Friday, April 4, 2014

Day 125 - A Small School with Big Opportunities

Today's post is from 2011 grad Sarah Silverstein

I graduated from MWHS back in 2011 and, at the time, I was eager for graduation. The next big adventure (college!) was waiting for me – I was so ready to move to my new city and start a new life.

Now that I’m three years removed from high school, it’s interesting to look back at the years I spent at MWHS. I didn’t always realize it at the time, but growing up in District #277 was an experience unlike any other; the activities I participated in, the people I met, and the environment of a small town school provided me with more opportunities than I could have ever imagined. When I hear my peers’ stories now about their high school experiences, I’m eternally grateful for the time I spent learning and growing in Mound, Minnesota.

At MWHS, I never felt the need to conform or change. As a smaller school, there wasn’t as much pressure to fit in or seek attention. We all knew each other to some extent, whether it was as teammates, classmates, best friends, or neighbors. While this could sometimes be a bit claustrophobic as a teenager, I realize now that our tight-knit community offered so many more advantages than I ever realized. When I got to college, I found myself immediately joining clubs in an effort to replicate that extraordinary community feeling.

Partially because of our size, MWHS also presented so many opportunities for involvement and growth. Because we were a smaller school, we didn’t have too many students for our sports teams or a waiting list for activities. We were lucky; if we wanted to try something new, we could do it. When I was listing activities on my college application and I realized just how many different activities I’d gotten involved in, it dawned on me: MWHS is a place where students can easily figure out what matters most to them. Everything that I did at MWHS (and believe me, I did a lot) taught me a little bit more about my interests and, even more, myself. I’m still constantly drawing upon those experiences today.

On graduation day, I stood in front of my 160 classmates and their families to deliver one of three commencement speeches. I had watched two of my close friends deliver the first two, and I remembering being so proud of the life that we had all built at this small town school. Looking down on faces that I recognized, whether it was from a play in eighth grade, trying out for wind ensemble together as freshmen, dissecting a frog as sophomores, tackling AP classes as juniors, or celebrating our last homecoming as seniors, I realized something: the students at Mound Westonka High School are more lucky than we’ll ever know.

MWHS was an amazing place to spend my formative high school years, and I wouldn’t change that time for the world.


If you have a story that you would like to share, please email for more information! We would love to hear from you!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Day 124 - Hilltop Teacher: We Are So Lucky to Work in this District!

 Today's post is from Hilltop Elementary Art Teacher Klair Hans

As an art teacher, my students are used to seeing the classroom full of paint, paper, brushes, clay, and even weird stuff like soup cans and cardboard cities. But today I had a special surprise for them… an owl!

Brett Seiber is a naturalist from Three Rivers Park District who visits Hilltop regularly to teach students about the great outdoors. He does everything from showing animals to making real maple syrup with the kids. When he offered to bring his owl to art class, how could I say no?

The third graders have been learning about gesture and contour drawing. Gesture drawing is a quick sketching method, meant to capture the movement of the subject. Contour drawing is a much slower drawing process that focuses on the lines and details of the subject. After doing some quick gesture drawings, the students made a detailed contour drawing of the owl. Here are some pictures from today:

We are so lucky in this district to have a naturalist like Bret. Hilltop principal Nancy Benz is currently working on obtaining a grant so we can keep him here next year, too. Who knows what animals you might see visiting the art room next fall!

If you have a story that you would like to share, please email for more information! We would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Day 123 - Lifelong White Hawk

Today's post is from 2010 grad Charlie Maahs
There are a lot of contrasts between the University of Minnesota and Mound Westonka. Since moving on to college I’ve realized so many great things that Westonka offers that I took for granted during high school. One of the most incredible things that I’m very grateful for are the friendships that I developed in a small school.

I started in the Westonka school district as a kindergartner and continued all the way to graduation. During that time a lot of things can change, but fortunately for me a lot of things stayed the same. Over the years you get to know all of your classmates so well at Mound Westonka and the friendships can last for years. I met people on my first day of kindergarten that I sat next to during graduation, that’s so crazy! It’s really an incredible thing to meet people at such a young age and be able to grow up with the same friendly faces around you.

