From the desk of Maggie

I had the opportunity to teach an art lesson in each of the Savannah classrooms over the last couple of weeks.  The art lesson used many geometric shapes and I asked both classes questions about geometry and if they could define some geometric terms.  They were so enthusiastic about showing off their knowledge.  But I was impressed with how those students who were unsure of some of my questions used their reference books to verify their answers. One of the skills we try to teach children as teachers and parents is how to "find" answers, other than asking someone else.  Because we know that in the real world one of the best skills we can have is where to go to find answers, because it is impossible for us to know everything.  Educators use the term "gradual release of responsibility" for this move towards children being in charge of their own learning and seeing themselves as being able to look for answers.  

From my experience, Math has always been the subject that parents can feel the most challenged about helping with homework.  Since Math does have its own language a website that is a nice place to go for definitions of math terms is  

As I am writing this the Savannah is having their Cinderella Stories Around the World Ball, and all classes are having their Valentine's Day celebrations.  There is a lot of positive energy in the building today from both children and adults!  Next week we look forward to former Governor Al Quie visiting on Tuesday.  He will be our 40th Community Celebration Honoree.  Both Woodlands classes will be at the interview and will be performing his song on April 29th.  On Friday, February 19th, will be our all school field trip to the Minnesota History Museum.  It's fun to have so many wonderful experiences for our students!


All the best,


From the Desk of Maggie

Happy 2016!

We are posting a picture that Cheryl Keller, paraprofessional at Nerstrand, photographed.  I loved that when I saw it, I knew exactly where it was because the views around our school have become so familiar to me over these last 19 years. Some of the most spectacular sunrises I've seen in my life have been in and around Nerstrand.    I never get tired of the beauty I see coming to work each day.  Our physical setting has always had a huge impact on the curriculum of our school as well as the personality of it.  We are nearing the half way point of this school year, which doesn't seem possible.  Although January can be a quieter month around the building, there is always something special going on here.  Our annual trip to the Faribault High School for their Children's play is coming up on the 20th and our school carnival is on the 29th.  I think moving the carnival to January has been a good way to space out the special traditions we have at our school.  

We will also be starting our second round of NWEA/MAP testing beginning 1/19.  This time kindergartners will also be tested for reading and math.  These results will be shared with you during the March conferences.  Your child's classroom teachers will be letting you know the testing schedule in their Weekly Peeks.  We hope that children are rested for testing days so we get the most accurate snap shot of their academic progress.  

We have another special activity coming up this month too.  Our 3-5 graders are going to be given a wonderful opportunity to help take part in the building of an authentic Dakota dug out canoe.  Larry Richie has been working with students at the Faribault STEM school building this canoe and Larry wanted Nerstrand students to participate in this once in a lifetime experience.  On Jan 25th, 27th and 29th Larry will bring the canoe to Nerstrand so that small groups of 3-5th graders can come outside and help with the digging out of the canoe.  The Dakota people used fire as a tool with this construction and so a small, controlled fire is placed in the canoe for up to an hour and then moved to another section of the canoe.  Students will be helping Larry to carve out the charcoal left from the burn.  This canoe is from a cottonwood tree and measures 22 ft. long and 32 in. wide.  Permission forms will be coming home for students who are old enough to be part of this activity.  All students will be able to see the canoe.  This is a project ties in nicely with our tipi experience that will be happening in the fall of 2016.

Even though the Peace Garden is covered in a blanket of snow, and the temperature this morning read -11 we are climbing up towards spring.  By the end of this month we will have almost 10 hours of daylight!  Still, there's plenty of winter left so we ask that you check to make sure your children have all their winter clothes.  We have students go out at recess unless the temperature, or wind chill is under 0.  


Stay warm,

Maggie Kiley


Nerstrand School

Winter Holidays

It doesn’t seem as if it can possibly be close to the winter holidays when I look out at the Peace Garden and see grass and not a bit of snow.  We all know how quickly the weather can change here, though, so we’ll be having students bring home all their winter gear over the break, but they’ll need to bring it back in January.  We are no longer sharing any clothing from the lost and found, so it is very important to be sure to send your child to school with snow pants, boots, hats, mittens and coats.

