Faribault Lutheran School brings the Minnesota Opera to its students

November 17th, 2013

Friday, September 27, 2013

When Bugs Bunny dons the Viking horns to Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” or pulls out the castanets to Rossini’s “Barber of Seville,” opera music is fun, accessible and entertaining.

But at the same time, people sometimes have a different notion that opera is highbrow, stuffy, and even boring, despite opera being an art that has withstood the test of time.

For the past several years, the Minnesota Opera has brought a new appreciation of opera to younger generations with an outreach program that brings opera into the schools. Last week, the opera came to Faribault Lutheran School.

“Everyone knows a little bit of opera,” said Bergen Baker, a teaching artist with the Minnesota Opera who taught singing and music appreciation lessons to FLS students for a week. “You know, ‘Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!’ All these kids have a contextual knowledge of opera in their lives. I love to see them when they make the connection that the musical line that they know comes from somewhere. Their eyes just get wider.”

A trained opera performer herself, Baker, with help from bass singer Rodolfo Nieto and pianist Mark Bilyeu, taught all of FLS’s students — from kindergarten all the way to 8th grade — about opera as an art form and about Mozart as a composer. The week-long program concluded with a short performance by FLS students and Minnesota Opera staff this past Friday.

When Minnesota Opera first implemented its school program, the developers decided to focus on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as the central figure for the lesson plans. Mozart wrote 22 operas in his short life, which offers a wide range of material for the teaching artists like Baker to draw from.

“Mozart was also a silly guy with a big character. The kids can really identify with his kind of love for life,” Baker said.

Baker taught the FLS students in groups based on grade. Kindergartners and 2nd graders were her first group, followed by 3rd through 5th graders, and finally she worked with 6th through 8th graders.

The oldest group learned to sing a chorus from Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” Baker said she is always amazed by how receptive children are to opera music.

“They don’t have any pre- or misconceptions about opera. Kids’ minds are much more open and the connections happen faster,” Baker said.

Baker’s time at FLS would not have been possible without the help of Mary Jane Holland, grandmother to some FLS students and an avid fan of opera. Holland arranged for the Minnesota Opera to come to Faribault.

“I love opera. This really helps to expose the kids to it,” Holland said. She first learned of the program last spring when she attended Minnesota Opera performances.

“The school, the teachers have all been very accommodating. When I told the principal, Joel Witt, my idea, he said, ‘Mary Jane, we’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen.'”

On Friday, Baker, Nieto and Bilyeu along with the FLS 6th, 7th and 8th graders performed for students, faculty and parents. When Baker and Nieto broke into Mozart’s “Papageno-Papagena” duet from “The Magic Flute,” the whole gymnasium watched in an awed silence.

“I’m amazed at how receptive the kids are,” Holland said. “Listening to them ask questions all week, and then seeing them during the performance — it’s just wonderful.”

524a2a113705d.image 524a20bc5a1a1.image 524a20bc09c07.image 524a20bc75f4b.image 524a52310fbe2.image 524a52340766b.image

Posted in FLS In the News | No Comments »

The Wildcat’s Roar

September 12th, 2013


Roar Oct 2 2015

Roar Oct 23 2015

Roar Nov 6 2015

Roar Nov 20 2015

Roar Dec 11 2015






Posted in Wildcat Roar | No Comments »

Faribault Lutheran School principal, secretary take on lunch duty

May 30th, 2013

May 30, 2013


It’s 7 a.m. and Joel Witt has set out a large jug of maple syrup and filled up a handful of plastic cups with cut up nectarines.

The oven is set to 350 degrees and a box of frozen pancake wraps — like a corn dog, only with a sausage link covered in fried pancake batter —  sits ready to be emptied out on to a baking pan.

And instead of slinging a tie around his neck as he starts another day at Faribault Lutheran School, the principal of three years grabs a red “dinosaurs at the beach”-themed apron from a wall hook and ties it around his waist.

“Being a child of the ’80s, I’d say I have my own breakfast club here,” Witt says with a chuckle.

For the past seven weeks, Witt and his administrative assistant, Lynn Witt (no relation), have been taking care of all kitchen duties for the small private school. It’s the least they can do, they both say, as their coworker Mary Schneider continues her battle with leukemia.

Schneider came to the school as the new cook two years ago. In early April, after believing she had a strong case of the flu, Schneider was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. She called Joel Witt with the news as her husband drove her up to the hospital for her first round of blood work.

His response? “We’ve got your back,” Joel Witt recalled.

Schneider says she wasn’t surprised by his reaction.

