Athlos Academy St. Cloud

Our Team

Our Team


Executive Director:  Kathy Mortensen, Ed.D. 
 

Athlos Academy of St. Cloud is pleased to announce the hiring of Kathy Mortensen, Ed.D as the new charters school's principal. Dr. Mortensen previously served as executive director and acting superintendent of Minneapolis Academy Charter School in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 “Athlos Academy of St. Cloud will serve as a flagship school in Minnesota,” said Mortensen. “As the school leader, I intend to work hard to establish a strong school culture and provide a quality education for students.”

 Prior to leading the Minneapolis Academy Charter School (2014-2016), Dr. Mortensen was an administrator at Brainerd Public Schools (2013-2014), Brooklyn Center Public Schools (2011-2013), Paladin Academy Charter School (2006-2011), and the Minnesota Department of Corrections (2001-2006). From 1994-2001, she served as a teacher and assistant principal in the Cambridge-Isanti Public Schools.

Dr. Mortensen earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education from the University of Minnesota, a Master’s degree in Special Education from Bethel University, a Sixth Year Certificate in Educational Administration from St. Cloud University, and Doctorate of Teaching and Learning from Argosy University.

Dr. Mortensen and her husband, Steve, have two children and four grandchildren.

Interested in joining our team? Please see the current Employment Opportunities and email a resume and cover letter to careers@athlosstcloud.org 
 


Michaelene Lucia, Sixth Grade Teacher


Michaelene Lucia earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Ohio University and her master’s degree in special education from St. Cloud State University. She has been teaching for 32 years. In addition to her work in special education, she has an interest in gifted/talented education.
 
At Athlos Academy of St. Cloud, Lucia’s goal is to develop a school that feels very comfortable for all students.

“When kids are happy and comfortable, learning happens,” Lucia said. “I want our staff to be excited to come to work each day. I want our school to feel like family.”

When it comes to Athlos’ three Pillars of Performance, Lucia identifies most with Performance Character.
 
“It is so important for students to learn about themselves and how to get along with others,” she said. “I relate to the traits of grit and optimism. I work hard and I am happy in what I do. Students who work hard and are happy will find success in life.”

Getting to Know Michaelene Lucia: Fun Facts
 
Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
• I grew up in a large family in eastern Ohio.
• If I wasn't a teacher, I would like to do something with the science of botany, using plants to improve our lives.
• I don't have a middle name. My parents couldn't agree on my name, so my sister named me Michaelene.

Q .What is your favorite type of physical activity?
I like being physically active. I enjoy walking every day. I learned how to paddle board last summer. I like to hike and bike.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
I love reading and I love to share this with my students. Finding the perfect book for a student makes my day perfect! So I have lots of favorite books, but the one book from my childhood that I remember reading over and over was “Key to the Treasure.”


Matt Bigler, Sixth Grade Teacher
 
Matt Bigler earned his bachelor's degree in criminology from University of Minnesota where, upon graduation, he enrolled in the one-year law enforcement certification program at Fond Du Lac Tribal and Community College.
 
Six years later, Bigler decided to go back to school and enrolled in the graduate teaching licensure program at the College of St. Scholastica where he obtained his secondary social studies license.
 
Bigler has worked as a behavior specialist at the McKinley Area Learning Center School in the St. Cloud School District for the last six years. Additionally, he has been working as a part-time police officer in Albany, Minnesota for the last two years.
 
Athlos Academy of St. Cloud stood out to Bigler because of how well it aligned with his own life values and a beliefs.
 
“I am a reflective, organic eating, physically active person and feel Athlos is designed in a way that promotes these lifestyles in the Prepared Mind, Healthy Body, and Performance Character pillars,” Bigler said.
 
Bigler said he is ready to dive in head first to the new school year and strive to help establish Athlos Academy of St. Cloud as one of the best in the area.
 
“To help achieve this, I plan to design and deliver learning experiences that support all three pillars the school is designed around while also creating a classroom environment that promotes an enjoyable experience, equality, and challenge,” Bigler said.
 
When it comes to the Athlos Performance Character traits, the one that resonates most with Bigler is grit.
 
“Life can throw people many curveballs and it is important to teach our young minds the importance of being able to hit those curveballs out of the park (baseball pun intended),” Bigler said.
 
Getting to Know Matt Bigler: Fun Facts
 
Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
 
  • My wife and I love to paint.
  • I am an only child.
  • I can play Taps on the bugle.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
 
My favorite physical activity is kayaking. There is nothing I enjoy more than spending my free time being out on a secluded lake exploring all the curves and crevasses on a hot sunny day.
 
Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
 
“Hatchet” was my favorite book growing up. My passion for the outdoors stems back to a young age, which is why I think I enjoyed the book so much.


Gregg Stein, Third Grade Teacher
 
Gregg Stein earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary inclusive education from Minnesota State University of Moorhead in 2015. Prior to joining Athlos Academy of St. Cloud, Stein taught sixth grade in Rothsay, Minnesota.
 
Aside from proximity to his family, it was the innovative Athlos education model that drew Stein to the school.
 
“I have never heard about a school’s philosophy that matched up with my own like Athlos’ does,” Stein said. “I am a firm believer in a healthy mind and body and this experience will help me to teach it as well as practice it.”
 