It’s a pleasure to see the first Eagle’s Nest go out.  This school newspaper has been a long standing tradition at our school.  It’s been going on for over 20 years!  It’s been nice seeing all of the writing going on around the building in anticipation of the Eagle’s Nest and for other projects.  One of the projects I have seen is the Savannah students have been working on sending letters back to their Pen Pals at Bridgewater Elementary School in Northfield.  The Savannah students seemed really focused on their writing knowing that they had an audience outside of their classroom that they were writing to.  It’s a very cool project!

I am writing this the day after our Holiday Program which was wonderful.  I have gotten so many positive comments about the performance.  It was special seeing Matthew put together his first program and to pull it off so beautifully.  We are grateful to all our families for the support and effort you put in to make this program a success.  I know from personal experience the morning after a concert can be challenging as a parent!

As we move closer to the winter break we also move into another phase of the school year.   By the end of January we will be half way through this year and the days will be getting longer.  I hope all of the Nerstrand families enjoy the winter break.  Looking forward to seeing you in 2016

From the Desk of Maggie

I have been looking through old binders and files in my office and came upon our Mission Statement, which we still have today.  Our mission statement says that Nerstrand Elementary School will empower students to be self-directed, lifelong learners by providing a nurturing, multiage environment that fosters cooperation and character development.  

On this same page it then went on to state specific purposes of our school.  I believe we worked on these when we initially chartered.  Our staff at that time did a great deal of reflecting on what were essential characteristics of Nerstrand School we wanted to preserve and articulate.  The one purpose that jumped out at me was that Nerstrand School was to provide a warm, nurturing, joyful environment filled with curiosity and celebration.  In an era where testing is emphasized it is refreshing to talk about the joy and celebration of learning and to emphasize that as part of our purpose.  I believe that purpose is still relevant for us today.
In parent surveys and information gathered from visitors one of the most consistent comments/compliment we have received is that the atmosphere of our school is positive, warm and nurturing.  As visitors walk through the Peace Garden and into our school I hope everyone feels a sense of community and caring.  
I hope that children and adults always feel welcome at our school and as we prepare for conferences we look forward to seeing families.  Conferences will be held November 23rd & 24th from 3:30-8:00pm and on the morning of the 25th.  

A Note From Maggie

Happy Autumn Everyone,

We are having such a beautiful fall and that makes our beginning of the school year that much better.  This is my favorite time of the school year and brings back wonderful memories of when I was a child in elementary school.  Around the building I see teachers putting up autumn decorations, Larry's put the corn stalk outside the front of the school, the leaves are turning and we have completed our first walk to the State Park.   I hope that your family's return to school has gone smoothly, although I know from personal experience it's one of the biggest upheavals for families each year.  
Over the next 3 to 4 weeks we will be giving  NWEA (Maps) testing and are hoping to have all of those results in time for conferences in November.  Only 1st through 5th graders take these tests and they are tested in both reading and math.  Please check your child's Weekly Peek to see when they will be testing.  
It's definitely gotten chillier this week so it looks like it's time to dig out the winter gear.  Please be sure to contact me if you have questions or concerns.  The communication between home and school is such an important part of children's success.  I hope you all feels comfortable contacting me.



Prairie Appreciation Rescheduled

Because of the large amount of rain we've had the last couple of days, we have decided to reschedule Prairie Appreciation Day for next Friday, Sept. 25. Two staff members went out to the Prairie this morning and it was very muddy and wet where our activities are to be held, The forcast is also calling for more rain around 1:00 today, about the time we are to board busses. We hope you will consider volunteering next week, Thank you for your help.

