ST. John the Baptist Our Staff

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Our Staff

Administration:

 

Fr. Alex Carlson
Pastor
Fr.Carlson@stjohns-excelsior.org
952.474.8868, ext. 216

Father Carlson grew up in St. Paul, and was a parishioner at St. Joseph’s in West St. Paul. He graduated from Cretin-Derham Hall high school in 2001, and attended Bemidji State University for a year. In 2002, Father Carlson was accepted into St. John Vianney college seminary for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Catholic Studies. In 2006, he entered St. Paul Seminary where he received his Masters in Divinity and was ordained a priest in 2010 for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. He served as an associate pastor at Epiphany in Coon Rapids and St. Ambrose in Woodbury before being installed as Pastor here at St. John the Baptist in July of 2013. Father Carlson has a great love for the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession. He is also a big proponent of Catholic education, as it formed him into who he is today. He enjoys spending time with family and friends, golfing, and ice fishing.

 

Angela Wroblewski
Principal
awroblewski@stjohns-excelsior.org

Angela (Mrs. W) has spent over 20 years as a Montessori teacher in private as well as public charter Montessori schools at both the lower and upper elementary levels. She obtained her B.A. from University of St. Thomas with majors in both Education and Spanish. It was during this time that Angela took on the Summer Coordinator position for an afterschool and summer program in Minneapolis. After the invitation of a friend, Angela founded a Montessori Elementary school (1st-6th grade) in Blaine, returned to the St. Catherine University to complete her Montessori training and M.A. while teaching and sharing administration duties. Taking the opportunity to be the Director of Montessori Education committee and intern administrator at Bluffview Montessori School in Winona, Angela simultaneously completed her Principal's license through St. Mary's University of MN while teaching at the E2 level. At Bluffview Angela gained greater experience with closing the achievement gap during the process of writing and implementing a school improvement plan. Wanting further experience with Montessori charter schools, she took an E2 level teaching position at World Learner School in Chaska and became involved with the board and finance committee. Feeling called to a new challenge, Angela accepted a position to begin an E2 level at Great River School in St. Paul. After getting the program up and running, Angela took a Head of School/Principal position at Bright Water Montessori and Elementary School in North Minneapolis. After transitioning SJB to the Montessori Method and teaching elementary the past three years, Angela is very excited to take on the Principal role again while spending time in the classroom. Currently, Angela lives in Mayer with her husband and 5 children.

 

Monica Benda
Administrative Assistant
mbenda@stjohns-excelsior.org

Monica (Miss Monica) grew up near Rockville, MN. She graduated from the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND in April 2019 where she earned a bachelor’s degree in History with a minor in Catholic Studies. She originally entered college to study Biology and become a doctor, and then joined the Nursing program, and after much discernment felt called to study History. Monica had the opportunity to study abroad in Rome, Italy for a semester where she took courses in philosophy, history, theology, and Catholic Studies and found that her heart was set on fire with a love of learning and sense of wonder. Monica has a great love for Catholic education because she has seen the immense impact it has had on her own life. She is so excited and thankful to be a part of the St. John’s community and learn more about the beauty of Montessori education. She hopes to use her gifts at the service of others in whatever way she can, and to share with others the joy of life with Christ. Monica has 4 siblings, and in her free time enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, painting, reading, and doing anything outdoors like canoeing, hiking, and climbing.

 

Guides, Assistants, & Paraprofessionals:

 

Cassie Gierszewski
Toddler Guide 
cgierszewski@stjohns-excelsior.org

Cassie (Miss Cassie) earned a B.A. in Biology and Wildlife Ecology Research as well as Management with a Captive Wildlife minor from the University of Wisconsin: Stevens Point in December 2014. After graduating, she interned at Northwoods Wildlife Center in Minocqua, Wisconsin and at the North American Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota. While there, she gained a passion for education. In the fall of 2015, she gratefully started working at Saint John the Baptist after school care. As the school was changing into a Montessori school, Cassie fell in love with the method and its practices and joined the school full time working in before care, after care, and as the Children's House Assistant. Cassie has completed the AMI Assistants course for Assistants to Infancy at the Montessori Institute of North Texas. After spending two years as an assistant in the Toddler Community she is excited to take on the role of Toddler Guide. Cassie feels very blessed to be growing in the ways of Montessori with Saint John the Baptist Catholic Montessori School.