“Joel is a very giving, thoughtful, understanding, willing to pitch in and help kind of guy,” she wrote in an email. “All of the staff and teachers have been very supportive … Working with these people has been a God send.”

Wanting to keep Schneider as their cook and not go through the work of hiring someone on a temporary basis, it was decided the Witts would take over the kitchen. Instead of coming in at 6:30 a.m. to finish up letters to parents or sign checks, they come in at that time to make sure the dozen or so students signed up for breakfast are going to be fed, and then they move on to lunch prep. It’s often 2 p.m. before they can return to the school office and get back to other responsibilities.

“I don’t know if just anyone could have stepped in and done this,” said FLS board member Jen Stephes. “But it just shows again that this school is one big family and stepping in like this, it’s just what you do when times are tough.”

Except for a handful of menu items, everything served to the school’s 103 students is made inside the small kitchen. That means the spaghetti bake, the macaroni and cheese, the pizza and the chicken stir fry that frequent the lunch menu are all made from scratch now by Lynn Witt with the principal as her helper.

Making everything from scratch also means an easier time following the new federal Healthy Kids Act. It was the adoption of these new federal guidelines that led Lynn Witt to earn a professional food manager certificate from the state last year. That certification has come in handy now that the long-time secretary is in charge of the whole kitchen.

Lynn Witt does have experience in food preparation. She started working in a restaurant at the age of 14 and later owned a diner in North Dakota. But then she moved to Faribault, studied at South Central College, and got the administrative assistant job at FLS.

“I am no stranger to the kitchen,” Lynn Witt explained as she pulled a white net over her hair. “But I never thought I’d be back in one like this after all these years.”

But this is about more than just lunch duty. The helping attitude is contagious at the faith-based school. While the principal and secretary leave the front office unattended for much of the school day, parents, grandparents, and alumni step in to make sure phones get answered, visitors get verified and let in, and deliveries get signed for.

And details of the end of the year field trips and graduation festivities that had to be finalized? Some of the school’s eight teachers took over those plans.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without everyone’s help,” Joel Witt said as he placed a pancake wrap on a second grader’s tray Wednesday morning. “I know it sounds cliche, but it’s the absolute truth. Everybody has moved around something to help fill in the gaps.”

He noted that the actions of staff have rubbed off on the student body. Outside of the classroom lessons, FLS students are learning about sense of community and helping others.

Schneider, meanwhile, is in remission and just found out that she’ll have to undergo a bone marrow transplant, which means she won’t be able to return to FLS in the fall.

Posted in FLS In the News | No Comments »

Faribault Lutheran students earn game night for reading over 20 million words

May 4th, 2013

Thursday, April 25, 2013

On Friday night (tonight), Faribault Lutheran School students will be spending time at school enjoying root beer floats, pizza and a plethora of different games — some learning-based and others just for fun like extreme hopscotch — as a result of exceeding their school-wide goal of reading 15 million words before spring break.

Students exceeded their goal, with a total now just over 20 million words, according to Joel Witt FLS principal.

Second-grade teacher Kellsey Lee said her class came up with the idea for the 15 million word challenge on a whim after reading about a similar situation in one of their lessons.

“We read a book called ‘Miss Daisy is Crazy’ one day in class and in the book the principal promises to dress in a funny costume if the students reach their reading goal,” Lee said. “They [the students] loved the idea and kept asking if we could do something like it, so of course I said ‘Sure, we can.’”

Teachers at FLS use Accelerated Reader, a computer program that monitors reading progress and comprehension, with their students for regular class work. Luckily, Accelerated Reader also calculates the number of words read per book, making adding up students’ word totals a breeze, according to Lee.

Another piece of the project measured through Accelerated Reader was a student’s level of reading comprehension. After each book, students were required to pass a reading comprehension test for the words to count toward the final goal.

“That was another really great thing,” said Lee. “It’s not like students could just whip through book after book to rack up their word count. They had to be really paying attention and comprehending what they were reading for it to count toward the end goal.”

According to Lee, the goal of reading 15 million words also prompted some of her students to read more chapter books to log words faster.

“At the beginning of the year, only a couple of my students were reading chapter books,” Lee said. “And by the end of the challenge, all of my students had been reading them.”

Lee also set up a visual gauge of how far FLS students had come on their reading goal. Known as the “Wildcat Word Count,” it was a staircase made of paper and taped to the wall in the school’s main hallway with the school mascot, a wildcat, making the jump from stair to stair as the students worked toward their ultimate goal at the top of the staircase.

“Now, the wildcat is sort of hanging over the last step since students have read more than 20 million words,” Lee said with a smile. “It was great. Every morning, the kids would rush in and see where they were on the [word count] staircase. It is really awesome to see students get so excited about reading.”

