SLP Schools staff starts the school year with laughter

Staff Writer
Since 2013, I have primarily covered the Anoka-Hennepin and Spring Lake Park school districts as well as the city of Spring Lake Park for ABC Newspapers.

Spring Lake Park Schools invited its 800 staff members to the district’s 2017-2018 all-staff meeting and kick-off event Aug. 29, which this year featured Wavelength, an acting troupe that performs comedy shows for educators across the country.

“If you’re not having fun, our kids aren’t going to have fun,” Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg said before turning the microphone over to Wavelength.

Four actors entertained with improvisational sketches that touched on Common Core, culturally responsive teaching, qualifications required to be the United States secretary of education and more.

Four Woodcrest Spanish Immersion educators, Roland Ocampo, Andrea de la Fuente, Lauren Hughes and Joel Carlovsky, were pulled on stage to judge “The Teacher Voice,” dressing up as Blake Shelton, Alicia Keys, Gwen Stefani and Adam Levine.

“The Edge of Technology” sounded like Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory,” “Super Teach” parodied Rick James’ “Super Freak” and “We Test Everything” was reminiscent of Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere.”

In a sketch about change, teachers were asked what changes they might be apprehensive about in Spring Lake Park this year.

Spring Lake Park High School Spanish teacher Katrina Balzer was invited on stage when she said she was wary about having her classroom in the math hall where numbers are the primary language.

Staff were excited to hear about changes to district facilities. They were invited to tour the new high school science addition after the program.

Though a majority of the program was designed to tickle staff members’ funny bones, moments before introducing Wavelength, Ronneberg was all choked up.

At the kick-off, he often highlights the good work of other school districts, but this year he played a video that showed all of the work Spring Lake Park has done to personalize learning.

“This is really super important to me,” said Ronneberg.

He told staff that he recently accompanied his dad to Ax-Man to find manipulatives for his math classes ahead of father’s 51st year teaching.

Ronneberg’s dad is trying to make a difference for his students and spent close to an hour searching for something that might reach them.

“He’s truly my hero,” Ronneberg said, starting to cry. “He’s someone I admire more than anyone. He should have been a statistic.”

As a poor kid with an abusive, drunk father, Ronnberg’s father “had every deck stacked against him,” but his teachers believed in him and pushed him to do great things. A fifth-grade teacher, eleventh-grade math teacher and neighbor were particularly influential.

“This fall I’m full of emotions,” Ronneberg said to staff. “You truly can be the hope for our students each and every day.”

Manny Scott, one of the original Freedom Writers and last year’s keynote speaker, sent a video message to staff.

“Even on your worst day, you can still be someone’s best hope,” he reminded them.

The kick-off event also honored 11 staff members on 20- and 30-year milestones. Facilities supervisor Doug Stahl was presented with a 30-year service award, and staff members Jennifer Carlson, Jennifer Flansburg, Stacy Gerding, Steve Halvorson, Michelle Helfenstein, Noreen Johnson, Cindy Jones, Jan Mekoli, Rob Schleicher and Margaret Zobitz were honored for 20 years of service.

New staff were introduced, as was the brand new panther mascot, yet to be named. The panther, decked in Spring Lake Park Schools’ colors, was purchased by the Panther Foundation.

School resumes Sept. 5 in the Spring Lake Park School District.

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Minne-Brass performs at Spring Lake Park Schools all-staff meeting and kick-off event Aug. 29. Photos by Olivia Alveshere Spring Lake Park High School junior Cassidy Thompson stands beside the new panther mascot, yet to be named. The panther was unveiled at the all-staff meeting and kick-off event one week before the start of the 2017-2018 school year. Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg presents facilities supervisor Doug Stahl with a 30-year service award. Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg gets choked up talking about his father, who begins his 51st year of teaching this fall. Woodcrest Spanish Immersion educators Roland Ocampo, Andrea de la Fuente, Lauren Hughes and Joel Carlovsky play Blake Shelton, Alicia Keys, Gwen Stefani and Adam Levine in Wavelength’s “The Teacher Voice.” Contestants of “The Teacher Voice” gave performances their all. Spring Lake Park High School Spanish teacher Katrina Balzer gets pulled on stage when she admits to being anxious about being surrounded by math teachers.
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Spring Lake Park High School junior Cassidy Thompson stands beside the new panther mascot, yet to be named. The panther was unveiled at the all-staff meeting and kick-off event one week before the start of the 2017-2018 school year.