About Our School

Our Story

Nerstrand Elementary School is K-5, tuition free, progressive charter school located in the rural community of Nerstrand, a short distance from the Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. Geographically situated within the triangle formed by the communities of Faribault, Northfield, and Kenyon, our story is unlike that of any other Minnesota charter school. After a unanimous vote of the entire staff in March of 1999, we became the first official "Conversion Charter School" in our state. Having been established in 1887-88, Nerstrand School has celebrated its 125th year of operation -- first as its own district, then as part of the Faribault District, and now as our own Charter District #4055.

A strong sense of progressive education tradition continues to thrive at Nerstrand School, where we celebrate relationships with our community members and take great pride in what makes our school special. Progressive education principles share the conviction that democracy means active engagement by all citizens in the social, political and economic decisions that affect their lives--and, in turn, that early education at its best should cultivate respect for individual abilities and for socially engaged intelligence in order to spur this kind of participation in community and public affairs. 

Nerstrand students construct their understanding of the world through hands on processes. Teachers have been guided by the principles of progressive education, engaging students in child-centered, meaningful work that involves problem solving. We are very proud of the academic accomplishments of our students over a long period of time.

Learning is social, and we work to develop each child's social-emotional skills in addition to academic skills. All of our teachers have been trained in Responsive Classroom approach. The Responsive Classroom approach is based on the premise that children learn best when they have both academic and social-emotional skills.

We offer strong programs in reading, language arts, and mathematics that help our students realize success in the curricular areas of science, social studies, and technology – including environmental education. We also embrace a strong commitment to the teaching and appreciation of the visual arts. There are many special programs embraced by Nerstrand Elementary School. We take special pride include our daily instruction in physical education by certified teachers. These programmatic elements have been a part of our school since we chartered in 1999 and they continue to be programs that help to define us today. Long ago the recipient of a Federal "Learn and Serve America" grant over the course of nine years, the seeds of Service Learning were planted in our school and remain today. Extending service to our greater community and within our school community, our students understand the importance of serving others and recognize that significant learning results from those experiences. Students participate in a number of Youth Boards where they can put service into practice and teachers look for opportunities to weave service into projects they carry out throughout the year. Service Learning has been woven into the fabric of the school over a long period of time. For a longer document regarding the historical perspective of our school, see About Our School (pdf).

Our Authorizer

Our charter authorizer is Novation Education Opportunities (NEO). NEO authorizes fifteen Minnesota Charter Schools in rural, urban, and suburban locations. They are located at 3432 Denmark Avenue Suite 130; Eagan, MN 55123. Their telephone number is 612-889-2103. NEO’s Executive Director is Wendy Swanson-Choi. NEO’s Vision is "to be the leading Minnesota authorizer of high quality charter schools." Their Mission is "to oversee innovative charter schools through consistent, ongoing and robust evaluation to achieve significant and measurable student growth for the benefit of our schools and community." Nerstrand Elementary School is pleased to be a part of the NEO family of charter schools and we appreciate the benefits accorded to us through our association with NEO and the other schools they authorize.

Our Mission

"Nerstrand Elementary School will empower students to be self-directed, lifelong learners by providing a nurturing, multiage environment which fosters cooperation and character development."

Shared Vision

Nerstrand Staff members will work collaboratively to plan programs that ensure that students develop skills and attitudes necessary for being responsible citizens in the twenty-first century.


Annual Reports

Official Documents

See our Reports and Audits page for additional documents.



  • Do what is best for kids

Community of Respect and Integrity

  • Honest, reliable, trustworthy, compassionate, respectful . Accepting of individual differences
  • Acknowledge others for what they do well
  • Good work ethic

Safe environment

  • Nurturing, progressive education environment

High standards/Excellence for all

  • Academic standards are high for both students and staff


  • Team approach