Now that I go to such a large school, I believe that the experience I had at MWHS is something that you won’t find at most schools. I’m grateful for the awesome people that I got to know so well at Westonka. Looking back, it’s a very cool feeling to look around at the end of high school and have great memories with so many different people. Today we may be Gophers and Badgers, or Tommies and Johnnies, but we will always be White Hawks, and that’s what I’m proud of.

Willie and Charlie Maahs

If you have a story that you would like to share, please email for more information! We would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Day 122 - Play It Again

Today's post is from senior Lily Frenette

It's not easy starting a new activity, but starting an activity that requires hours of memorization seems impossible. But that's what I choose to do when I joined the school play, "The Odd Couple". I expected to get a small part, since it was only my first production, but I was surprised when instead I was cast as Olive, one of the leads.

It was a lot of work to take on, with countless lines and movements that needed to be memorized. Don't forget to grab your briefcase; you have to say irritate instead of aggravate; the list goes on. But despite all the hard work, being in the play was still extremely enjoyable. I loved hanging out with my friends and laughing during rehearsals.

All of the rehearsals came to a head during our final week when I performed in my first and last show at MWHS as a senior. I was so nervous! I kept telling myself that I've had this memorized for weeks and had nothing to worry about, but I still had jitters. Then I walked out on stage and performed. It felt fantastic!

The cast of "The Odd Couple" celebrating after the Friday show

Lily is a senior and is excited to be graduating this year. She will be attending Sarah Lawrence College. Follow Lily at @journalingirl on Twitter.

If you have a story that you would like to share, please email for more information! We would love to hear from you!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Day 121 - Proud to be part of DART

Today's post is from MWHS Media Specialist Anitra Trapp

There hasn’t been a day since I started as the Media Specialist at MWHS ten years ago that I haven’t turned the corner onto Sunnyfield Road and driven past the school sign and thought to myself, “Yep. I’m lucky.” And yes, sometimes I turn back out onto Sunnyfield at the end of the day and pass that same sign and think, “Man. I’m tired!”

The people that surround you can make or break your work experience and in this environment, I’ve made it! The staff are so supportive of one another and spend so many hours giving back to the students and the school. The students at MWHS work hard. They are tolerant. They are kind. And they very rarely give their Media Specialist any grief.

The building itself has always been a source of pride for me. It has distinctive layout not found in many schools. Built in 1971, this building was designed by Hammel Green and Abrahamson and won the AIA Minnesota Merit Award in 1972. It was designed to be a flexible structure that would lend itself to expansion and changing use with an upper level “mall”, moveable partitions, courtyard, and skylights. Many of these design features have served us well, but after 40 years some areas of the school needed rejuvenation.

Over the years, a few of us teachers have thought, “Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if . . . “ and rattled off our ideas of ways to improve areas of the building. In the Spring of 2012, I decided we should try to achieve those ideas and formed DART (Design And Refine Team). DART members brainstormed ways we could showcase the pride we have in MWHS. We spruced up some old display cases to highlight our Student Activities as well as the history of those that came before us. We worked with our facilities to improve the signage in the building, touch up the painting and plan for more painting in the future. A new office display space is taking shape to honor student achievements throughout the year. We added some benches at the entrances so students have a place to sit while waiting for a ride. Our group donated our time and money to complete many of these projects and most have been small or subtle changes.

Could these improvements been done by a small scrappy committee at any other school? Maybe, but I wager that no other committee would have received the acceptance and counsel we did. Keith Randklev and Marty Fischer encouraged us, offered advice, asked for advice, embraced changes, attended meetings, worked with others in the district on our behalf and never stood in the way of our enthusiasm.

Being a part of DART is one way I show the pride I have in MWHS and just another reason for me to say, “Yep. I’m lucky” when I come to school each morning.

Old memorabilia 

New memorabilia -- Mrs. Trapp

Other new changes happening in the building 

If you have a story that you would like to share, please email for more information! We would love to hear from you!