News & Notes


The logo for south elementary
Kurt Hildebrandt

  The St. Peter Kiwanis Club recently donated 150
  children’s books to South Elementary and the
  Early Childhood Center as well as $250 to St. Peter
  Community & Family Education to be used for          scholarships for summer programming. Shown        here are St. Peter Kiwanis member Dr. Keith              Stelter, South Principal Doreen Oelke, Kiwanis          member Rich Helgeson, and Community & Family    Education Coordinator Tami Skinner.

Kiwanis International’s mission is to change and improve the lives of children all over the world, with providing reading opportunities being an important part of that work. With that in mind, the Kiwanis Club of St. Peter recently made a significant donation to District 508 to continue that mission.

The group recently donated 150 children’s books to South Elementary and the Early Childhood Center. In addition, the Kiwanis Club of St. Peter also contributed $250 to Saint Peter Community and Family Education to provide scholarships for local youth to participate in summer programming.

“Kiwanis International sends us books that we, as a District, can donate to local elementary and preschool students,” Dr. Keith Stelter, a member of the Kiwanis Club of St. Peter, said. “We are also donating $250 from our funds that will go to the scholarship program for Community Education’s summer programs. We know how the pandemic has affected families financially, and we hope this donation will provide an opportunity for children from these families to participate in these summer programs.”

“We very much appreciate the support of our local Kiwanis Club,” Doreen Oelke, South Elementary Principal said, “These books will be divided between our Kindergarten and first grade building and the St. Peter Early Childhood program. What a beautiful gift.”

“We are so grateful for this donation from the Kiwanis Club,” Tami Skinner, Saint Peter Community and Family Education Coordinator, said. “This donation will provide tuition assistance for children to attend these programs for free or at a reduced cost.”

The logo for south elementary
Kurt Hildebrandt

Motivating students to read is vital for schools at all levels, but it has its challenges, too, especially during the middle of the school year. To help inspire its students to read at South Elementary, the staff there recently created a “Secret Library” in a special labeled area in the school’s Book Nook room, which is usually a teachers’ area.

“The secret library was created because we hoped to spark a mid-year excitement for reading,” Instructional Coach Lori Pierret said.  And it seems to be doing just that! We are calling it "secret" to create excitement and a level of mystique. The students sneak in, crawl through our little tunnel entrance, choose a book, and sneak back out. 

“We have received some feedback from families saying their children are talking about it and are motivated to read their book and come back for a new one. Even if it motivates one student, it’s a win in my mind.”

Students can use the Secret Library for their book bags or take-home books, or anything that works for their classroom routines. 

“My students are loving the secret library! They are so excited to read, which makes my teacher’s heart happy,” North first grade teacher Bridget Powell said. “Many of my students bring their book back daily as they just can't wait to exchange their book for a new one. Students are building their confidence as readers because the books they are checking out are at their independent reading level, which means they can read these books at home to family members with little to no help. 

“Reading independently combined with the fact that the Secret Library is designed with fun in mind keeps them coming back for more! I have had several families reach out and tell me how impressed they are with the secret library as their children are coming home asking to read! We as teachers strive to instill a love for reading within our students, and I think the Secret Library helps us do just that.”

Once inside the Secret Library, students will find a colored bin for each level range of books. Students are encouraged to pick books from the bin that best matches their reading level. Then, students are allowed to take the books back to their room or home with them, and they are encouraged to return them in order to choose new ones. 

“We have such a nice collection of books, and it's great to have another way to get them into the hands of our students,” Pierret said. 

Saint Peter Public Schools logo
Kurt Hildebrandt

This is the third year for holiday gift program for kids started by Saint Peter Schools’ SRO Jon Hughes

 SPPS School Resource Office Jon Hughes presents
 a gift card to this youngster through his Shop With
 A Hero program, while fellow officers (and SPHS
 alums) Roman Hagen and Matt Grochow were also
 on hand for the presentation.

St. Peter Police Officer and Saint Peter Public Schools’ Resource Officer (SRO) Jon Hughes had the honor of passing out seventeen $100 gift cards, for Fleet Farm of Mankato recently to 13 students from Saint Peter Public Schools, and two each from Nicollet Public Schools and Dakota Meadows Middle School as part of his Shop With A Hero program during the holiday season.

This is the third year Officer Hughes has organized this event for students in need. Funding for the program comes from the following sponsors: Fleet Farm (Mankato), $500: Minnesota South Central Investigators Coalition (MSCIC), $500: St. Peter Lion’s Club, $150; and charitable gambling proceeds from the Red Men Bar, Embassy Bar, and The Flame Bar, all of St. Peter, $1,000.

“I am so grateful for the sponsors who make this program possible and hopefully bring some holiday cheer to these kids in Nicollet County,” Officer Hughes said. “I started this program two years ago through Shopko here in St. Peter but switched over to Fleet Farm last year after Shopko closed, and they were kind enough again to help out this year.” 

Because of the pandemic situation this year, Officer Hughes, along with some of his fellow law enforcement officers, did deliveries of the card in person this year, adhering to social distancing protocols, instead of shopping with the kids in person as he did in the two previous years. Nicollet County Sheriff Dave Lange handed out the two gift cards in Nicollet, and North Mankato Police Chief Ross Gullickson handed out the two for Dakota Meadows.  

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to shop together in person during the holidays in 2021,” Hughes said. 

The logo for south elementary
Kurt Hildebrandt

  Parent Tech Support Nights were held recently at 
  South Elementary for the school's Somali-
  speaking and Spanish-speaking families to
  familiarize them with Seesaw, South's online
  learning platform. 

Parent Tech Support Nights were held at South Elementary School on October 1st for Saint Peter Public Schools' Somali families and on October 12th for SPPS's Spanish families. The purpose of these events was to familiarize families with South's online learning platform called Seesaw.

Translation services were provided at both sessions, which were facilitated by South staff members Kaari Bly and Laura Zender. Affey Sigat (Somali) and Maripsa Romero (Spanish) served as translators, while Reading Corps tutors and leadership team member Liz Welter provided childcare. 

During the evening, staff members walked students and their parents through the step by step process of recording the student's attendance and using Seesaw to access assignments on digital learning days. 

"One of the biggest lessons we learned from last year's distance learning experience was that we did not have the opportunity to properly instruct our students and families on the tool that we used to deliver instruction," South Principal Doreen Oelke said. "Our goal this fall was to integrate the technology when we have the students in session and support families in using the technology so that they can be successful during distance learning days. These sessions are one way to address language barriers that may prevent students from engaging in their learning. It was wonderful to see so many attend."

The logo for south elementary
Kurt Hildebrandt

  South Elementary School Counselor Laura Zender 
  working with students on mindfulness techniques. 

Nervous, curious, courageous - returning and beginning in-person learning for our K and 1st graders at South Elementary has brought with it a variety of emotions.  One way that South is supporting students through this transition is through classroom lessons with Laura Zender, Elementary School Counselor.  

As part of this transition, first grade classes at South are reading Worry Says What? and learning mindfulness techniques.  In this picture, they practice Take 5, a simple trick to help you take 5 deep breaths.


1. Stretch your fingers out.
2. Use your pointer finger of your other hand to trace your hand. 
3. Breathe in while you trace up each finger. 
4. Breathe out while you trace down each finger.