 

Virginia Hanson
Toddler Assistant
vhanson@stjohns-excelsior.org

This is Ms. Virginia's first year at St. John the Baptist. She was first introduced to Montessori in grade school when she attended Atrium once a week. For the past 5 years she has worked part time as an assistant for her dad, which allowed her to bring her two children with her to work. She is excited for this new chapter in her life. In her spare time she enjoys going on outside adventures with her 3 1/2 and 5 year old, cooking with her husband, exploring new places, reading, and running.

 

Mary Hamiter
Toddler Community / Children's House Assistant
mhamiter@stjohns-excelsior.org

Mary Hamiter (Mrs. Mary) grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. She attended Saint Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin where she majored in French and minored in Spanish. During her junior year, she studied abroad at the UniversitĂ© de Limoges, France on a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholarship. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Saint Norbert in 1981. Mary continued her study of French language and literature at Fordham University and received her Master's Degree in 1983.

In October of 1985, looking for adventure, Mary joined the United States Navy as a commissioned officer. She served in the Republic of the Philippines and Norfolk, Virginia. During her time in the Navy, Mary travelled extensively to Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Diego Garcia, Iceland, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She was awarded two Navy Commendation Medals. It was during this time that Mary met her husband, Todd Hamiter, a native of South Carolina. They were married in April of 1989.

In 1999, Mary and Todd joined The Good Shepherd Catholic Montessori community in Cincinatti, Ohio, when their son, Harry, began kindergarten. Mary, a stay-at-home mom, volunteered for many activities and served on various committees, including the PTO and the Middle School Planning Committee. Mary provided music at the weekly school mass from fall of 2002 to Spring of 2017 and was the Liturgy Planning Coordinator from the fall of 2007 to Spring of 2017.

In the Fall of 2011, Mary was hired to teach language arts, logic, and Erdkinder at The Good Shepherd Catholic Montessori Middle School while continuing to plan and provide music for Mass. Mary has attended classes at the Cincinnati Montessori Secondary Teacher Education Program. Through her professional work in education, Mary has held 7 through 12 teaching licenses in Wisconsin, Connecticut, and most recently, Ohio.

Mary and Todd moved to Minneapolis in June of 2017, and in the Fall of 2017 she joined the St. John the Baptist Catholic Montessori team.

 

Monica Whalen
Children's House 1 Guide
mwhalen@stjohns-excelsior.org

Second youngest in a family of seven, Monica (Miss Monica) grew up in rural Alexandria, MN, where she was homeschooled with her siblings from start to finish.  Monica’s main focuses have been sunshine, her horses, and said siblings. After graduating and studying the liberal arts at Thomas Aquinas College, she commenced her search for whole-hearted work.  Inspired by her mother’s Montessori influenced homeschool, Monica decided to become a Montessori guide. She attended the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota, and graduated from primary training in 2019 with her AMI Diploma.  Monica is thrilled to begin her work as a Montessori guide in the Catholic community of SJB. When not at work, Monica loves to spend time with her ever growing family, with a book, with the sunshine, or perhaps all of these at once.  Her other interests include early mornings, coffee, running, and dear friends. 

 

Rose Ann Erickson
Children's House 1 Assistant
rerickson@stjohns-excelsior.org

Rose Ann (Miss Rose Ann) was born and raised in Michigan, but grew up visiting cousins and friends in Minnesota. After high school, she attended Eastern Michigan University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts for Elementary Education. Her areas of focus were Mathematics and Reading. She moved to the area 3 years ago as an opportunity for personal growth and challenge. Minnesota was a place to call home because both faith and family were here. She has spent two years nannying and was introduced to St. John the Baptist Catholic Montessori School through her nanny family.  As the days passed, with each pick up and drop off her heart became more attached to the St. John’s Montessori community. When the door was opened to Rose Ann to be an assistant in Casa 1, she was confident that this is the professional community she was meant to be a part of. Rose Ann feels blessed and thankful to be a part of the St. John’s community as she expands her knowledge in the ways of Montessori.

 

Christa Gawarecki
Children's House 2 Guide
cgawarecki@stjohns-excelsior.org

This is Miss Christa's third year in a Montessori environment, having spent the last 2 years as an Elementary Assistant in Mrs. W's classroom. She previously worked in Special Education at St. Louis Park Middle School as well as being a personal care attendant for adolescents and young adults with Down Syndrome. She was first introduced to Montessori when she attended The Way of the Shepherd Catholic Montessori School in their Children's House. Christa and her husband have a daughter, Eloise, who will be attending the Toddler Community at St. John's. They are expecting a baby boy in December. As a family, they love being outdoors, camping, traveling, and spending time with family and friends. In her spare time, Christa enjoys art, baking, cooking, and being at the lake, especially kayaking. She is excited to continue her journey at St. John's.