At Athlos Academy of St. Cloud, Stein’s goals include making friends with coworkers and creating a healthy and happy classroom environment where students can be excited about going each day.

Of the 12 Athlos Performance Character traits, Stein most relates to energy/zest.
 
“I have always been able to put all troubles aside and engage in all things in my life with enthusiasm and excitement,” Stein said. “It helps to put others, as well as myself, in a better mood and keeps things entertaining.”
 
Getting to Know Gregg Stein: Fun Facts
 
Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?

  • I would rather be outside than inside.
  • I recently became an uncle.
  • I am artistic.

Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?

My favorite type of physical activity would have to be any physical game for any sport or hiking with friends/family.

What was your favorite childhood book?

“Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch.

Carrie Cremers, School Social Worker
 
Carrie Cremers earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Minnesota, and her master’s degree in social work at St. Cloud State University. She has experience working in elementary and high school.
 
“Kids are my passion,” Cremers said. “Helping them overcome obstacles and challenges that they may face at school, in their home, or out in the community is what I love most."
 
Cremers chose to work with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud because of the school’s philosophy and performance character building curriculum.
 
Her goals at Athlos Academy of St. Cloud include getting to know as many students, parents, and teachers as much as possible and establishing and maintaining a promising and reliable social work program.
 
When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, optimism resonates most with Cremers.
 
“Having a positive outlook on life, in my eyes, can never hinder an individual,” Cremers said. “Even when things might not be going our way, finding one positive aspect of our day or in our lives can prompt us to keep striving for success and provide us with something to believe in.”
 
Getting to Know Carrie Cremers: Fun Facts
 
Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
 
  • Watermelon Sour Patch Kids are my ultimate weakness.
  • I also just started turkey hunting with my father this year.
  • I have an extreme obsession with TJ Maxx, especially their candles.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
 
My favorite type of physical activity would have to be group exercise classes at the St. Cloud YMCA. I have so much fun working out with people I know and to songs that give me energy to push myself to my full potential.
 
Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
 
I’m not sure if I had a favorite childhood book when I was younger, but my favorite game to play as a child was colors, colors and I still to this day play it with kids and students.


Jason Teig, EL Teacher


Jason Teig graduated with my bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Brigham Young University-Idaho. He had more than five practicum experiences throughout his schooling in grades three through six. Teig completed his student teaching experience in Utah in the third grade classroom, and
 
“I had the privilege of completing a portion of my student teaching in the Portuguese Dual Immersion Program, which I loved,” Teig said.
 
Teig chose to work at Athlos Academy because he was attracted to the three pillars and felt that they coincided with how he lives his life.
 
“I am excited to meet the third graders that will be on this learning journey with me and be able to grow in these three pillars,” Teig said.
 
In his first year with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud, Teig would like to help create an environment that students will love to be in.

“I want to encourage a love for learning and to help the students become prominent members of society,” he said.

When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, integrity resonates most with Teig.

“I am constantly trying to do the right thing. I’ve been put into some situations where I needed to do the right thing when others were not,” Teig said. “It was hard to continually do the right thing in that difficult environment, but I am a much better person because of it.”
 
Getting to Know Jason Teig: Fun Facts
 
Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
 
  • I participated in marching band for four years in high school and it essentially saved my life. I was diagnosed with asthma at a young age and playing the flute while marching helped me increase my lung capacity.
  • I graduated with my bachelor’s degree married and with three young children.
  • I enjoy learning about my family that came before me and what their lives were like during major historical events.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
 
I love to play volleyball, kickball, dodge ball, and other games of that nature.
 
Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
 
I have many favorite books, and I love reading. One of my favorite picture books is “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss. A favorite chapter book of mine as a child was the “Boxcar Children” books. I always imagined that I could live like those four kids in a small confined place such as a boxcar. A new favorite picture book is called “Bootsie Barker Bites” by Barbara Bottner. The first time I read it, I laughed really hard.


Megan Dingmann, Second Grade Teacher
 
Megan Dingmann graduated from St. Cloud State University in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a minor in Spanish. For the past school year she has been teaching Spanish at Royalton Elementary School.
 
“I chose Athlos because it really aligns with what I believe should be incorporated in the classroom at all ages,” Dingmann said.
 
At her first year at Athlos Academy of St. Cloud Dingmann’s goal is to create a positive school culture where students can thrive and succeed.
 
When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, optimism resonates most with Dingmann.
 
“I feel that having a positive outlook on life can instantly make things better and easier, no matter the situation,” she said.
 
Getting to Know Megan Dingmann: Fun Facts
 
Q. What are three things most people don't know about you?
 
  • I help coach a swim team at the YMCA.
  • I've been to Africa and Europe.
  • If I couldn't be a teacher and had the skill, I would own my own cupcake shop.
 
Q. What is your favorite physical activity?
 
My favorite physical activity is swimming. I love being in and around the pool as much as possible. It's a great way to relieve stress and clear my head. I also love to dance.
 
Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
 
My favorite childhood book is “Harry Potter.” I didn't even read it until high school and I can't believe I missed out on an amazing series when I was younger!

Angela Schmitz, Instructional Coach


Angela Schmitz earned her bachelor's degree from Saint Cloud State University and has taught students in third, fourth, and fifth grade for the past 17 years.

“I chose Athlos Academy because of the three pillars and the philosophy of teaching the whole child,” Schmitz said.