Witt said the goal was both fun and academically beneficial.

“I am very proud of the students, they really dedicated themselves to reading and reaching their goal,” he said. “It shows me they are developing good reading habits.”

As another reward for reaching their goal of reading 15 million words by spring break, each FLS student will receive 10 tickets for a raffle with the prize of a $25 Barnes and Noble gift card. And, as an added incentive, the top reader in each class received three extra tickets.

Other games students and their families will have the chance to participate in are: a checkers tournament, memory games, Friendly Feud — a trivia game based on Family Feud — and outdoor games if weather permits.

Posted in FLS In the News | No Comments »

State Health Commissioner Visits Rice County and Faribault Lutheran School

April 4th, 2013

April 4, 2013

Sporting a bow tie depicting the six different pathogens of food-borne illness, Minnesota’s Commissioner of Health Dr. Edward Ehlinger came to Faribault on Wednesday to celebrate National Public Health Week — a week-long initiative to raise awareness of healthy lifestyles.

Ehlinger, a trained medical doctor who’s quick with a smile, made many stops in the area promoting the good news of healthy eating and physical activity. Roaming from the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf to Rice County Government Services and more, Ehlinger was pleased with the level of energy and collaboration he saw amid Rice County’s public health community organizers.

“You run a good ship,” Ehlinger said during a small presentation at the Rice County public health office.

No pun intended, but a large portion of Ehlinger’s visit was to discuss the effectiveness of Rice County’s SHIP grant programs. SHIP, or State Health Improvement Program, began in 2009 as an effort to better the lifestyles of Minnesotans — whether by quitting smoking or drinking more water or just simply getting out and being active.

Now in its fourth year, SHIP has touched lives across the county. From community garden programs to cooking classes for troubled youth, Rice County organizations are taking modest grants usually less than $1,000 and making radical changes in the community.

“It really all adds up collectively into a broader movement,” SHIP coordinator for Rice County Natalie Ginter said. “The funding is just a catalyst for all the hard work.”

But with budget negotiations underway, many SHIP beneficiaries, like Caren Hoffman of A Child’s Delight Too, voiced their concerns about the continuance of SHIP funding, and possibly an increase in funding.

“The governor has [SHIP] in his budget, but the Legislature has set targets lower than the governor’s amount,” Ehlinger said. “We need advocates to keep these programs going. We need any help we can get.”

Along with Rice County Public Health, Ehlinger also visited Faribault Lutheran School Wednesday to learn firsthand about some of the physical education programming going on at the school as a result of the $1,500 Statewide Health Improvement Program Grant FLS received through Rice County Public Health.

The school is using their SHIP Grant to create more opportunities for students to be active: Fit Fridays and Active Recess. New adjustable jump ropes, gym mats and new outdoor recess balls are a few of the items FLS has purchased to enhance Fit Fridays and Active Recess.

Faribault Lutheran School is also collaborating with District One Hospital to bring more health and wellness lessons to the classroom.

Through another SHIP grant awarded to District One Hospital, a DOH Wellness Coach, Nicole Boelter, is collaborating with FLS and writing a curriculum for some activity-based in-class nutrition and health education as well as introducing some new things for Fit Fridays — like obstacle courses, hula hooping and circuits — with FLS students.

Some topics Boelter covers with FLS students in their classroom sessions range are: the My Plate program; nutritional information about fruits and vegetables; how to check a pulse; how to read food labels; free physical activity options for home; and portion distortion; among others.

There are three different groups of students—grades K-2, grades 3-5 and grades 6-8—and each group learns about the same topics, but there are different methods of information delivery based on grade level, according to Boelter.

“All of the students learn about the same material each week,” said Boelter. “It’s our hope that students take home all of the things they are learning and share it with the rest of their families.”

During Ehlinger’s visit to FLS, he ate lunch with students and took part in some dancing and yoga stretches — a few staples of Fit Friday programming.

Ehlinger said that the nutrition and health education curriculum as well as physical education programming at FLS serve as examples of the importance of SHIP Grants.

“The students, school and community really benefit from quality health education programs like those that are practiced [at Faribault Lutheran School],” said Ehlinger.







Posted in FLS In the News | No Comments »

Faribault Lutheran School utilizes SHIP grants for student health

March 17th, 2013


Faribault Lutheran School is getting creative in finding new opportunities for students to learn about health and get active.

The school was recently awarded a $1,500 Statewide Health Improvement Program grant through Rice County Public Health. They are taking that grant money and putting it toward new equipment for two programs that encourage students to be active and healthy: Fit Fridays and Active Recess.