 

Clare Della Pietra
Children's House 2 Assistant
cdellapietra@stjohns-excelsior.org

A native of Minneapolis, Clare Della Pietra (Ms. Clare) has always felt called to teach and inspire children, particularly through the Montessori method of education. Over the last year, Clare has moved back to Minnesota from Texas, where she studied Spanish and Classical Music at the University of Dallas in Irving. She has lived in Mexico (missionary), Costa Rica (study abroad), and Spain (aupair). Before joining the community at St. John the Baptist, she taught Spanish to toddlers across the metro, and worked in high school administration. She was first introduced to St. John's from a friend and co-worker, and was thrilled to find a place where work, education, and learning are not only full of love and joy for children, but also for the Catholic Faith. In her leisure time, Clare loves being with her husband at their home in Minnetonka, hiking, finding geo-caches, cooking, organizing, hosting friends, and learning. Moreover, Clare has an undying passion for singing and exploring new music. She enjoys using the knowledge she gained during her studies at the University of Dallas, in addition to her natural talent, to help build and maintain fruitful relationships, all for the glory of God. She is incredibly blessed, excited, and delighted to work with such a marvelous Catholic community!

 

Grace Salonek
Lower Elementary Guide
gsalonek@stjohns-excelsior.org

Grace Salonek (Mrs. Salonek) grew up in Ham Lake, MN and was homeschooled with her four brothers. Her first encounter with the Montessori method was through attending Catechesis of the Good Shepherd as a child. When Grace was in high school, her mom took Montessori training and worked at the Way of the Shepherd Montessori School while her younger brothers attended there. Although she formed fond memories of editing her mom’s papers for Montessori training, Grace did not foresee her own future in this field at the time, but pursued her dream of studying music, and went to the University of CO at Boulder as a violin performance major. After two years in CO, Grace discerned with the Nashville Dominicans in Tennessee for a time and then returned home to MN where she started working at the Way of the Shepherd as a Children’s House Assistant. This experience was the springboard to her own pursuit of Montessori education. Grace continued working at the Way of the Shepherd in the Lower Elementary classroom while simultaneously completing an Elementary Education degree online through Bemidji State University. In 2018, she took her elementary Montessori training at the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies in Boulder, CO. This year, she graduated from Bemidji State University, finished her Montessori training courses, and entered into the vocation of marriage. Grace now lives in Loretto with her husband, Kyle, and is excited to see what all these new adventures in life will bring!

 

Elise Pugh
Lower Elementary Assistant
epugh@stjohns-excelsior.org

Elise (Miss Pugh) grew up in Sac City, Iowa. She graduated from Benedictine College in May 2019 where she earned degrees in Theology and Evangelization. Elise first encountered Montessori when she was invited to assist in a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program in Atchison, KS. She assisted in a Level II Atrium at the beginning of her junior year through her senior year at Benedictine. Elise is very excited to work at St. John the Baptist Catholic Montessori School where she hopes to not only learn more about Montessori but also to serve the children.

 

Rachel Wermerskirchen
Upper Elementary Assistant Guide
rwermerskirchen@stjohns-excelsior.org

Rachel Wermerskirchen (Mrs. Wermerskirchen) is originally from North Dakota and recently moved to Minnesota with her husband, Matthew, who is pursuing a law degree at the University of St. Thomas. Rachel attended and graduated from the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND, where she obtained a B.A. in Music Performance (vocal and oboe), and a minor in Business Administration. Prior to moving to Minnesota, Rachel worked at Christ the King Catholic Montessori School in Mandan, ND, where she served a Children's House Assistant and music teacher. She also coached middle school soccer for Light of Christ Catholic Schools, and sang at numerous parishes in the Bismarck/Mandan area. In her free time, Rachel enjoys spending time outdoors hiking and skiing, teaching music lessons, sewing baby quilts, reading, and spending time on her family's cattle ranch,  She is excited to be joining the Montessori community at St. John the Baptist to continue learning more about Montessori education!

 

Stephen Barnhart
Middle School Assistant Guide
sbarnhart@stjohns-excelsior.org

Stephen (Mr. Barnhart) was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. He attended Seton Hill University, earning a B.A. in Elementary and Special Education. After graduating in 2017 he joined Teach for Christ as a Missionary Educator, serving the second grade classrooms at Ascension Catholic School in Minneapolis. Stephen served a second year with Teach for Christ in a supervisory role, helping to support other young missionaries in Catholic schools throughout the Twin Cities. Stephen enjoys spending time outside, going on adventures, trying new things, and sharing the faith. He is excited to join the St. John the Baptist Catholic Montessori School community, supporting and working alongside the middle school students.

