Meet our MNCS-Elementary advisors and staff!
DOUG ANDERSON — Elementary — Interventions RTI & Title 1
Doug Anderson is our full-time elementary Intervention Specialist, providing one-on-one and small group instruction in the areas of Reading and Math for grades K-6th. This is a Title I/RtI position.
Says Doug: “I have a variety of experiences in education that started with 2+ years of Biblical studies at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. From there I finished my student teaching and Elementary Education requirements for my BS degree at Crown College. I went directly from Crown to Winona State with my newly wedded wife to complete my Masters in Elementary Ed. and Curriculum Development.
My wife Karen is also an educator and we have three fantastic, talented children : Annika, a Sophomore at Northwestern, Emilie, a Senior at Watertown/Mayer and Freshman at Crown College as well as Elijah, an 8th grader at Watertown. We all, as a family, love to travel as we have driven through much of North America, Canada and the West Coast of Mexico. We also are a singing/musical family! I look forward to working another year at New Country School and getting to know staff, students and families even better this year!”
LAURA BOELTER — Elem & Secondary — Special Ed. Admin Assistant
KIERSTEN DAHL-SHETKA — Elementary Art, Music, Movement (Specialist) Advisor
Kiersten is the Art & Music Specialist Advisor for Kindergarten through 6th grade. When students enter her classroom, students will be greeted by a joyful sign that reads, “Welcome to the Happiest Creativity Room on the Planet!”
Kiersten previously taught art in grades Kindergarten through eighth grade at Holy Cross Catholic School in Webster, Minnesota for eight years. She received a double major from Gustavus Adolphus College in Art and Biology, with a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of North Dakota (sculpture and painting). In May of 2014, she completed a two-year Arts Education Degree in Art K-12th grade from Gustavus Adolphus College. Besides being a teacher and artist, Kiersten is also a forgiveness facilitator and has been taking classes and facilitating this modality for 13 years through the Midwest Institute for Unconditional Love and Forgiveness in Minneapolis, Minn. and at Heart Park Studio, in Webster, Minn.
Her philosophy on education is to get to know the students and families, and see how each student learns. She likes to create exciting lessons that engage the students to learn more about the world, themselves and others by using art materials/concepts and creativity as a vehicle through the Minnesota Visual Arts Standards. Kiersten looks forward to adding music and movement to the lesson times. She has been teaching art and learning about the human spirit of creativity for over 30 years. The most joyful part of her days are when she is collaborating with the students and watching them grow in their understanding of what it is to be a precious and unique person and collaborator. Creating, exploring and learning with the students, in the Happiest Creativity Room on the Planet, is where you will find her.
Kiersten and her husband Stanley Shetka have two teenaged boys Cairo and Sagan.
AARON GRIMM — Upper Elementary Advisor — Grades 5 & 6
(507) 868-0071 ext.108
NANCY HAAS — Elementary — Paraprofessional
KELSIE (HALVORSEN) KLUENDER — Early Elementary Advisor — Grades 1 & 2 aka “The Hedgehogs”
Hello, I am Kelsie Halvorsen, the first and second grade teacher here at MNCS. Here is a little about myself.
I grew up in Orange County, California and moved to the small town of Henderson, Minnesota when I was 10. I attended LeSueur/Henderson High School and I graduated from Bethany Lutheran College in December 2014 with a B.A. in Elementary Education. I was brought up in a family of educators. I am the fourth generation, on both sides of the family, to be in education. I grew up helping my mom set up and organize her classroom, as well as volunteered in her room all through High School. Now I get my own classroom and my own students to teach. Some of my hobbies include playing with my cats Hattie and Little Fat, painting, cooking, crafts, reading, watching Disney movies, and being with my friends and family.
(507) 868-0071 ext.103
JANE HIBSCHER — Middle Elementary Advisor — Grades 2 & 3 aka “The Swans”
Jane says: “I am very excited to be the 2nd/3rd Grade Advisor at Minnesota New Country School! I come with a passion for teaching and learning and with 7 years of experience teaching in elementary school settings in Mankato, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee. I also spent 7 years running a very popular and successful child care service out of my home. Some areas in which I have received special training include: Steiner/Waldorf Educational Model, Responsive Classroom, Gradual Release Model, Reader’s/Writer’s Workshop, International Baccalaureate (IB) – Inquiry Based Learning, SIOP (sheltered instruction for ELLs), and curriculum design.
Some things I enjoy are: spending time with my friends and family (I have three children ages 15, 12, and 10), traveling, exercising, and writing. I am an avid reader, and life-long learner. I bring dedication, commitment, creativity, and enthusiasm with me each day. I can’t wait to get started, and look forward to working with the children in my class, their families, my colleagues, and the community!”