Schmitz’s goal is to help make Athlos a success by helping the teachers become the best they can be and supporting them in every way.

“I hope to make many connections with families and make sure they feel welcome in the building at all times,” she said. “I want the students to love coming to school each day, just as I always did.”

When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, Schmitz identifies most with curiosity, because she has a passion for lifelong learning and leadership.

“I think being a leader and doing the right thing, even when no one is looking, is an essential character trait,” Schmitz said.

Getting to Know Angela Schmitz: Fun Facts

Q. What are three things most people don’t know about you?
• I do not like ice cream, but I love chocolate and coffee.
• I can't swim.
• I am a bit of a germophobe.

Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?

I enjoying walking with my dog and boating, biking, and golfing with my husband and three kids. Also, hockey is a big part of our family!

What was your favorite childhood book?

My favorite childhood book that I read on my own was “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” As a young child it was “The Pokey Little Puppy,” which my mother read to me often. My favorite adult book is “Firefly Lane.”



Kirsten Sundquist, Kindergarten Teacher


Kirsten Sundquist earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 2012 from St. Cloud State University. Following her graduation, she worked as a reading intervention teacher in the Owatonna School District. For the past two years, she has worked as a specialized reading instructor and response-to-intervention coordinator at Medford Elementary.

“I chose to work at Athlos Academy, because I love that it has such a big focus not only on academics, but also on healthy bodies and Performance Character traits,” Sundquist said.

In her first year with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud, Sundquist looks forward to working with the staff, families, and students to create a community of excellence.

“I also look forward to learning more about the three pillars that Athlos Academy incorporates and how that will change the students and I for the better,” Sundquist said.

As for the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, Sundquist identifies most with energy/zest.

“Being an enthusiastic person myself, I see how it changes others’ moods and their outlooks on situations,” she said.

Getting to Know Kirsten Sundquist: Fun Facts:

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
• My husband and I love minions.
• Most people don’t know my real name, because I always introduce myself by my nickname, Kirstie.
• I would love to learn to professionally decorate cakes and cupcakes.

Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
I love to play volleyball and to spend time outside.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
I loved to read “Are You My Mother?” by Dr. Seuss, but I enjoy all Dr. Seuss books.



Benjamin Broderick, Fourth Grade Teacher


A St. Cloud native, Benjamin Broderick attended St. Cloud State University before going on to teach in Foley, St. Cloud, and Buffalo.

“I am very excited to return home and teach at Athlos,” Broderick said.

Broderick chose to work at Athlos Academy of St. Cloud, because he believes in whole child education and brain-based learning.

“I also believe that movement and education work best when paired together,” he said. “All of these things are at the foundation of Athlos.”

In his first year at Athlos Academy, Broderick’s goal is to help his students find joy and success in their educational journey.

When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, integrity resonates most with Broderick.

“I believe in standing by your principles and morals even when challenged or when those around you falter,” he said.

Getting to Know Benjamin Broderick: Fun Facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
• I spend my summers working for the Minnesota Twins.
• I once appeared on a gameshow.
• I spent part of my student teaching in Rome, Italy.

Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?

I grew up playing football and even played at the collegiate level, but now my favorite athletic activity is playing softball.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?

My favorite childhood books were “My Side of the Mountain” and “Mr. Poppers Penguins.”



Aaron Schwenzfeier, Lead Athletic Performance Coach
 
Aaron Schwenzfeier earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education and master’s degree in kinesiology from the University of North Dakota.
Schwenzfeier has been teaching and coaching in the field of physical education/athletic development for 13 years, working with individuals and teams in ages ranging from six years old to collegiate athletes. Most recently, he has spent the past 10 years as an instructor in the kinesiology program and as the associate director of strength and conditioning at the University of North Dakota.
 
Schwenzfeier chose to work at Athlos, because he feels there is a great need for innovation in the area of physical education in today’s society, and he was intrigued by Athlos Academy’s philosophical emphasis in this area.
 
“I feel that Athlos Academy can help lead the way in making a major impact in how physical education/athletic development is viewed and taught in our country – not just helping students become better athletes, but more importantly instilling the passion and skills in young people to be committed to being healthy and happy life-long movers,” Schwenzfeier said.
 
During his first year with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud, Schwezfeier’s goals are to do the best job he can to help build a positive school culture and work hard at developing a strong rapport with the staff, teachers, parents, and students.
 
When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, curiosity resonates most with Schwenzfeier.
 
“I feel curiosity is one of the main catalysts to learning and fuels the desire to keep on learning,” he said.
 
Getting to Know Aaron Schwenzfeier: Fun Facts
 
Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
• I love photography.
• I am a science and philosophy nerd - anything from basic physics to astrophysics and cosmology, biology to ecology, metaphysics to politics and ethics, and everything related and in between!
• I just started drinking (some) coffee this year.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
I love biking and hiking.
 
Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
Playing outside. ;)
(Sorry, that’s about all I remember from my childhood!)

Phil Niemela, Athletic Performance Coach



Phil Niemela earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education with DAPE (Developmental Adapted Physical Education) certification and his master’s degree in sports and exercise psychology. Niemela has eight years of experience coaching baseball, basketball, football, and golf and six years of teaching experience, one of which was in Taiwan. Niemela also is a Peak Performance Coach.

