School is underway! I want to thank everybody for making the big return successful last week. The atmosphere, and the attitude among students and those of us privileged to serve them, are so positive. Many things are a little bit different, of course, because of coronavirus-exposure mitigation. But kids are amazingly adaptive and resilient, especially when adaptations allow for normal childhood and youth experiences. It is as it should be.
As we all know, some factors in holding classes are beyond our control during this “COVID year.” There will surely be cases of COVID-19 in our community, as there will be in any significant population not living in perpetual quarantine. I’ve speculated that PA may experience less disease in general this fall, due to all the protective and sanitary measures being taken. But cases of COVID-19 can be uniquely impactful on a community due to public health expectations. There will very likely be periods during which members of PA will need to be quarantined for up to two weeks, because of contact-tracing connections to someone who has tested positive. Our technology enhancements will greatly facilitate our ability to serve students in such cases.
I think it important for us as a community to be prepared for such eventualities. And to understand what they signify and do not signify. We must recognize the difference between a child or youth “testing positive for COVID-19” on the one hand, and being seriously ill or endangered on the other. “When children are infected, most are asymptomatic,” wrote Jay Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff of Stanford and Harvard Medical Schools last week in the Wall Street Journal. And the serious “risk is lower than for the flu.” They echo what we have learned from other health authorities. And they help us understand that quarantining measures triggered at a school by contact tracing should not be viewed as evidence of a health crisis. “The concept of a ‘school outbreak’ is misleading,” the medical-school profs write, “because it typically denotes a number of positive tests, not significant illnesses.” Quarantining, where necessary, will be about mitigating virus spread, and will indicate nothing about the severity of anyone’s symptoms.
We are delighted to welcome several fine new faculty members to Providence Academy this year. I’ll share a word about each, hoping you get to meet them soon!
Mrs. Katie Brenny is not new to Providence, but is excited to return to teach our new section of 5th Grade this year. Mrs. Brenny, who has served Catholic schools throughout her career, earned a BA in education from The College of St. Scholastica and a MA in Educational Leadership for Concordia St. Paul.
Miss Isabel Brown, a proud graduate of PA, teaches English in the Upper School and also is a long-term substitute teacher this year. After studying at Franciscan University of Steubenville, she completed her BA in English at the University of St. Thomas, then earning an MA there in Catholic Studies. She has taught in private Catholic education prior to coming to PA, and brings a special interest in Catholic school mission and culture.
Mr. Brian Cosgriff comes to Providence to teach Phy Ed after having taught and coached in the Hopkins school district for the last 34 years. He has a BA in geography and sociology from Macalester college, physical education and coaching licensure from University of St. Thomas, and DAPE licensure from Mankato State. He holds an MA in education from St. Scholastica. While at Hopkins he guided the girls’ basketball team to seven state class AAAA championships. In 2019 he was voted the Max Preps National coach of the year. He was recently inducted into the Minnesota High school basketball Hall of Fame.
Mr. Eric Duffy teaches Middle School science and religion classes. He holds a BA in youth and pastoral ministry from St. Mary’s University, and an MA in teaching from Concordia University. Mr. Duffy devoted nine years to youth ministry, a majority of which were spent at the Church of the Epiphany in Coon Rapids. Subsequently, he taught science in the Osseo School District before coming to PA.
Mrs. Barbara Hunter joins us as a Middle School math teacher, with a strong background in Middle School having spent the past twenty years committed to private Catholic education in Illinois. Mrs. Hunter holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MA in Education from Dominican University.
Dr. John Lewin is teaching Chemistry, Advanced Chemistry, and Earth and Space Science in the Upper School. He holds a BA in Chemistry from the University of St. Thomas and MS and PhD degrees in Chemistry from the University of Minnesota. In summer 2020, he completed a MA in Educational Leadership and Administration from the University of St. Thomas. He has been teaching private Catholic high school science since 2010.
Mrs. Julie Mundahl, who worked after school with PA Middle Schoolers last year, joins us as Family and Consumer Sciences teacher. Mrs. Mundahl has spent her career as a “FACS” specialist, most recently with the Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose school district. She holds a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, and a Master’s of business communications from the University of St. Thomas.
Mrs. Lisa Simon is teaching our new section of 4th Grade. She comes to us with a background that includes school leadership, teaching, and work in the business sector as an HR professional. She holds BS in elementary education and Master’s in Adult Education/HRD from the University of Minnesota.
Miss Michele Volk is serving in a new role at PA in Campus Ministry. No stranger to our halls and fields, she served as one of PA’s most energetic NET Ministries Team Members in 2015-16. In the years since, she has enjoyed assistant coaching Varsity soccer and softball at Providence while working on staff at NET Ministries in St. Paul. Miss Volk received a BA from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Communication Arts, and is studying toward an MA in Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas.