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Sharing the great work of Faribault Students and Staff

A challenging 2020 will give way to an innovative future for FPS

Superintendent Todd Sesker's December Daily News column

As we approach the end of another calendar year, I want to take a moment to reflect on how grateful I am for the way our students and staff have responded to the adversity 2020 has presented, and look ahead to a promising and innovative future for Faribault Public Schools.

All the way back in March, we faced the huge challenge of transitioning to distance learning directly after spring break. There was no precedent for making this kind of change to the way we educate students, but our staff and students worked together to make it happen, all while dealing with the outside stresses presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a cloud of uncertainty hanging over our heads, our district spent much of the summer developing plans that would allow us to return to school as safely as possible, while also preparing for a potential second round of distance learning. That planning has allowed us to more effectively engage students and support their social and emotional needs over the last few weeks.

There continue to be daily obstacles to learning, but I know our educators are doing everything they can to overcome those obstacles and reach our students.

There are two main reasons we’ve been able to get through these unprecedented times: Because we’ve remained flexible and adaptable, and because we have some of the finest educators in the state of Minnesota right here in Faribault. We are incredibly proud of the way they continue to find new and innovative ways to connect with students in an educational climate that is far from ideal. We appreciate the patience our families and community have afforded us, and hope it’s rewarded with a return to normalcy in the not-too-distant future.

When we do return to in-person learning, I’m excited about the future of education and the ways our schools will evolve to better meet the needs of our students. I believe this experience with distance learning will accelerate our move toward a more student-centered approach. We’ve seen how much building in-person relationships and having a structured school day means for some students. We’ve also seen that many students are interested in a more independent, hands-on educational experience that is tailored to their individual interests and skills. Finding ways to meet the needs of every student is at the heart of the student-centered learning that will be a focus for our school district moving forward.

There is light at the end of this dark tunnel, but we have to continue to be patient. Our COVID-19 Incident Command Center team is meeting frequently to determine whether students will return after the holiday break to in-person learning, hybrid learning, or distance learning.

We will consult with public health officials, look at local case data, consider our ability to staff our schools, and review a number of other factors to determine when and how schools will reopen.

In the meantime, please continue to wear your mask, social distance and wash your hands regularly so we can make it to the finish line of this pandemic together.

FHS student leaders Schonebaum, Ross nominated for ExCEL Award

Faribault High School is pleased to announce Henry Schonebaum and Paige Ross as our nominees for the Minnesota State High School League’s 2020-21 ExCEL Award. The award honors Minnesota high school juniors who are active in school activities, who show leadership qualities, and who work voluntarily in their community.

Schonebaum is the son of Daniel Schonebaum and Sigrid Nelson. He’s actively involved in the music department as a three-year member of the Philharmonic Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra, and has performed in the Cannon Valley Youth Orchestra, the Minnesota Youth Symphony and as an accompanist and soloist at his church.

He’s also participated in Link Crew and has volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters, served as a peer tutor and served on the park and recreation advisory board.

Schonebaum has competed as a member of the FHS soccer and track teams, the science team, and the math team, and is a member of DECA. He’s also a member of the student council and is treasurer of the honor society.

“My favorite leadership quote comes from Nelson Mandela during his fight against the apartheid system. He says, “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front”. In this quote, Mandela shows that the real strength of leadership does not come from the words you say, but the strength that your people perceive,” Schonebaum said. “When you lead from behind you may not be able to physically see the effect your actions take, but the underlying perception change is strong enough. In addition to this leadership quality, I believe that the basis of leadership comes down to the qualities of positivity, determination, and humility.”

Paige Ross is the daughter of Mike and Tammy Ross. She has participated in numerous volunteer projects, including Toys for Tots, Feed My Starving Children, putting together care packages for military families, bell-ringing for the Salvation Army, and coaching Little Falcons soccer.

At FHS, she holds leadership roles as a three-year member of the student council and director of community outreach for DECA. She’s also a member of the National Honor Society.

Ross has participated in soccer and served as captain the last three years and has also run track and served as manager of the girls hockey team.

Ross described a good leader as someone who is self-aware, has a positive attitude, is willing to learn, has a vision of what they want to accomplish, and leads by example. She displayed these traits in the summer of 2019 when she traveled to Puerto Rico to assist in the Hurricane Maria recovery effort.

“Seeing the pure happiness on people’s faces when we introduced ourselves and told them that we would be helping them will forever be in my mind. The people that I met helped me just as much as I helped them,” Ross said. “The stories they shared and the lessons they taught me will last a lifetime.”

Staff Spotlight: Amber Tomford

Hometown: Morristown, MN

Job title: Special Education Teacher, 6th year

Education history

Waseca High School

South Central College with an Associate of Arts Degree

Mankato State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Special Education

Mankato State University with a Certificate in Developmental Disabilities

What are some of your hobbies and interests?