“I love the philosophy of emphasizing physical activity and building character to enhance learning,” Niemela said. “I’ve talked with my wife about starting a school for many years and I feel like Athlos is the school I would have started. I’m glad Ryan and Jason started it!”

In his first year with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud Niemela’s goals are to be optimistic and curious and grow as a professional, create great relationships, have a lot of fun, and provide a great atmosphere for students to learn and grow.

When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, optimism and curiosity resonate most with Niemela.

“I think life is more fun when you practice being optimistic and curious,” he said.

Getting to Know Phil Niemela: Funs Facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
I cut my own hair.
I have five siblings (Ryan, Luke, (Me), Laura, Anthony, Tyler).
I like my fruit to be cut up. It’s easier to eat.

Q What is your favorite type of physical activity?
Golf and baseball.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
“My Side of the Mountain” and anything by Matt Christopher.


Taige Puetz, Athletic Performance Coach


Taige Puetz earned her bachelor’s degree in K-12 physical education/health from St. Cloud State University. While studying at SCSU Puetz was a member of the women's soccer and softball teams and completed her student teaching in the St. Cloud School District.

Puetz was drawn to the Athlos model because of its incorporation of movement. In her own experiences as a child, physical education and recess were motivating factors to her learning. She found that the more she moved and interacted with others, the more successful she was.

“I truly believe if a child is moving consistently and having fun while engaging with others it is going to directly correlate with their success in the classroom,” Puetz said. “That is something I look forward to being a part of.”

When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, grit resonates most with Puetz.

“While being an Athlete, all of my failures and faults pushed me to work harder and to push myself to get better,” she said. “I learned more from losses than I did wins. The gut wrenching feeling I felt after a loss made me want to instantly work on what I needed to improve so I wouldn't have to feel that same feeling again.”

Getting to Know Taige Puetz: Fun Facts

Q. What are three things most people don't know about you?

• I knocked out my two front teeth three times when I was a child. The first time I was in second grade and I fell out of a tree while climbing it.
• I am afraid to touch the fish or worm while fishing … yet I still love fishing. (I make my husband or my brothers do it).
• I love to play the claw arcade game and win things out of it.

Q. What is your favorite physical activity?

I cannot pick a favorite because there are just too many to list. I am up for almost any challenge or competition if it involves being physically active.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?

Either “Junie B. Jones” or “Captain Underpants.”


Mackenzie Heck, First Grade Teacher
 
Mackenzie Heck earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education with an endorsement in mathematics from the College of Saint Benedict. During her time at CSB/SJU Heck was involved in the music program with both band and orchestra, the Education Club, and the campus mentorship program.
 
Heck chose to work at Athlos Academy of St. Cloud because she believes that incorporating movement in the classroom is very important when building successful learners.
 
“In addition, I enjoy this opportunity to grow as an educator in a beautiful space that promotes taking risks, optimism, and using my creative side,” she said.
 
During her first year with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud Heck’s goals include helping to form a community at the school.
 
When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, grit resonates most with Heck.
 
“Being resilient is important to me,” she said.
 
Getting to Know Mackenzie Heck: Fun Facts:
 
Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
• I love traveling, but especially to Disney World! Last November my mom and I ran a Disney half marathon together!
• I spent three weeks studying in Bosnia and Herzegovina last summer.
• I am a dog person, especially big dogs. My golden-doodle Mowgli is 85 pounds!
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
I really enjoy paddle boarding and love the challenge of paddleboard yoga!
 
Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
As a first grader, I enjoyed the book titled “Officer Buckle and Gloria” by Peggy Rathmann.


Brittney Schoephoerster, Instructional Coach
 
Brittney Helmbrecht earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education with an emphasis in math and minor in Spanish from the College of Saint Benedict. She then went on to earn her Spanish certificate from Saint Mary’s University. Helmbrecht is currently completing her master’s degree in education with an emphasis in literacy at the College of Saint Scholastica.
 
Helmbrecht chose to work with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud because she was immediately drawn to the pillars and philosophy behind the school.
 
“Striving for academic excellence, building character, movement, and health are all important aspects of my own life,” she said. “I am thrilled to be part of a community and school that teaches and practices these key components.”
 
During her first year with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud Helmbrecht’s goals include helping to create and foster a positive and welcoming classroom and school environment.
 
“I look forward to building connections with coworkers, students, and families,” she said. “My goal is to support teachers and students in whatever ways they need to make for a great year.”
 
When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, Helmbrecht identifies most with integrity because she holds herself and others to high standards.
 
“I am highly motivated and driven to strive to do what is right even when it’s difficult,” she said. “My parents taught me the importance of character and integrity at a young age. When I come across a difficulty or challenge I still hear my dad say, ‘You’re building character. You can never have too much character.’”
 
Getting to Know Brittney Schoephoerster: Fun Facts
 
Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
• I speak Spanish.
• I have traveled to Thailand.
• My favorite animal is an elephant.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
I like group fitness classes and running. I have recently become interested in cross-fit.
 
Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
“Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling. I remember staying up until late hours of the night reading these books. Once I started reading one I couldn’t put it down. These were the books that got me hooked on reading.


Shelbi Pool, Third Grade Teacher


Shelbi Pool graduated from Black Hills States University in Spearfish, SD and has taught third grade for six years and spent one year as a math interventionist/technology teacher.
 
