Honors for Murray Middle School teacher and more

By Sarah Clark

Murray Middle School

Honor for Combs

The Concordia University St. Paul Alumni Association recently recognized DeWayne Combs, Murray Middle School physical education as its Educator of the Year 2022.

Each year, the Concordia Alumni Association awards alumni who are making a difference in their community and hosts a ceremony for all award recipients. In 2020, Combs was a finalist for the Minnesota Teacher of the Year award.

DeWayne Combs, left, receives the Educator of the Year award from the Concordia University- St. Paul Alumni Association. Submitted photo.

Student scientists in the field

Murray’s Comparative Anatomy classes visited the Belwin Outdoor Educational Lab in Afton on a cold day in mid-October to study the variety of species living in various ecosystems.

Students took environmental samples, logged plant species, counted animals and animal signs and also helped the Washington County Water district harvest native seeds as part of a prairie restoration program.

Fundraiser for childhood cancer research

Students with the Murray Middle School Junior Honor Society collected coins in October from the school community to donate to children’s cancer research.

For every $100 the students collected, a staff member volunteered to cut off and donate their hair. As of early November, the total dollars raised was $325.61.

Prior to the Bugle’s December issue deadline, teacher Erin Dooley said, “Three of us will be having ponytails cut off at our Core Value assembly on Nov. 17.”

Twin Cities German Immersion School

Student class openings

The Twin Cities German Immersion School has spots open for the current 2022-23 year in the third and fifth through eighth grades.

TCGIS is a kindergarten to eighth grade public charter school (no tuition or fees!) in St. Paul. Busing is available.

Prospective families are invited to visit Twin Cities German Immersion School during six school tours between October and February. Each hour-long, in-person tour includes visits to classrooms and a question and answer session with an administrator and a teacher. Learn more at: tcgis.org/school-tours.html

If you or someone you know is interested in enrolling, please email enrollment@tcgis.org.

Submitted by Katharina Schirg, TCGIS communications relations director.

St. Anthony Park Elementary School

More time for the arts at SAP Elementary

The Arts at St. Anthony Park Elementary look a little different than in years past and the kids are loving it.

“I love both performing and visual arts,” said Asha Ammerman, a third grader at the school. “I like that in Visual Arts they will give you a subject and a variety of colors but you can create whatever you want. In Performing Arts, I like that even when they give you a story, you are allowed to change characters and costumes.”

In 2021, principal Karen Duke secured extra funding to hire more arts teaching specialists at SAP Elementary following the retirement of part-time art specialist Courtney Oleen.

“The arts are an important way for students to express themselves and develop creativity and problem-solving skills,” Duke said. “They are the best way for some students to engage in school.”

Meaghan Shomion joined the SAP Elementary staff in the fall of 2021 as the visual arts teacher. She has worked within the St. Paul Public School District since 2006, serving at Harding and Highland Park senior high schools.

“At the high schools, I always felt like I was doing cartwheels to get the students’ attention and to keep them engaged. And I did, and they were. But here, it’s just very different, there are no cartwheels needed! The elementary school kids have so much joy.”

Meaghan Shomion and Ahna Brandvik in the Visual Arts classroom at St. Anthony Park Elementary. Photo by Sarah CR Clark.

Ahna Brandvik, SAP’s new performing arts teacher, joined staff this fall when former general music teacher Brad Ollmann took a different position within the St. Paul School District.

Brandvik came from SPPS’s Four Seasons A+ Elementary, an art-focused magnet school, where she had worked since 2004. Brandvik has also worked as a full-time actor/writer/director with numerous local theaters — as well as the Minnesota Vikings, 3M and Honeywell. She has also appeared in movies, TV and radio.

All SAP Elementary students attend Shomion and Brandvik’s classes at least once a week. In Visual Arts, older students are currently learning about architecture and creating their own buildings from clay while younger students will begin composing collages from painted media.

In the Performing Arts classes, students have been studying books and, in small “production groups,” planning ways to bring the stories to life via sound effects/music, script writing, costumes, sets/props and publicity.

Also all students will also get artist-in-residence experiences
 during the year, where artists from the community come to visit classrooms and share their crafts.

“I think public education spends an awful lot of time narrowing the path of a student,” Brandvik said during an interview. “I think the arts are the way we widen the path as far as we can so more students have more opportunities to see themselves in the world.”

Shomion agreed, adding, “Students see themselves in the world through the arts and feel heard and seen. We talk a lot about being culturally aware. But when we focus only on reading and math, we end up with blinders on and in a society where people are siloed and don’t know how to interact with each other.”

Sarah CR Clark is a regular Bugle freelance writer.

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