Family Letter

Dear Families,
It has been a busy first week of school and we are off to an exciting start! I am so pleased to be back at Nerstrand School as the Director. It has been such fun to see familiar families and to meet new ones. I hope you always feel comfortable talking to me about concerns or questions and positive things happening with your child(ren) at our school.
Monday, September 14th, we will start having Homeroom. Homeroom is a time when siblings are together in one of our classrooms in a kindergarten through 5th grade experience. A big focus of homeroom is to establish community within our school, and also for children to be in the Spotlight each year. I will kick off Spotlight on Tuesday, September 15th with an all school meeting. I am grateful to Lori Amy for designing the Spotlight posters each year and this year it will be tied to the Peace Garden. Homerooms will be studying one of the areas of the Peace Garden this year and will learn a bit about the culture and customs of their country. Homerooms will be sharing their knowledge with each other in the spring.
We have also made plans to purchase ipads for classrooms. We are finalizing this order but are looking at purchasing 5 ipads per classroom for student use. Because of our internet infrastructure we are challenged with technology use but teachers are excited about using ipads in their classrooms in a variety of ways.
Next week we head to the Prairie on Friday as we study the Prairie and Savannah biome. According to Larry Richie two weeks ago he saw hundreds of monarchs on the Prairie preparing for their migration to Mexico. We may luck out and see some monarchs that have come down from Canada making their way to Mexico.
Finally, I want to thank Bonnie Jean Flom for stepping in as interim Director until the position was filled and I was able to get back to the U.S. Bonnie Jean has been a wonderful friend to this school for many years and has always done so much to promote it and to ensure its success. Thank you Bonnie Jean!
Also, thank you parents for your support of your children and this school. Our staff knows the importance of your involvement in your children’s lives and in your involvement of this school.

Maggie Kiley

Nerstrand welcomes our new School Director!

Dear Families of Nerstrand Elementary School,

As promised, I am getting back to you regarding the search for your new school director.  The interviews with two outstanding candidates were concluded late last week, after which the selection committee made their decision.

I am pleased to announce that Maggie Kiley has accepted the offer to serve as your new director.  As most of you know, Maggie taught grades 4/5 at Nerstrand School for the majority of her career.  In 1999, when Nerstrand School was chartered, all teachers at Nerstrand were granted Leaves of Absence from the Faribault School District.  When the Leaves of Absence expired in the spring of 2013, Maggie returned to the Faribault District, assuming a 4th grade teaching position at Lincoln School.

Maggie shares that she greatly enjoyed working with the students and staff at Lincoln, but that she feels better suited to a small school environment.  She considered applying for the directorship at Nerstrand during the last search but decided at that time to remain in the classroom. She now feels that the time is right for her to assume a leadership role and she is grateful for the opportunity to serve the school that means so much to her.

Nerstrand School has always been greatly supported by the Faribault Public Schools.  The District served as the charter school authorizer for many years and they continue to support Nerstrand as responsible and responsive landlords. Upon receiving her resignation, the District immediately posted her position at Lincoln. 

I want to thank the interview team for coming together on such short notice. Maggie is currently in Ireland with her family – where the time zone is six hours ahead of ours -  so we conducted a teleconference interview.  Thank you, Mike Ross, Carmen Bonde, and Tara Vondrasek for your participation on the interview team.  It was a privilege to work with you on this very important task.  They designed excellent interview questions that enabled us to gain critical feedback from our highly qualified candidates. 

Maggie will be in Ireland with her family until returning in time for Workshop Week.  She has asked me to share with you how honored she is by the invitation to serve Nerstrand School as its new director.  She looks forward to greeting you at the Open House on September 3rd and working with you and your children throughout the school year. 

Best regards,
Bonnie Jean Flom,
Hiring Committee Coordinator

In Loving Memory

This past summer Nerstrand School lost a past principal and friend to our school and community. Dennis Deanovic passed away last July and leaves a lasting memory with us in the shape of an elephant in our Peace Garden. The Jack Cruikshank family made a memorial gift donation to the Deanovic family who in turn passed it on to the Peace Garden Committee at Nerstrand School. A trellis with a Chinese motif was purchased and placed in the garden by the Great Wall of China. We thank both the Deanovic family and the Cruishank family for the beautiful donation.  

We would also like to thank all the families who have generously donated monetarily to the Peace Garden in the past. It has allowed us to add to the Peace Garden every year. Thank you very much!

Pictured: Alex, the grandson of the Cruikshanks' and a member of the Peace Garden Committee.