Pool chose to work with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud because she appreciated how the school educates the entire person, body and mind.
 
During her first year with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud Pool’s goals include building positive relationships with her coworkers and students in hopes of building a great community of learners.
 
When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, creativity and curiosity resonate most with Pool.
 
“Curiosity and creativity go hand in hand for me,” she said. “I love to spark curiosity in my students and then watch their minds find creative and innovative ways to do things.”
 
Getting to Know Shelbi Pool: Fun Facts
 
Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
• I cook for a harvest crew in the summer.
• I golfed in college.
• I like to draw and doodle to relieve stress.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
I can't pick just one! Golf, swimming, and going for walks.
 
Q .What was your favorite childhood book?
“The Graduation of Jake Moon.”


Abby McKimm, Fourth Grade Teacher


Abby McKimm earned her bachelor’s degree from the College of Saint Benedict in elementary education with an endorsement in mathematics. McKimm was an active volunteer on campus. She taught swimming lessons, played piano for different campus events, and led classmates on international service trips to the Dominican Republic. In addition, McKimm taught Zumba classes.

McKimm choose to work at Athlos Academy of St. Cloud because of the school’s innovative philosophy and how well it aligns with her own philosophy of teaching and learning.

During her first year with Athlos Academy of St .Cloud, McKimm’s goals include collaborating with staff members, students, and parents to create a positive learning environment and welcoming atmosphere for everyone.

“My goals for my students and myself are to develop into enthusiastic and inquisitive learners that think globally and engage locally,” she said.

When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, optimism resonates most with McKimm.

“I believe that students perform best in academic, social, and athletic situations if they have a positive mental attitude and are eager to learn and do more,” she said.

Getting to Know Abby McKimm: Fun Facts:

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
· I love to watch documentaries.
· I will try any food at least once.
· I won a cow milking contest during Dairy Days in Hutchinson.

Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
My favorite types of physical activity include group fitness classes, especially Zumba, biking, and swimming.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
My favorite childhood books were the “Judy Blume” series. In fact, my mom had to take the books away from me to get me to do my chores.

Brittney Gabrielson, Music Teacher


Brittney Gabrielson graduated from Winona State University in Winona, MN with a bachelor's degree in music education and an emphasis in instrumental music. Following graduation, she taught band and elementary music in Grand Meadow, MN, as well as coached dance. This past year, she worked in St. Cloud teaching elementary music.

"I have taught in a small school district and a big school district,” Gabrielson said. “I chose to work at Athlos because it will give me the happy medium of being in a big city with a smaller school feel. I'm also excited to learn more about the 12 Performance Character traits."

During her first year with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud, Gabrielson's goals include building positive relationships with students and co-workers. Gabrielson also wants to learn more about the 12 Performance Character traits and find a way to incorporate them into her teaching.

When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits, optimism resonates most with Gabrielson.

“Growing up being in dance, band, and taking art classes, I was taught by my teachers and coaches to always strive for improvement,” she said. “I still feel this way today about my own performances and make sure to teach my students there is always room to grow while still being optimistic.”

Getting to Know Brittney Gabrielson: Fun Facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
• I have never broken a bone or had stitches.
• I worked at Valleyfair for four summers during college.
• My hometown, Austin, MN, is where they make Spam.

Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
I love to dance, swim, and go on walks.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
“Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson



Polly Jaeger, Minnesota Automated Reporting Student System (MARSS) Coordinator


Polly Jaeger attended St. Cloud State University and graduated from St. Cloud Business College. She has worked in the Paynesville School District as the computer lab assistant, media assistant, and an administrative assistant at Paynesville Elementary School.

Jaeger chose to work with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud because of the school’s three pillar approach to education.

“I believe this concept will produce well-rounded, health-conscious, creative, confident students who can take on the world ahead of them,” she said. “I immediately knew that I want to be part of the Athlos team.”

During her first year with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud, Jaeger’s goals include working with the Athlos students, parents, and families and being readily available to find answers to questions or concerns anyone may have.

“I am so excited to get to know my fellow staff members since we all share the excitement, enthusiasm, and commitment to our wonderful students and want to make a difference in their first year at Athlos Academy,” Jaeger said.

When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, grit resonates most with Jaeger.

“I love challenge — to be positive when things don't go as expected, to persevere,” she said. “I am an optimist and only allow my glass to be half full. I like to face each day with enthusiasm, zest and excitement.”

Getting to Know Polly Jaeger: Fun Facts

Q. What are three things most people don’t know about you?

• I went skydiving with my son and daughter for my "big" birthday. It was quite an adrenaline rush and such a blast!
• I have a strong compassion for animals, dogs in particular. If I could, I would take in all the strays and unloved dogs and give them the love and attention they deserve. My spoiled Cocker Bichon named Burkley is indeed my third child.
• I love Yankee candles. I typically have at least one lit whenever I am home.

Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?

I love to work out, but more specifically, I love the invigorating "runners high" I get after a good run.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?

I liked all of the “Curious George” books as a child. As I got into chapter books I liked to read mystery novels.





Daniel Burrer, Kindergarten Teacher


Daniel Burrer graduated from Northern State University in Aberdeen, SD with a bachelor's degree in elementary education. After graduating, Burrer spent several years substitute teaching before teaching at All Saints Preschool and Child Care in Minnetonka, MN.