Fit Fridays started in the 2011-12 school year, to promote unity for students of all grade levels, K-8. It is an activity-based program that includes all FLS students and gives them a chance to get moving, doing things like jump roping or yoga together every Friday.

In another recent development at FLS, some grassy space was added to the recess area that used to be all cement. Active Recess is a program that came after that addition; it will lengthen recess by 5-10 minutes after the snow melts for students to have a little more time for activities like soccer or kickball.

“We have just acquired some grassy areas, and Active Recess is about letting the kids be able to have the time and space to play something like kickball, soccer or baseball and really promoting that specific activity each day,” said Jennifer Jarocki, a first-grade teacher and physical education teacher for grades K-2 at Faribault Lutheran School. “Students have the option to play or not. It’s not mandatory.”

Through another SHIP grant awarded to District One Hospital, a DOH Wellness Coach, Nicole Boelter, is collaborating with FLS and writing a curriculum for some activity-based in-class nutrition and health education as well as introducing some new things for Fit Fridays — like obstacle courses, hula hooping and circuits — with FLS students.

Some of the topics Boelter plans to cover with FLS students in their classroom sessions are: the My Plate program; the guidelines, definitions and benefits of physical activity; nutritional information about fruits and vegetables; how to check a pulse; how to read food labels; free physical activity options for home; and portion distortion; among others.

The collaboration is meant to be a “train the trainer” program, where Boelter will train the school staff to help with long-term fitness and health education in an effort to make the program a sustainable thing for FLS, according to Pam Tidona, community relations coordinator at DOH.

“Faribault Lutheran School is using [the SHIP grant] towards promoting healthy activity, not just in phy-ed class, but through the school day. The goal is for students to be able to use what they learn at home and in their everyday lives,” said Jarocki.


In a past physical education class at Faribault Lutheran School, students test their hula hoop skills and get a bit of exercise

Posted in FLS In the News | No Comments »

Give to the Max Day!

November 13th, 2012

FLS has obtained $2,500 in matching funds for this event! That means that the first $2,500 we raise will turn into $5,000. It’s not too late to build on this fund even more; I would love to have more matching funds available. If you know of an individual on business that would like to make a larger donation, ask if they would consider donating to help build the matching fund or sponsor a matching grant. Nothing encourages people to donate more than knowing that their $25 or $50 donation will become $50 or $100. A matching fund of $5,000 or more would be a real blessing!

Don’t forget that the PTL has decided that they will be give a free Chili Jam ticket to anyone who presents a receipt showing that they donated $20 or more during GIVE TO THE MAX DAY 2012!
If you have any questions regarding GIVE TO THE MAX, please contact me (

Posted in General | No Comments »

Faribault Lutheran School’s makeover: new school year, new technology

November 13th, 2012

Faribault Daily News–September 13, 2012


As the 2012-2013 school year began at Faribault Lutheran School, shiny sneakers and freshly sharpened pencils weren’t the only new equipment in the building. Over the summer, FLS furnished all eight classrooms with SMART Boards, installed wireless Internet and acquired 24 new laptops for use as a portable computer lab.

Of all the new technology in the school, perhaps the most impactful addition to the classrooms is the SMART boards. SMART Boards, which can cost upward of $7,000, are electronic, interactive whiteboards. The boards offer capabilities that allow students and teachers to do many things, including draw, write, take notes, play educational games, use Power Point and connect to the internet.

Joel Witt, principal of FLS, says the new boards have been received well by both the staff and the students.

“The staff are excited about being able use new tools with the kids, and the students are excited about being able to do something fun,” said Witt. “The new tools just serve to make the classrooms better altogether.”

According to Witt, updating the school’s technology has been a process that started more than a year ago. First came the idea of implementing a one-to-one technology plan, where every student and teacher would receive a device for his or her own use. That plan was later revised, and every classroom got a digital projector, while the staff received laptops. Then, as the school’s board of directors continued to meet with the staff to brainstorm, the idea of SMART boards came up. Later, new laptops were purchased as well, which were then placed on a cart that teachers can use as a portable computer lab.

At first, Witt says, only four boards were going to be purchased. But when the teachers expressed their wish to all work with the same level of technology, the decision was made to try to get boards for every classroom. Eventually, private funding, which came from both church and community members, raised the $30,000 needed to purchase and install the boards.

Witt says he spent the summer rewiring the classroom projectors to work with the new boards, and attending training sessions to learn how to use the new technology. Now, Witt and the Faribault Lutheran School staff meet every other week to learn more about the SMART boards and practice using all the tools they offer. Witt says the expansive capabilities of the boards have positively impacted how his staff teaches by giving them more educational options. He says they also help the staff meet the different needs of the students, because the boards incorporate audio, visual and tactical teaching techniques.