I love to read and spend time with my family.

What's something interesting about you that not a lot of people know?

I was named Miss Morristown in 2009 and I love turtles.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in education?

I decided to pursued a career in education after receiving extra help in and out of school from a Speech and Language Pathologist who had encouraged me to push myself.

What do you enjoy most about working with students?

I enjoy helping students learn new skills and helping them work to accomplish the skills they are working on.

What do you enjoy about being part of Faribault Public Schools?

I love how FPS has a family feeling and how the district is so welcoming.

Music students learn from the professionals at Lunch with a Legend

Over the course of December and January, students at Faribault Middle School and Faribault High School have the chance to learn about the music industry directly from some accomplished musicians.

FMS music teachers Amelia Tesdahl, Tami Nelson and Liz Barron worked together to set up Lunch with a Legend. Every Wednesday, Faribault students are able to join a professional musician virtually for a lunchtime Google Meet session. During distance learning, students are sent the link through Schoology.

On Dec. 2, students were able to ask questions and learn from renowned opera and orchestra conductor Karin Hendrickson. Last week, they were joined by concert pianist and professor of music Harry Jensen, as well as retired U.S. Navy Band composer and arranger Bryan Kidd. Guests share their journey, and talk about what they do for a living and why they love what they do.

“It has been extremely positive and a great experience for teachers and students!” Nelson said. “We have even had parents join the meets to hear the speakers!”

This week, students will be joined by violinist Genevieve Salamone and performing artist/director Amanda Weis. January’s lineup includes conductor, educator, author and performer Anthony Maiello, actor/singer/composer Rodolfo Nieto, performer/educator Glenn Dewey, singer/composer Timothy Takach, composer Jacob Yoffee, Grammy-winning saxophonist/composer/educator Jeff Coffin, and choral music organization Border CrosSing.

“It’s important for students to see the opportunities and how they can get there,” Tesdahl said. “We hope that by amplifying the stories of these professionals that students can see that many 'legends' in music started just like them in their own hometown bands, orchestras, and choirs. Either as professionals or hobby artists, there is a place for music in each student's future if they choose to pursue it.”

FHS student council raises $6,600 for Toys for Tots

On Monday, Dec. 14, Faribault High School student council members and advisors spent the morning shopping at WalMart picking out toys for Toys for Tots. The students raised about $6,000 through an online GoFundMe campaign and received an additional $600 donation from WalMart. They loaded 12 carts of toys and dropped them off at the American Legion.
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Staff Spotlight: Shane Gunderson

Hometown: Faribault, MN

Job title: Teacher of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing

Education history: Faribault High School, University of Minnesota BA Intercollege Program Deaf Studies, University of Minnesota M.Ed. Deaf Education

Career history

Assistant Baseball Coach, Southeastern Community College (Iowa) 2009-2010

Head Softball Coach, Bemidji State University, 2010-2011

ASL Teacher, Liberty High School (Texas), 2011-2013

Elementary Teacher, Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf 2013-2015

Teacher of DHH, Faribault Public Schools, 2015-current

Additional roles in FPS

Varsity football, assistant coach

What are some of your hobbies and interests?

I enjoy fishing and hunting when I get a chance.

What's something interesting about you that not a lot of people know?

I played professional baseball for 6 years. After I retired from professional baseball, I played two years of college football.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in education?

Both my parents started in education and coaching, I spent my formative years around sports and education. It was a natural fit for me.

What do you enjoy most about working with students?

Watching them accomplish new skills and learning concepts.

What do you enjoy about being part of Faribault Public Schools?

Because I work throughout the district, I get a chance to visit different schools and we have the best teachers, administrators, and support staff in the state. The students and staff are amazing. I really enjoy going to work every day.

Alumni Update: Molly (Hyland) Doyle (Class of 2005)

2005 Faribault High School graduate Molly (Hyland) Doyle was recently featured on WCCO for her efforts raising funds for Minnesota families in need this holiday season. We caught up with Molly to talk about her career as the owner of her own personal training business and the lessons she learned in Faribault schools.

Click here to see the WCCO story

Student activities

Varsity Danceline 2001-05, Student Council

Additional education

Minnesota State University - Mankato. Bachelor's Degree in Exercise Science, 2005 - 2009

Commencement Ceremony Graduation Speaker for the Department of Exercise Science, 2009

Certified Personal Trainer and Group Exercise Instructor, 2010-present


HealthFitness Corporation, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Minneapolis Headquarters, Health Fitness Specialist, 2010-12; Fitness Center Manager, 2012-14

Molly Doyle Fitness, Owner, 2012-present


George, Husband

3 sons: Sullivan (5 years old), Collins (3 years old), Frankie (9 months old)

Who were some of your favorite teachers? Were there any experiences that inspire you or helped point you toward your chosen career path?