Burrer chose to work at Athlos Academy because he was encouraged by the school’s desire to provide children with the skills and lifestyle choices they need to achieve a great level of success in today's modern world.

During his first year with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud, Burrer’s goals include passing on his love of learning to his students.

“I want to create in them an excitement about coming to school each day within a safe, nurturing, and fun environment,” he said.

When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, curiosity resonates most with Burrer.

“I love learning about how different things work and helping others to learn about how other things work,” Burrer said. “It is why I have a passion for working with young children. Working with kindergartners gives you the chance to witness many of these ‘Ah-ha’ moments as things begin to make sense for them on a regular basis.”

Getting to Know Daniel Burrer: Fun Facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?

• I am a huge English Premier League fan and regularly wake up at 6:45 a.m. on Saturday or Sunday mornings from August to May to cheer on my team, Manchester United.
• I am an avid reader and have quite an extensive collection of books.
• This summer I was able to go to Chicago with my brother. We watched the United States Men's National Soccer Team take on Costa Rica in the Copa America Centenario.

Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?

Basketball

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?

Any of the “Curious George” books



Katie Jacobson, First Grade Teacher


Katie Jacobson graduated from St. Cloud State University in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in elementary education. She has taught third grade in Princeton and fourth grade in St. Cloud.

Jacobson chose to work at Athlos Academy of St. Cloud because she believes that students need an education based on more than just academics.

“I'm so excited to work in a place that promotes more than just book knowledge,” she said. “When students are learning about performance character, and all of the traits associated with it, they will succeed.”

During her first year with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud, Jacobson’s goals include helping to create a positive school environment

“I also want to learn more about the 12 Performance Character traits and find ways to incorporate them into my teaching,” she said.

When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, energy/zest resonates most with Jacobson.

“I believe that you need to engage in life with enthusiasm and excitement,” she said. “It helps keep things interesting and helps to motivate you to keep learning.”

Getting to Know Katie Jacobson: Fun Facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?

• I spend my summers working at a summer camp.
• I travel around the United States, but I've never been out of the country.
• I broke my front tooth playing softball. I caught my tooth and made it to first base before getting someone to run for me.

Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?

I love canoeing and kayaking, but anything outdoors is the best!

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?

“Corduroy” by Don Freeman




Sarah Knuth, Second Grade Teacher


Sarah Knuth graduated from Winona State University in 2010 with a degree in elementary/early childhood education. Knuth taught both first and second grade in Oklahoma and spent the last two years teaching first grade at STRIDE Academy in St. Cloud.

Knuth chose to work with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud because she was immediately drawn to Athlos’ three pillar approach to education.

“The more I learned the more I was impressed with what the students at Athlos Academy are taught,” she said.

During her first year with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud, Knuth’s goals include building a strong rapport with coworkers, students, and families in a welcoming and fun learning environment.

When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, curiosity resonates most with Knuth.

“I love learning new things and I think it is incredibly important for students to realize that learning is lifelong and have a desire to continue learning,” she said.

Getting to Know Sarah Knuth: Fun Facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
• I student taught in Costa Rica and would absolutely love to go back to teach there one day.
• Soup is my favorite thing to eat.
• My husband and I love to cook.

Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
I love taking my son for walks and pretty much anything that involves being outside.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
I always thought it was “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” but on a recent trip home my mom reminded me that it was “There's a Monster at the End of the Book.”



Amy Dierkes, Administrative Assistant


Amy Dierkes graduated from Apollo High School and worked in the office of her family’s business for more than 10 years prior to working in the customer contact center at the St. Cloud Hospital for eight years. Most recently, Dierkes worked as a student supervision paraprofessional at Kennedy Elementary.

Dierkes chose to work at Athlos Academy of St. Cloud, because she strongly believes in the school’s philosophy.

“Keeping our children active keeps their mind active,” she said. “I'm excited to be part of a team that encourages students to strive to be their best, both in school, and at home.”

During her first year at Athlos Academy of St. Cloud, Dierkes’ goals include creating a place where students are excited to come to school.

“I want them to feel welcome from the time they step in the door until the time they leave,” she said. “I will be there each and every day to greet them as they arrive.”

When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, creativity and integrity resonate most with Dierkes.

“I believe that children should always try and do their best and be proud of who they are. I teach that to my children daily,” Dierkes said. “I also think it’s important to be creative and show the world who you are as an individual.”

Getting to know Amy Dierkes: Fun facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
• I love Laffy Taffy.
• I am terribly scared of rodents.
• I enjoy taking pictures and scrapbooking.

Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?

I do CrossFit at the CrossFit Fast Factory, and I also enjoy Yoga. Away from the gym, I enjoy going for walks with my family.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?

"Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein. I read all of his books as a child, and I now read them with my children.





Tammy Evenson, Kitchen Manager


Tammy Evenson attended Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall for hotel, restaurant, institutional management and culinary arts. For the past eight years, Evenson has worked in various food management positions.

Evenson decided to work at Athlos Academy of St. Cloud, because she loves what the school stands for and that this job gives her the opportunity to work in the same school her children will attend.

“It is really a dream come true,” she said. “I get to be surrounded by kids, including my own. Doesn't get much better than that!”