 

Nicky Schafer
Lead Catechist
nschafer@stjohns-excelsior.org

Mrs. Schafer earned bachelor's degrees in Catholic Studies, Spanish, and Theology with a minor in Philosophy from the University of St. Thomas. She has studied internationally in Spain, Argentina, and Italy. After her undergraduate studies, Mrs. Schafer served in the University of Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) where she earned a Master's degree in Education. She has taught courses at the Middle & High School levels in Religion and Spanish throughout her 10 years of experience at both Providence Academy in Plymouth, MN, and previously at St. John the Evangelist School in southern Louisiana. She has led student groups abroad in Costa Rica and Ecuador. Mrs. Schafer found her path into the Montessori community through her training in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a Montessori-based religious educational program, which she implemented in her parish. She received her Montessori Adolescent training through the Cincinnati Montessori Secondary Teacher Education program. Mrs. Schafer is a dedicated life-long learner, with a passion for evangelization, who seeks to help each student discover and release his or her God-given gifts for the service of the Church & the world, thus pursuing their particular vocation and lasting happiness.

 

Gabriel Heffernan
After School Enrichment
gheffernan@stjohns-excelsior.org

Gabe (Mr. Heffernan) grew up in many places including Florida, Alabama, Michigan, Nicaragua and England. He attended Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas and earned his bachelor’s in Theatre Arts with a minor in Theology. This is his second year in education and first in Montessori. Last year he served a year as a Missionary Educator with Teach for Christ at St. John Paul II Preparatory School in Minneapolis. As the middle school and first grade teaching assistant there, much of his work was with English Language Learners. When not in school, Gabe is a theatre artist in the Twin Cities as an actor, director, playwright and musician. He also enjoys reading, writing, the outdoors and traveling. He is excited to work with many different grade levels in the after school program, helping students grow outside the classroom and continuing to work in Catholic education.

 

Louise Babatz
Food Service, Before Care, & Hallway Assistant
lbabatz@stjohns-excelsior.org

Louise (Ms. Louise) lives in Watertown and attends St. Maximillian Kolbe Catholic Church in Delano. She married her high school sweetheart, Mark. They have been married for 39 years. Mark and Louise have four adult children, twelve beautiful grandchildren, and two great grandsons. Louise has done childcare out of her home, nannied for a couple of  families, drove a school bus for thirteen years and worked in a Christian nursing home for six years. She is very active in her Catholic faith, teaching Children's Liturgy of the Word every Sunday, serving as an Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister, volunteering to help whenever possible. Louise is also very active in the Cursillo Movement. Her favorite activity is spending lots of time with her grandchildren who add so much JOY to her life!

 

Scott Kragness
Lead Maintenance Technician
skragness@stjohns-excelsior.org

Scott joined St. John's staff in the fall of 2016. He lives in Mound, is married to Robin, and they have two adult children, Hailey and Hudson. Prior to St. John's, Scott worked at Target for seven years. He is an avid reader, enjoys golfing, and was a sailing boat captain and scuba instructor in Hawaii for twenty years. One time, while scuba diving, Scott rode a whale shark.

 

Mike Pylka
Custodian
mpylka@stjohns-excelsior.org

Mike is a happily married man to his wife Linda; he has 2 children and is also blessed with a grandson. He resides in Victoria and was born and raised in Carver County. He works in the maintenance department at St. John's with the majority of his work being a janitor. Some of his interests are Mankato West Football, golfing and fishing with grandson Jack. He feels blessed to be working at St. John's with an incredible staff, parishioners, and most importantly some awesome kids and parents.

 

Carol Fury
Director of Advancement
cfury@stjohns-excelsior.org

Carol has a background in fundraising and development with 25 plus years of successfully cultivating new sources of revenue from a variety of resources but most recently raising over 15 million dollars for a statewide nonprofit organization. As a former member of St. John the Baptist Church and School, Carol understands the benefits, values, and importance of a religious based education. Growing up in this community while participating in St. John’s as her family’s parish, she embraces the mission and philosophy and is dedicated to increase revenue to build on the tradition and evolving school environment. Carol holds a degree in Psychology from the University of Minnesota as well as a MMBA in Organizational Development from the University of St. Thomas.

 

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