I remember my school years so clearly, especially my younger years at Garfield Elementary and then Roosevelt. Those were such formative years and I feel so lucky to have gone to a small neighborhood school that had a tight knit community and old traditions. I was just telling my kids about the Christmas tradition at Garfield where the entire school would sit in the hallway and on the steps and sing Christmas carols. It was magical. I adored all of my elementary school teachers, Mrs. Hafemeyer, Mrs. Larson, Mrs. Griesert and so many more. I knew in elementary school I wanted to help people. At the time, I wanted to me a Pediatric Physical Therapist and did so all the way through college.

In high school, I thoroughly enjoying Mrs. Fitzgerald's psychology classes, Mr. Tetzlaff's health class, and Mr. Ehlers’ social studies. High school, for me, was really all about being on the danceline team. I spent so many years, months, days, and hours practicing, dancing and competing during those four years. It was on that team that I learned to appreciate hard work and the importance of dedication. I made lifelong friends and learned lifelong lessons as a member of the Emeralds Danceline team.

Oh! And the Student Council Penny Wars and Toys for Tots drive absolutely played a role in my love of giving back!

What are your favorite memories from attending Faribault schools?

When I think back on my years of walking through the halls of Faribault schools, I think of really happy and light hearted times, for the most part. I especially loved when the whole school came together to achieve something. Whether that was a send-off to a team going off to state, or creating a prom scene all week together to make it magical, or how the whole town came together for homecoming parades and games. I also loved the beginning and end of school days; the energy that buzzed in the halls, the quick 5 minute chats with friends between bells and the lifelong friends I made from elementary through high school.

What lessons did you learn in school have stuck with you and helped you be successful?

I remember how my class of 2005 really seemed so close and open minded to not only our classmates, but to the classes both above and below us. We seemed to be the most social and welcoming class, if my memory serves me right. There weren't many "cliques" but rather one huge group of classmates and friends throughout junior and senior year, especially. I loved being a part of that type of class; open, laidback, welcoming and fun. I absolutely took the importance of being open and accepting with me into both my career in the fitness industry and into my personal training business.

While coaching and training my clients, it's essential to be open minded, accepting and encouraging to all clients I'm there to make a difference with. My mission in my business is to transform their mind, body and soul, one workout at a time. The tight knit community I formed in the halls of Faribault schools hands down helped shape the woman and business owner that I am today.

Badger presents at national AD conference

On Dec. 11, Faribault High School activities director Keith Badger presented at the 51st National Athletic Director’s Conference. He presented virtually along with Park High School AD Phil Kuemmel on 10 Things Every New AD Should Know for Ultimate Effectiveness.

“I have been blessed to have the opportunity to work with some of the best activities directors in the state right here in the Big 9,” Badger said. “There are also many ADs around the state of Minnesota who have been lifelines for me as I navigated the first few years of being an AD. I am excited to share the great advice, management, and leadership tools others have shared with me that have helped me find success.”

STOPS students decorate tree for donation

On Dec. 3, some members of STOPS decorated a holiday tree in Central Park. The tree will be in display until Monday then will be donated to a family in need. The members who helped today were Arlette Lazaro, Sarah McColley, Kylie Petricka, and Stacie Petricka.

STOPS is an FHS student volunteer organization that engages high school aged youth in service work.

Students benefit from teacher-requested FEEP grants

The Falcon Educational Enrichment Program (FEEP) secures support for specific classroom and learning opportunities that are beyond regular classroom financial support.

This fall, FEEP allocated over $4,000 in support of four teacher-requested projects in our district. One of them was a sensory path for students at McKinley Early Childhood Center. Students can use the path while in gym class as well as during other breaks throughout the school day. The project was requested by ECSE teacher Michelle Martindale.

“Our littlest learners can be their best selves when their whole body is ready to learn,” Martindale said. “When we don’t have access to appropriate equipment, it is very challenging to get the busy energy out in an appropriate manner.”

As soon as the path was installed, students had a great time navigating it and developing their motor skills in the process. The path will be available to all students when in-person learning resumes.

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FMS staff efforts lead to 20 new instruments for students

The combined efforts of Faribault Middle School music department staff, The Music Mart and Conn-Selmer, a national musical instrument manufacturer and distributor, resulted in 20 ready-to-play instruments arriving at FMS Tuesday morning.

FMS band director Liz Barron has been working with Conn-Selmer since she attended a virtual conference the company organized over the summer. It was there she learned that due to the pandemic, Conn-Selmer was setting aside $1 million to help provide schools with instruments. The company donated four clarinets to FMS and sold an additional 16 instruments at cost. The Music Mart prepared the instruments and made the delivery Tuesday.