During her first year with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud, Evenson’s goals include getting to know the rest of the staff and students and helping the school become a family atmosphere.

“I can't wait to start turning out some great healthy food options for all the growing kids,” she said.

When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, integrity resonates most with Evenson.

“Integrity is something that I am working hard to instill in my three sons right now,” she said. “It’s so important in life, I want them to be ‘men of their word.’”

Getting to know Tammy Evenson: Fun facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?

• Even though I have a huge passion for cooking, I originally went to school for elementary education and even student taught third grade in Canby, Minnesota.
• I make a very mean cupcake and relax by baking for people. My coworkers usually love me unless they are on a diet.
• I love to travel and my absolute favorite spot in the world is Hawaii. I have been three times and am planning trip number four.

Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?

I love chasing after my kids at the park, swimming, and hiking.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?

It’s so hard to pick just one. I loved the “Baby-Sitter's Club” series, “Boxcar Children,” “American Girl” (especially Kirsten, I had the doll too!), but I guess “Nancy Drew” mysteries would have to be the books I choose most to read over and over again.




Belinda Labor, Paraprofessional

Belinda Labor has a level three diploma certificate in chartered institute of marketing, a certificate in Management, and an associate's degree in art and sciences.

"The reason why I choose to work with Athlos is because they've incorporate physical activities into their learning schedule," Labor said.

Belinda's favorite type of physical activity is dancing.

Lloyd Hoelscher, Dean of Students


Lloyd Hoelscher earned his bachelor’s degree at St. Cloud State University for elementary education, as well as his coaching license. Upon graduation, Hoelscher taught in multiple schools for eight years before taking a position as the principal of a private school for four years.

Hoelscher left education and began a 17-year career in sales, while he and his wife homeschooled their children.

“I stayed familiar with the education trends by substitute teaching and returning back to school at St. Mary's University of Minnesota for a K-12 administrative license,” Hoelscher said.

For the past two years, Hoelscher has been working with another charter school.

“I am excited to work at Athlos Academy,” he said. “The three pillars are very impressive, but the project based instruction and the association with the Volunteers of America flipped the scales for me.”

During his first year with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud, Hoelsher’s goals include establishing the new school’s reputation and success in the St. Cloud area.

“I truly believe we have an opportunity to change the way people look at education in the St. Cloud community,” Hoelscher said. “My favorite saying is from Jim Rohn, ‘If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.’”

When it comes to the 12 Performance Character trait Athlos teaches, integrity resonates most with Hoelscher.

“If a person strives to do what is right at all times, that will influence relationships and success greatly in one’s lifetime,” he said.

Getting to know Lloyd Hoelscher: Fun facts

Q. What are three things that most people don't know about you?
• I am one of 18 children.
• I did my student teaching in Denmark.
• I am a Star Wars buff.

Q. What is your favorite physical activity?

My favorite physical activity is easily basketball. When in college I was a walk on with no scholarship but worked hard the first month of my freshman year to make the team, only to injure my shoulder while playing with my brothers at home. After surgery I decided to play intramural sports and would be on three separate teams in one season.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?

My favorite childhood book was "Big Red." This shows my age!



Anica Birkland, Second Grade Teacher
 
Anica Birkland graduated from St. Cloud State University in 2013 with a degree in communication sciences and disorders. After graduating, Birkland completed a year of service as a literacy tutor through the Minnesota Reading Corps. In 2014, Birkland enrolled in the graduate teaching licensure program through the College of St. Scholastica, where she earned her elementary teaching license. Birkland plans to finish her master’s degree within the next few years. For the past two years, Kirkland has been substitute teaching in the St. Cloud area school district and the Sauk Rapids-Rice School District.
 
Birkland chose to work at Athlos Academy of St. Cloud, because it is everything she believes a school should be about.
 
“Meeting the needs of the students by teaching to the whole child is very important to me,” she said. “Teaching students with a focus on Prepared Mind, Healthy Body, and Performance Character will not only prepare students to be 21st century citizens, but also help them succeed.”
 
During her first year with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud, Birkland’s goals include creating a strong sense of community by building meaningful relationships with students, parents, and staff.
 
“I hope to create an environment where students love coming to learn,” she said.
 
When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, optimism resonates most with Birkland.
 
“I believe positive energy helps make any day successful,” she said. “Dwelling on the negatives will not help us learn and grow. I believe in positive thinking and looking toward future goals. If something doesn’t go right, learn from the experience and move on.”
 
Getting to know Anica Birkland: Fun facts
 
Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
• I am an avid snowboarder! I broke my wrist when I first started a few years ago, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to become better.
• I grew up on a farm that has been in my family for over one hundred years. We started raising bison in 2006.
• I love musicals! Annie and Mama Mia are two of my favorites.
 
Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
Tennis, golf, dance, and snowboarding.
 
Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
“Berenstain Bears,” “Arthur,” and “Anne of Green Gables.”

Kayla Johnson, Third Grade Teacher


Kayla Johnson graduated from St. Cloud State University in 2012. Since graduating, Johnson was a long-term substitute in a third grade classroom, taught fourth grade, and was an educational assistant. She recently completed her ninth summer working at KIDSTOP.

Johnson chose to work with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud because of the school’s focus on the 12 Performance Character traits.

