Mollie Gruennert is passionate. She has always desired to make a difference, exemplifying this outlook:
“I alone cannot change the world,
but I can cast a stone across the waters
to create many ripples.” ― Mother Teresa
This desire has taken many routes, primarily in education. She received a B.S. in Education from Calvin College (my own alma mater), then she . . .
–Taught 4th Grade at National Heritage Academy’s first school, Excel Charter Academy in Grand Rapids, Michigan — 4 years
–Taught in Private Home School — 1 year
–Traveled 13 Countries in 3 months viewing ministries
–Taught 3rd Grade at George Washington Academy, Casablanca, Morocco — 2 years
–Taught 4th Grade then MS Literature and HS Drama at Heritage Christian Schools, Milwaukee, WI — 2 years
–Was Literacy Coach, Assistant Principal, Director of Operations at Hmong American Peace Academy — 8 years
–Taught as an Emergency Home School Aunt – 1 year
Before all of that occurred, Mollie was my high school art student at Heritage Christian School (Milwaukee, WI). She was intelligent, thoughtful, and creative–a joy to have in class. She’s still all of those things, now as principal of Cross Trainers Academy (CTA) since June, 2014.
CTA is the Milwaukee Rescue Mission Elementary School. Here’s the mission statement:
“Cross Trainers Academy exists to provide an academically rigorous, Christ-centered education to equip students from a wide variety of backgrounds, including those who are or have been homeless, to serve their communities and lead responsible, God-honoring lives. We do this by nurturing the whole child, empowering each student to build a strong foundation for the future.”
Mollie uses her creativity to cultivate an environment of learning for children and to stir their muses. One way this happens is by partnering with local organizations, including “Learn Deep,” “Arts @ Large,” and “Mad Hot Ballroom.” In addition to volunteers who teach music, CTA has a partnership with Marquette University to design a playground that is natural and adventurous.
What do you love to create?
Mollie: When it comes to people, I love to create a vision for the potential use of each person’s gifts, both collaboratively and individually, in our environment and beyond the school walls. As a school principal, I have to get to know the people on my team personally to understand what their gifts are and explore how those gifts can be used to develop the gifts in the students we serve.
I have to navigate personalities
and preferences to best utilize talent.
Sometimes this requires role shifting and unique job descriptions
that are not typical in other school environments.
For example, one teacher asked to explore how his acting ability and connections to the wide community can help our students find a place in radio drama or film production, telling stories the students relate to that will inspire their community.
A secretary may also lead a praise dance group, or a teacher may teach courses as diverse as engineering and literature because both are passions.
Ultimately, the goal is to draw out student talent
and find unique ways with the community
to give our students opportunity
to allow their gifts to develop
and eventually flourish.
Artistically, I enjoy using my love for art to organize school performances, projects, and even staff member celebrations. Color, flavors, sound, and personality are some of the mediums used to create the environment needed for people to enjoy learning, and feel like family at our school.
Where do you get your ideas?
Problems are the fertile soil for creativity
in the school environment.
Sometimes the problem is the need for a new playground that helps meet a need for students in Milwaukee to experience nature. Other problems include the need for higher literacy which will require engaging methods like radio drama or film for students to want to tackle challenging text.
Another problem we were having as a school was attention to detail. We decided to develop a drum line, recorder, and ukulele programs to help students develop their ability to listen. As students learn to attend to musical sounds, they tend to transfer this developing listening skill and note reading skills into the classroom, sustaining their focus on text.
Learn Deep In their Own Words: In monthly Collab Labs, educators and community partners come together to share ideas and solve problems. They provide a chance to hear what other schools are working on and how they’ve overcome hurdles to implement innovative practices. Partners link up to work on projects that emphasize innovative education.
The demand that students develop skills
(communication, collaboration, problem solving)
that will enable them to survive and thrive
in the 21st century is rising.
This, in turn, is forcing a big shift in education —
away from the mass production,
content-centric model in use for the last 100 years
to student-driven work on real-world projects.
As this transition unfolds we fear Milwaukee and its students will be left behind. Learn Deep aims to put Milwaukee out in front.
How do you create? Say something about your creative process.
Joy, beauty, and shalom are critical ingredients
in my creative process.
Mollie: Whether I am refurbishing a dollhouse for a Christmas present, or developing a student’s ear to be able hear the nuances in spelling out words, or helping create a work environment that is rewarding and productive, I believe the human soul seeks these qualities and is satisfied when these qualities coexist.
Shalom at our school, is defined as
“The way things are suppose to be.”
in terms of relationships with God and man.
It speaks to our highest potential.
Being in a Christian environment, I tap into the creativity of God. I spend time in prayer, asking Him to show me how things could be and then following through with the insights I am given.
Because God is naturally joyful and a worker of beauty,
those qualities tend to inspire us,
since we are made in his image.
My belief in God’s profound genius and deeply creative nature
keep me looking for ways to go beyond
whatever obstacle or problem
needs a creative solution.
I know there is a beautiful way to resolve it! I want to find that way and enjoy that journey with my colleagues, school families, and with my own family.
There is nothing technical in what I do. Perhaps the most technical thing I do is rest on a thought and enjoy exploring it in my long car ride home. If I am not a talkative person, this might be why. My mind is very busy piecing together information that I am taking in and constantly reorganizing to form into new opportunities that might meet current problems.
Next time I’ll share about CTA’s collaboration with Arts @ Large and Mad Hot Ballroom.
Learn more here:
I’d love to hear from you!
Do you recall particularly engaging art activities or collaborative projects from your own schooling? Or in your children’s classrooms?