right) and North third grade teacher
   Breanna Steele (left) with the items donated for this year's
   Clothes Closet clothing drive.

The second annual North Elementary Clothes Closet event was held this past weekend and more than 100 people came to the school on Saturday to shop. Donations of gently used coats, hats, mittens, and boots were collected at North Elementary, South Elementary, and the Middle School.

The event was started last year by Quinn Rassbach, then a fourth grader at North who has moved up to Saint Peter Middle School this year, who was motivated to help out after she saw kids on the playground at school without warm weather clothes. She was assisted by her former third grade teacher, Breanna Steele, and some of her classmates with last year’s drive.

This past Friday, several volunteers including the Gustavus softball team, teachers, friends and family members of Quinn's, helped get all of the donated items set up in the North gym for the event. On Saturday, the doors were opened around 8:45 a.m. and the Clothes Closet stayed open until noon with more than 100 shoppers coming through the doors. The remaining youth clothing items will be kept at North and be distributed as needed. The rest of the adult clothing was donated to the SS Boutique in Mankato, a non-profit that provides clothing to those in need.

North Elementary earns state honor for work with EL students
Kurt Hildebrandt

School named among state's top 5% for Progress Toward English Language Proficiency

North Elementary was recognized by Minnesota Department of Education’s North Star system for being among the top five percent of all schools in the state for Progress Toward English Language Proficiency among its English learner (EL) students.

   North Elementary EL teacher Stella Meixner (standing) works
   with some her students on their English language skills.

The Department of Education’s North Star system was designed using extensive feedback from diverse stakeholders across Minnesota to satisfy the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the state's World's Best Workforce law (WBWF).

“In the past, schools in need of support were usually the only ones identified publicly, but the North Star system is the new accountability system put in place to provide extra support for schools in need and also recognize the top five percent in certain areas of proficiency,” North Principal Darin Doherty said. “It replaces legislation that had been put in place previously by programs such as No Child Left Behind.”

Doherty credits Stella Meixner, North’s EL/ESL (English Learner/English as a Second Language) teacher, and each of the homeroom teachers for North receiving this prestigious honor in the area of Progress Toward English Language Proficiency.

“Stella has always been a huge advocate for breaking down those barriers that our EL students have faced in acquiring English reading and writing skills,” Doherty said. “Her work with those students has been amazing and the connection she has built with our teaching staff is a tremendous benefit for our EL students.”

The "average progress toward target" is the average amount of progress English learners made towards their targets. The statewide average is 67 percent while Saint Peter Public Schools, district-wide, is above that at 70.6 percent. More specifically, North has had 92.6 percent of its EL students make progress towards their targets in 2017-18.

“This recognition is like receiving a card sent from my former student years ago. It is completely unexpected but simply warms my heart,” Meixner, who has worked with District 508 since 1994, said. “I feel very honored to work as a team with Mr. Doherty and all the dedicated teachers at North.  I also feel very blessed with wonderful students, who are willing to work hard and have fun with me on their learning journey.”

Meixner currently works with 61 EL students at North, and she works with 59 of them daily. Each EL student has varying levels of English-speaking ability when they begin classes at North, including several with no English skills. Meixner provides support for those students to improve those skills which will enhance their educational experience in the classroom.

“It always brings me joy to watch students develop their language skills,” Meixner said. “I especially enjoy teaching students how to read. For example, one of my Somali students, who had never attended school in Somalia before coming to the U.S., had a really hard time learning to read.  After working with him for months, he finally figured out how to sound out the words. We were so excited that we both jumped up and down like two overjoyed grasshoppers. I will always savor moments like this. It is extremely rewarding and magical in a way to unlock a brand new world for a student through reading.

“The EL students have very diverse abilities and needs,” she added. “They all have different literacy backgrounds, levels of education, and ways of learning.  It's challenging to differentiate the instruction to meet all their unique needs. In an effort to close the achievement gaps between ELs and their peers, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by what needs to be taught within the limited time I have with them.  Therefore, I try to incorporate fun ways to engage the students and use time efficiently to maximize their learning.”