District 197 special election is May 6

District 197 Superintendent Nancy Allen-Mastro presents information on why the schools are asking for a renewal and increase in its technology levy and a $11.4 million building levy to upgrade facilities. The school board voted unanimously in February to put the two questions on the ballot in a special election, which is May 6. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review)

Levy, bond would increase student access to technology, upgrade facilities
Third-graders assembled Legos last week at Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights, building a robot they can then program on a computer to perform certain tasks.
“They live in a digital world,” said Shannon Lawson, a teacher at Somerset Elementary. “If we don’t meet that at school, they won’t want to be there.”


Inver Grove Heights schools announces superintendent finalists

The Inver Grove Heights school board recently announced its six first-round finalists for superintendent.
The board is hoping to replace Superintendent Deirdre Wells, who announced in January that she would resign when her contract ends June 30, after nearly a decade in the district’s top spot.


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.


Learning by Heart

The new Visitation School entrance in Mendota Heights at twilight. (submitted photos)

Seniors Nicole Nelson and Rachel Mussell wait in anticipation for the unveiling of the historic stained glass in the entryway of Visitation School.

Students gather for the grand opening of Visitation’s new” Heart of the School” addition.

Students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade joined together to celebrate the opening of the new “Heart of the School” addition.

Students toured the new space and discovered features that had been hidden beyond temporary construction walls.

Visitation School celebrates opening of new commons area
March 17 was a historic day for Visitation School in Mendota Heights. For perhaps the first time ever, students couldn’t wait to go to school on a Monday.


District 197 seeks voter approval for referendum

Money would go to technology upgrades, new building
On May 6, School District 197 will be asking voters to approve a two-question tax-levy referendum that would improve technology, expand early learning and boost the district’s security systems.


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.


Visitation teacher wins top social studies award

Second-grade teacher Molly Hickok of Visitation School is being praised for her creativity and innovative teaching methods and activities. The Minnesota Council for the Social Studies recently named her the elementary teacher of the year. (Submitted photo)

Hickok recognized for ‘thinking outside the box’
A favorite teacher from Visitation School in Mendota Heights has received top honors from the Minnesota Council for the Social Studies.
Second-grade teacher Molly Hickok was recently named the 2014 Elementary School Teacher of the Year.


ISD 199 superintendent announces resignation

Inver Grove Heights Schools Superintendent Dierdre Wells has announced she plans to step down from her position following a hard-won $24.8 million bond referendum last November.
Wells announced her resignation in a memorandum to ISD 199 staff dated Jan. 10. Wells was hired by the district in 2005; she will remain in the position until the three-year contract she signed in 2011 expires June 30.


SSP resident teaches ‘clean eating’ success

Carisa Rasmussen (submitted photo)

Since losing 80 pounds, South St. Paul resident Carisa Rasmussen has been spreading the word about “clean eating,” an eating philosophy that strives for eating food in its most natural, unprocessed state.
Her lifestyle is certainly healthy now, but this wasn’t always the case. Several years ago, she weighed 210 pounds.