News & Notes

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)

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.”

Mankato Elks Lodge #225 donates school supplies to SPPS students
Kurt Hildebrandt

Mankato Elks Lodge #225 received a Beacon Grant from the Elks National Foundation in the amount $2,000, which they used to provide school supplies for students in need at three SPPS school buildings. 

Mankato Elks Lodge #225 received a Beacon Grant from the Elks National Foundation in the amount $2,000, which they used to supply South Elementary, North Elementary and St. Peter Middle School with totes loaded with all the supplies needed to assist more than five students per grade level as they returned to classes in early September.  

The totes were filled with a backpack, and all the supplies listed on the grades supply list.  The main goal of this program is to make sure the students entering school on their first day have the tools needed to learn.  This takes the burden off the teacher and the parent when it comes time to attend class if the situation arrives that a child is in need.

Mankato Elks Lodge #225 is an organization that focuses on youth and veterans in the surrounding communities.  Because Lodge #225 does not have a club, all of its fundraising efforts are returned directly to their community projects, such as its Back to School Program.  To learn how to become a member or for more information on the Mankato Elks Lodge #2225, please send an email to

Saint Peter Public Schools logo
Kurt Hildebrandt

The annual New Teacher Breakfast was hosted by the St. Peter Chamber of Commerce the morning of August 23 at the Minnesota School Board Association's (MSBA) office building.

  New South Elementary and North Elementary staff includes:
  front row (l to r), Maren Kind (SLP), Bridget Mathiowetz (fourth
  grade), Jenny Kapernick (special education), Jennifer LeBrun
  (fourth grade), Courtney Shey (second grade STEM); back row,
  Alex Weis (adaptive physical education), Iliana DeRemer (ELL),
  Stella Meixner (mentor, ELL), Lauren Meredith (second grade),
  Allison Koepp (second grade), and Matt Lewis (fourth grade).

The annual New Teacher Breakfast was hosted by the St. Peter Chamber of Commerce on August 23 at the Minnesota School Board Association's (MSBA) office building. The breakfast is an opportunity with St. Peter business and community leaders to meet and network with the new teaching staff.

MSBA and Scholarship America sponsor the event each year for the new teachers from Saint Peter Public Schools, Gustavus Adolphus College, and local private schools.

Those addressing the large crowd of new faces (and some familiar ones) included Ed Lee, St. Peter Chamber executive Director; Juli Sowder, Scholarship America marketing manager; Kirk Scheidawind, MSBA executive director; and Saint Peter Superintendent Paul Peterson.

Raffle prizes were provide by Nicollet County Bank, First National Bank, and the St. Peter Chamber of Commerce.

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