Educator Mollie Gruennert: Creating School Environment with Joy, Beauty, and Shalom– Part 2

Last time I introduced you to my former student, Mollie Gruennert.

When my daughter Kaia was born, Mollie gave her a cute cloth doll. Much later, when I told Kaia that the doll was from Mollie, Kaia promptly named the doll after her. So over the years, we’ve had a sweet reminder of Mollie in our household.

When my girls were in middle school, they each had Mollie as a literature teacher and/or drama coach, during the two years that Mollie was back at Heritage–the high school she’d graduated from.

Fast forward over ten years. Currently, Mollie is the principle of Cross Trainers Academy (CTA) since June, 2014. CTA collaborates with local organizations to bring students experiences in the arts.

How do you bring creativity into your daily life and into the school’s environment?

Mollie: At different places in life I find different outlets to just enjoy creating: flower gardens, redoing my grandmother’s house, drafting a poem or children’s book, refurbishing a dollhouse, stoking the fires of imagination with the children in my family through stories and play.  

At school, we partner with Arts @ Large.

According to their mission statement, 
“Arts @ Large activates Milwaukee’s education communities 
to build environments that support arts-rich, life-long learning.” 
Their vision states that “All K-12 Milwaukee students 
have equal access to an education 
that includes the arts.”

Mollie: Arts @ Large engages students in experiential learning that inspires knowledge and transforms education. They are a nationally recognized program that promotes partnership with artists in the community from organizations, businesses, and higher education working with student groups at schools and their families to develop a theme from which they design a unique piece of art.

How Art Helps — CTA collaboration with Arts @ Large.

The art we created will be displayed on our school property in our new building. The students worked with a local potter to create an outdoor display of tiles that sends a message of peace to the community. They created a mural that will hang in our new building that tells how the students desire their faith to impact their community and culture. 

They also created a peace dove in mosaic.  

This mosaic was developed through the CTA and Arts @ Large partnership. 

We had a spoken word artist work with middle school students 
to develop a video that shared the students’ personal feelings 
about some of the deeper topics our culture is wrestling to resolve. 
The common theme in all of our work was
to bring  “Shalom” to our community in Milwaukee. 

Mad Hot Ballroom is another organization that CTA partners with.

Mad Hot Ballroom Tap Contest 2018

Our 4th and 5th grade students participate in the Mad Hot Ballroom program competing in tap dance paired with ballroom dance steps for 4th grade and partner ballroom dancing in the 5th grade. Danceworks professionals teach our students in a 9-week rigorous course of tap and ballroom in preparation for a citywide competition held at the Bradley Center each year for each category of dance.  

Competition at the Bradley Center, downtown Milwaukee.

The program builds our students’ confidence in public performance as well as teaches them the skill of concentration and self-correction in a pleasant manner.  

Additional skills the students learn include how to have social grace within the dance team and with partners, how to apply their knowledge to a wide variety of music (rigorous application of their skill), and how to work together to accomplish a shared goal. 

These skills transfer to the classroom when the children need to work on academic projects. Teachers can refer back to their social graces in relating to their peers both inside and outside of classroom.

Any tips for others who want to create?  

Enjoy exploring every relationship and life circumstance as part of the material for creativity. 

Creativity goes beyond the stylus or paint and explores “being.” 
When this is done in Shalom, it becomes,
“Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” 
All the materials on earth, and our relationships, 
become tools for bringing about the Master design 
of our collective potential.   

Check these out . . .

CTA & Milwaukee Rescue Mission:

Arts @ Large:  — a 2010 article in Milwaukee Magazine. It’s an older article but it captures the essence of Arts @ Large.

Mad Hot Ballroom:

Are there projects you did in school, or wish you’d had the opportunity to do, or would like to see implemented currently?

I’d love to hear from you!

Ever musing,


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13 thoughts on “Educator Mollie Gruennert: Creating School Environment with Joy, Beauty, and Shalom– Part 2

  1. Mollie is awesome! When she was in middle school she was a student aid in my first grade classroom. She was amazing with my students. I knew then that she was a true educator at heart!

    1. Yes, I saw her blooming early, too. I had her in 9th grade art class and got to observe her creative juices in action.

  2. As Mollie’s mom I can verify the fact that being an educator, and a creative one, started very early in her life. When she was 8 and 9 she would put on plays in her bedroom using two of her siblings as the cast. Her walk-in closet was the dressing room because costumes were ALWAYS involved.

    By the time Mollie’s sister was 4, she was a fluent reader…thanks to Mollie.

    She involved the neighborhood girls in her creative activities, as well. She created her own summer VBS program. And, if it wasn’t the younger girls she was working with, she would be playing “Little House on the Prairie” out in the field with her best friends.

    There are many other things I could add, but suffice it to say her creative juices were always running. It brings me pleasure to look back and see how and what God did in her youth to prepare her for today. Thank you, Laura, for causing me to reflect on these precious memories.

    1. Here’s kudos to you, Bonnie, for creating a home environment where Mollie’s creativity could thrive! You were able to stand back and let it happen as it unfolded naturally.

  3. When preparing for a role in a play, Mollie created an entire family tree and history on a poster board of her character. She said it helped “better understand the person she was portraying.”

    1. That’s right–you directed her in at least two high school plays. Years later, she returned to HCS to teach literature, direct a play, and run a drama camp.

  4. Though I didn’t know Mollie personally, when I taught at Heritage I heard many reports from others about her talents, exploits, and creativity. How wonderful to read how she is using her many gifts to bring glory to God by blessing so many in her current ministry.

  5. Once again, Mollie’s story is very inspiring! As an educator I have frequently reflected on my “Mollie-like” students and what they are doing today to inspire other people. It is really awesome to see what these young folk have grown up to become. This behooves us to continue to help students develop their talents/skills/gifts so these experiences can be more widely shared!

    1. Yes, and sometimes teaching means finding and pulling out the talents that lie dormant, seeing the potential in each student.

  6. The term “social grace” is so lovely and apropos. Especially for Christian educators. Everything should be seasoned with grace! Blessings to Mollie and everyone involved in CTA and Arts@Large. Oh, and Mad Hot Ballroom is fantastic! So is the dove mosaic. Beautiful.
    If I could implement a program, (even though I can’t dance to save my life) it would be to make dance available to any child in any neighborhood who wanted it.
    Thanks for introducing us to Mollie and her vision for education!

    1. I love your idea about making dance available to all children! I feel the same way about kids having heavy exposure to all the arts–drawing, painting, acting, dancing, writing, etc. A total immersion kind of thing, experiencing it from the inside out. Not just reading, observing, or watching, but creating, too. Individually and collaboratively.

    2. Anita,

      I love your choice of the word “grace” because it connotates such a purely underserving, selfless act (e.g. salvation through Christ) on the part of the giver. If we all would just give a little more “social grace” what a more beautiful world we would have!

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