“My goal is to make the first year at Athlos a positive experience for both my students and their families,” she said.

When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, grit resonates most with Johnson.
“Everyone experiences failure in life, and having the courage to continue working hard, despite failing, can help you grow as a person and be rewarding in the end.”

Getting to know Kayla Johnson: Fun facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
• I collect S’MORES ornaments. I currently own 37.
• I love to do crafts of any kind.
• I love to fish but refuse to touch the fish or the bait.

Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
Biking, basketball, soccer and anything outdoors.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
“Little Critter” books by Mercer Mayer
Marie Fisher, Art Teacher

Marie Fisher graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead in 2013 with a bachelor of fine arts degree in education. She then worked as a substitute teacher in the Bismarck School District for one year before accepting a job at STRIDE Academy as the K-8 art teacher, where she worked for two years.

Fisher decided to work with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud because of its strong emphasis on Prepared Mind, Healthy Body, and Performance Character.

“I feel that these are the three main components students will need to be efficient in to be successful in their future endeavors,” Fisher said.

When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, creativity resonates most with Fisher.

“In my content area, we are constantly trying to think outside the box to create variety in our projects,” she said. “Within each project, we encounter problems and use our problem solving skill to overcome them.”

Getting to know Marie Fisher: Fun facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
• I have been skydiving twice.
• I swam with dolphins.
• I have been to Europe and have seen the Eiffel Tower.

Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
My favorite physical activities are yoga and hiking.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
"The Dot" by Peter Reynolds.

Bobbi Jo Kneip, First Grade Teacher


Bobbi Jo Kneip graduated from St. Cloud State University in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Kneip lives in Eden Valley, MN with her husband, Scott, and two children, Jack and Paige. She was a substitute teacher for three and a half years prior to beginning work at Athlos Academy of St. Cloud.

Kneip chose to work at Athlos Academy of St. Cloud because the school’s philosophy resonates with her own beliefs in teaching.

“I strongly believe that physical activity and building character enhance learning and a healthy body,” she said.

During her first year at Athlos Academy of St. Cloud, Kneip’s goal is to build positive relationships with her students and their families while incorporating a positive and creative classroom where kids can learn and be active.

When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, creativity and zest resonate most with Kneip.

“I appreciate creativity because the more you let children think outside their boxes and open their minds, the more free they become in their learning and produce quality work,” she said. “Zest resonates with me because the younger kids are filled with so much excitement and enthusiasm that they can't wait to share it with their friends. As soon as they learn something that they just couldn't understand, that light goes off and their eyes glow and they fill with so much excitement they can't wait to learn more.”

Getting to know Bobbi Jo Kneip: Fun facts

Q. What are three things about you most people don’t know?
• I live on a lake, and I have no clue how to swim.
• I won a jalapeno eating contest my senior year in high school.
• I was a cheerleader for football, basketball, and wrestling.

Q. What are your favorite types of physical activity?
Biking, walking, and playing golf.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
“The Little House on the Prairie” series.


Jillian Wandersee, Kindergarten Teacher


Jillian Wandersee has been teaching for three years in fifth grade, third grade, and kindergarten.

“I chose to work at Athlos because it was something different than most schools offer,” she said. “It encompasses the whole child and not just academics.”

During her first year with Athlos Academy of St. Cloud, Wandersee is excited to see her students grow as individuals and learn each and every day.

When it comes to the 12 Performance Character traits Athlos teaches, energy/zest resonate most with Wandersee.

“This is one of the main reasons I chose to teach kindergarten,” she said. “They are so full of life and love for nearly anything. They never run out of energy and keep me on my toes all day long.”

Getting to know Jillian Wandersee: Fun facts

Q. What are three things that people may not know about you?
• I have three beautiful children, ages seven, four, and two.
• I love to cook and try new foods.
• Traveling is one of my favorite things to do - I have been all over the United States and can't wait to expand my traveling to overseas when the opportunity arises.

Q. What is your favorite type of physical activity?
My favorite type of physical activity is going for walks with my children and my husband. It is a great way for us to all be involved. I also love to do games, such as Just Dance, with my family.

Q. What was your favorite childhood book?
One of my favorite childhood books was “The Wonderful Pigs of Jillian Jiggs.”
 
 
 
 
 
 
Courtney Grandgenett
Kindergarten Teacher
Courtney Hiemenz
Kindergarten Teacher
 
 
Jackie Heslop
Special Education Teacher
Jennifer Johnson
Special Education Teacher
Jennifer Steffen
Special Education Teacher
 
 
Jodi Young
Fourth Grade Teacher
Katie Bierschbach
Health Service Aid
Kendra Schlangen
Paraprofessional
 
 
 
Krista Swenson
Resource Specialist
 
Laura Griffith
Fourth Grade Teacher
 
Malinda O'Brien
Sixth Grade Teacher
Mandelyn Witte
Administrative Assistant
Megan Showalter
Paraprofessional
 
 
Sarah Peterson
Athletic Performance Coach
Shamra Benson
Fifth Grade Teacher
Steffanie Theisen
Kitchen Staff
 
 
Tammy Salzburn
Kitchen Staff
Kristina Velazquez
Abi Noor
Paraprofessional
 
Hibo Warsame
Paraprofessional
 
Sarah Salmela
Administrative assistant