Inver Grove Heights teacher overcame tragedy to find her life’s passion

Salem Hills Elementary in Inver Grove Heights has a gem of teacher, Mrs. Kim Westra, who worked her fifth grade students, Lincoln Bacal, left, and Eliana Bly, right, on their art projects on April 2. (Linda E. Andersen/Review)

Kim Westra, nearly 2, and her mother, Patricia, 20, sit in front of an apartment in April of 1970. Westra says her mom, who finished college while raising a toddler on her own, was a huge influence in her career path. Westra is one of 10 finalists for the 2014 Minnesota Teacher of the Year award. (Submitted photo)

Kim Westra leads her class of fourth- and fifth-graders on April 2 at Salem Hills Elementary School in Inver Grove Heights. (Linda E. Andersen/Review)

Kim Westra’s grandma, Ruth Kraemer, left, and her mom, Patricia Gale Cretilli, in May 1970. (Submitted photo)

Kim Westra’s first grade school photo. She says she got into fights, and wasn’t a great student around that time, but found out education was her true passion later in life. (Submitted photo)

Kim Westra’s dad, Peter Kraemer, the day of his high school graduation. He immigrated when he was 9 from Germany. He became the first in his family to graduate from college. (Submitted photo)

Kim Westra almost didn’t become a teacher.
When her father committed suicide a few years after his teenage son was murdered, Westra had just started graduate school.


Visitation’s Upper School in Mendota Heights names next director

Rene Gavic

Rene Gavic, Visitation’s Upper School director of student life, was recently named the next director of the Mendota Heights institution.


Sweet treat on tap - photos

Naturalist Matt Ripple demonstrated how tree sap is cooked in a large cauldron outdoors at the center on March 29. The tree sap is made up of mostly water, which is heated for hours to make syrup.

Tapped trees are scattered all over the grounds of the Dodge Nature Center in West St. Paul, waiting for the weather to cooperate and sap to start flowing.

photos by Linda E. Andersen/Review


Dishing up a winner - photo

Photos by Heather Edwards/Review

Jack Galloway, 5, serves his mom’s white-bean chili with a smile during the Commemorative Air Force Minnesota Wing chili cook-off March 8. Crystal Galloway’s chili won the grand prize.


Of one a-chord - photos

Wentworth Library in West St. Paul hosted, “Blues for Kids” a special Black History Month event, on March 1. Kids learned the basics of how to play a harmonica and about the roots of the instrument from the Minnesota Blues Society.


‘Buzzard Ball’ puts seniors onstage

Vultures and Vulturettes Brian Joyce, Christine Dornbusch, Michael Oslund (back), Eric Wood, Annie Zimbel, Janet Mondloh, Stu Naber (center), Jerry Hoffman, Judy Hoffman, Mikel Clifford, Shannon Kennedy (front), Helen Donnay (sitting). (submitted photos)

Vultures Brian Joyce and Michael Oslund (top), Eric Wood and Stu Naber (middle), Jerry Hoffman and Shannon Kennedy (bottom).

The senior softball team “The Vultures” are determined to end their three-season losing streak.

Local talent fuels ensemble comedy
There seems to be plenty of stage space for young thespians, from classroom skits to high-school plays and summer camps and programs.
What you don’t often find is a showcase for older actors -- the ones who have enough life experience to portray any character they’re playing to a “T” and are confident enough to push the portrayals to their comedic utmost.


St. Thomas Academy students keep watch over Rogers Lake

For years, students from St. Thomas Academy have kept a close eye on “their” lake.
The school overlooks Rogers Lake in Mendota Heights, and students in the environmental sciences class have been studying the water quality of Rogers Lake in Mendota Heights since 2001. Students collect samples from the lake every fall, analyze them with an array of laboratory tests and present their findings to the Mendota Heights City Council in the spring.


Ryan Leech nominated to U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Phillip Hanson to U.S. Air Force Academy

 Sen. Al Franken, DFL-Minn., announced he has nominated Ryan Leech of Mendota Heights for admission to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and Phillip Hanson of Inver Grove Heights for admission to the U.S. Air Force Academy.


Spartans reclaim title

Tony Fragnito/Review

Simley Spartans reclaim the Class AA wrestling title in dominant fashion.  Downing Dawson-Boyd in the quarter finals 46-12, followed by a trouncing of last year’s state champion, Kasson Mantorville, they then turned in a solid performance against