“With the support of Conn-Selmer, we were able to receive instruments for students who are in need, and moving forward, this will help ensure that every student who wants to participate in music will continue to have the opportunity. With the support of Music Mart, they were able to serve as our distributor of the instruments and could also prepare them so they are ready for our students to play!” Barron said. “We are grateful, we are thankful, and we appreciate the continued support of our Faribault musicians!”

FHS presents 'These Are The Days' virtually

In November, the FHS theatre troupe presented the play "These Are The Days" virtually. They're now working on a one-act play titled "School Picture Day" they hope to stream after the holidays.

"These Are The Days" was recorded the day before Governor Walz's executive order put a pause on all school activities. The process this fall was a change for the students and directors who had to pivot three times during the rehearsal process. At first the show was going to be recorded and streamed, then they were told they could have a limited audience so a set was constructed rapidly and prepared for a live performance. Then again the parameters changed and no live audience would be allowed. With the help of TLT Productions the show was recorded and released on YouTube and FCTV.

Rehearsals began with students reading in the parking lot with social distancing and when they moved inside there were extensive protocols that were followed: masks were worn every rehearsal, students washed their hands as they entered the theatre and when they left and social distancing in seats when not on stage.

"This was the most unusual production process I have been through in thirty-seven years directing," director Paul Johnson stated, "But the students on stage and off stage handled it with patience and perseverance. The directors are very proud of them."

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Middle school students volunteer with Faribault Youth Investment

On Nov. 18, 10 Falcons For Change students assisted Faribault Youth Investment with mobile food distribution. They packaged 120 boxes of food that were then delivered to families in need around Faribault.


Check out our activities website to see more Student Spotlights and Athletes of the Week features

ACTIVITY: Faribault High School Math Team


ADVISOR: Auna Nelson



I really enjoy the math team because I find that it not only helps me practice math that I know, but it also forces me to step out of my comfort-zone and challenge myself.


I love Faribault High School because the teachers and staff are all very supportive of their students and seem like they genuinely enjoy what they do.


My main motivation to do my best is the idea that the harder I work and the more effort I put into what I do, the more opportunities I’ll have in the future.


My role model is my World Cultures teacher from middle school, Mrs. Peterson. She is always such a positive person, makes time for her students, and seems really passionate about what she does. I find it really cool how she’s well-traveled and speaks foreign languages, making her class more authentic.


Some advice that I’d give to younger students would be to not force yourself to do something you don’t enjoy. When you eliminate things from your schedule that you don’t 100% enjoy, that gives you the chance to discover something you find interesting.


My hobbies include reading, playing the violin, painting, theatre, and playing video games.


After high school I plan on going to college; I’m hoping to go somewhere prestigious that has a good music program. Career-wise, I plan on exploring something that relates to mathematics, such as engineering. I’d also like to study abroad.

Fall athletic awards

Meet a Coach: Madeline (Justin) Wertish

Coaching position: I am the Head Varsity Coach for Girls Soccer.

Coaching experience: Wow, I think I’ve been Head Varsity Coach now for 6 seasons! Time has really flown by!

What do you enjoy about coaching?

Coaching is probably one of my greatest joys! I love working with young women and watching them grow both on and off the field throughout our time together! They are really strong and wonderful young women and I hope throughout their time with me they learn skills to help them on the soccer field but also skills they can use for the rest of their lives!

As a coach, do you have any philosophies, approaches or strategies that you focus on?

Most of the time my athletes are aware of what needs improvement or what is working and to continue doing what is working. I give them the opportunities to lead themselves and a lesson plan for practice to work on what they see as their weak spots!

I also really make an effort to coach in the middle of play whether that be playing with the girls to see what they see in order to identify weak spots or difficulties or letting them struggle a bit to then be able to coach a different way to do something.

What are 1 or 2 of your favorite memories or experiences you’ve had as a coach?

There are honestly so many that come to mind! But I will pick one or two. One of the first that comes to mind is our first win in the playoffs (since I started coaching) against Albert Lea at Albert Lea. It was so cold and wet and we had to turn around the next day for our second playoff game, but the perseverance and joy after that win is very memorable! Second, I would have to say during the first week of practice every year, on the first Wednesday, I always get the girls dancing; and although some may feel awkward, the smiles and laughter is a fun way to start the season!

Why do you coach?

I coach to encourage and support young people to be independent, confident, and courageous youth in our society today (and in the future).

What do you hope students who participate in your activity take away from it?

I hope my student athletes take away confidence to follow whatever their passions may be and to persevere with courage when things/life may be difficult.

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