“It’s been an educational experience for everyone,” said Witt. “I feel really blessed because I can see the students and teachers grow.”

Robin Kuball, who teaches kindergarten at FLS, is very pleased with what the SMART board in her classroom adds to her lessons.

“There’s tons of resources out there,” said Kuball, “and now they’re just at our fingertips.”

In the end, the teachers and administration at Faribault Lutheran School ultimately desire to see their students get excited about learning. And to a generation that’s grown up surrounded by technology, these new devices make the students feel right at home.

“We’ve put a lot of thought into this,” said Witt. “This is a community that believes in meeting the educational needs of every student, and tools like this help us do that.”


Hands-on learning

Students at Faribault Lutheran School are learning how to use the Smart Boards that were recently installed in every classroom.

A little help from the expert

Faribault  Lutheran School recently purchased a portable computer lab of 24 lap tops. Principal Witt often tours the classrooms to lend a hand as teachers and students learn about the new technology.

Posted in FLS In the News | No Comments »

Eighth-grade and first-grade students at Faribault Lutheran Schools team up

November 13th, 2012

Faribault Daily News–March 30, 2012

By Allison Roorda

“This is my partner, Adam,” says first-grader Henry Lu. “It used to be Noah, but now it’s Adam.”

Henry is one of 12 first-grade students at Faribault Lutheran School who are paired up with one of 12 eighth-grade students. The partnership has been a part of FLS for more than 16 years, but this year the program has really taken off.

“In the past year, we’ve gone sledding if they meet their reading goals,” said first-grade teacher Stacey Nelson. “We played games, we did art projects with them.”

The eighth-grade partners have been a part of the first-graders’ lives at school all year. Their main task is to visit the first-grade classroom every Friday to help the younger students with their reading. But this year, the eighth-grade students have been a little more involved.

“Once we played games in the gym,” said first-grade student Justin Drevlow. “What’s the one where you sneak up on people?”

“Secret Agent,” answers his eighth-grade partner Travis Wegner.

The classes have spent more time together this year mostly because of geography. The first-grade class used to be located in the Peace Lutheran Church, south of the current campus at Trinity Lutheran. This is the first year all the grades are in the same building.

“I think they’ve bonded more,” Nelson said. “We’re able to do more with them this year.”

One of the more recent projects was a Valentine’s Day party. The eighth-grade students helped their younger partners make Valentines boxes. Nelson said she is not above using time with the eighth-grade students as a reward for her kids because the first-grade students enjoy the program and the time with their partners.

“It’s a great group of kids and a great project for the eighth-graders, too, because they can see what kind of role model they can be,” Nelson said.

Since the program has been a part of the school for so long, some of the current eighth-grade partners can remember having their own older partners as first-graders.

“I remember his name was Nicholas,” Travis said. “I can’t remember, but I think I was a good reader. They walked from Trinity to come read, and I would be very excited.”

Now as eighth-grade students, the older kids are just as excited being the role models in the partnership.

“I think it helps us as eighth-graders to remember what first grade was like,” said Tasha Duggan. “Or for the first-graders, it helps to have someone older hang out with them.

Hanging out with older kids is the fun part of having a partner, said Justin.

“They become the leaders,” said Joyce Kromminga, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade English at FLS. “These little guys look up to them so much. I think they feel more responsibility. They take their role very seriously.”

With all the grades at the same building, the students have more opportunities to co-mingle. Some seventh-grade students are already visiting the kindergarten classroom, preparing for the day when the two classes become partners in first and eighth grade.

Henry has had two eighth-grade partners this year, with Adam taking over most recently.

“I like to play games with him,” Henry said. “I read with him. It’s fun because he knows words that I don’t know.”

FLS partners - boys

First-grade student Justin Drevlow reads a book with his eighth-grade partner, Travis Wegner.



FLS partners - girls

Tasha Duggan, an eighth-grade student at Faribault Lutheran School, goes over a book with first-grader Gabriella David.


FLS partners - class

The Faribault Lutheran School eighth-grade students visit the first-grade classroom at least once a week. The partnership program has become more frequent this year with both classes in the Trinity Lutheran Church location.

Posted in FLS In the News | No Comments »

Parent Teacher League Minutes

November 13th, 2012

FLS PTL 2015-2016 Calendar

PTL Minutes 11-2-15

PTL Minutes 10-5-15

Posted in Parent Teacher League | No Comments »