TRISH HISCOCK-AUSTIN — Elementary — Elem Admin / Front Desk
(507) 868-0071 ext.0
CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON — Elem & Secondary — Behavioral Interventionist
KYLIE KUHLMAN — Elementary — School Social Worker
Kylie Kuhlman is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and will be serving both MNCS schools this year. She earned an undergraduate degree in English and Women’s Studies with a concentration in American Racial and Multicultural Studies from St. Olaf College and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Augsburg College. Previously she has worked as a School Social Worker both in a large suburban district and at a small public charter school, and as a child and family therapist.
Kylie’s primary role as School Social Worker at MNCS is working with students needing extra support to succeed at school. This includes providing: individual and group counseling and mental health services, social skills groups, positive behavior support, classroom support, consultation to advisors and parents, referrals for students and families seeking to access outside resources, and assessments for special education services. Kylie will be at MNCS Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.
(507) 248-3353 ext.229
NICK RYAN — Elem & Secondary — Technology Services & Testing Coordinator
JOAN (NEISEN) SKELLY — Elem & Secondary — Education & Events Coordinator
Joan works as the Education and Events Coordinator at both locations of MNCS. She grew up in Shakopee, Minn. and is the youngest of 13 children, all of which have names that start with “J.” Both of her parents worked full time and also raised and sold produce, lawn care and snow removal for the city and church.
“There were always extra kids and a lot of action at our house at all times,” said Joan. “We were taught to work hard but have fun doing it.”
Joan, who went to Hennepin Technical College for sales/marketing and communications, said she likes to talk a lot.
She met her husband, Mark, on a blind date and married him a year later. The couple and their son Matthew moved to Mark’s family farm in Henderson, Minn. in 2002. “I feel like I adapted well to the country life,” she said. After her son was born, Joan took a break from her career for several years and worked part-time. “When I decided to go back to work full-time, I was lucky enough to work from home,” said Joan. “I often wondered what children do in the summer when their parents work full time, so I started ‘No More Bummer of a Summer’ where I take children 10 years and older on educational field trips for the three months of summer they are off school. We went to the zoo, the theater, to working in the woods building forts. We planted gardens and used the produce in our everyday meals. That’s what brought me to work in the educational field, and so I explored MNCS.”
Joan said it was a win/win situation when MNCS staff decided to create the Education and Event Coordinator position to fit her experience. In her role, Joan works for both the elementary and high school planning their Experience Fridays, special events like prom, retirements and many fundraisers. She also leads many Experience Fridays including cooking for low income families, visiting and assisting nursing homes, and coordinating all-school events like Feed My Starving Children.
“I am so lucky to be a part of the MNCS team doing what I love — party planning!”
(507) 248-3353, ext.0
KAREN SWENSON — Elementary — Paraprofessional
KATHLEEN SWENSON — Elem & Secondary — Health Services Coordinator
(507) 248-3353 ext.224
VANESSA TOMPKINS — Intermediate Elementary Advisor — Grades 4 & 5
Says Vanessa: “My name is Vanessa Tompkins and I am excited to be the 4th and 5th grade teacher at MNCS. I am looking forward to spending time with multiple grade levels, helping our students discover their passions through projects, Experience Fridays, and challenging our students to grow everyday! Most recently I have taught as an intermediate Special Education Teacher, prior to that I taught 6th grade and Kindergarten. I graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato in 2009 with a degree in Elementary Education.
My husband and I live in Mankato with our two active kiddos, Andrew (1) and Lilly (3). When I am not in the classroom I enjoy doing the following with friends and family, spending time up north, paddle boarding, kayaking, hiking, working out, cooking.
It’s going to be an amazing year!”
SARA WESTPHAL — Elementary — Special Education Advisor
Says Sara: “Last school year was a busy year for me. My husband and I had our second baby girl in February. We now have 2 beautiful girls Lyla Marie (3 years old) and Macie Sue (5 months old). In addition to having a new little baby we are also adopting my niece Jaden Denn who is 13 years old. This summer we got a new little puppy so we also have 2 dogs now Bud and Emma. Hobbies that I like to do in my free time is ice fish, swim, play softball, watch softball, be out in the sun, camping and being with my family!!!
I am so happy to be at MNCS and to be able to work with the most amazing and wonderful students that we have here at MNCS. I am always looking forward to the new year and to watch the students grow each year that they are here at MNCS. My passion is teaching students and watching them learn and grow everyday. This is my 4th year of being a teacher and being able to teach at MNCS.”
(507) 868-0071 ext.107
SIRENA WOYT — Kindergarten Advisor — aka “The Frogs”
Says Sirena: “I grew up in what WAS the small town of Elk River, MN. I graduated from Mankato State University (now MSU-Mankato). I began my teaching career in Houston, TX teaching 3rd grade. When my husband and I decided we were getting ready to think about starting our family we moved back to MN. It was then I started teaching in Catholic schools. I’ve been teaching for 20 years. My favorite level is lower elementary (K-2). My family includes my husband, Jeff, our 16 year old daughter, Anna and our Pomsky dog, Dakota.”