After closing four years ago, the Rollingstone Community School is opening its doors to elementary students once again, thanks to the efforts of community members and three Winona State University alum teachers and a former WSU staff member.

The Rollingstone Community School was open as a public school from the ’90s until 2018 when it was closed due to low enrollment. With the help of a grant and a supportive community, the three teachers and school office coordinator are reopening Rollingstone Community School as a charter school and are looking forward to welcoming about 30 students in grades K through 5 on Sept. 7.

“I’m seriously so excited to see that first group of students walk through the door,” Megan Lentner ’06 said with a big smile as she looked over to her colleagues Anna Sieve ’17 and Tony Reisdorfer ’16.

For the last several months, the three teachers, who all left previous positions to open the school, have been gathering supplies and donations as well as rebuilding classrooms and learning spaces–which only had TVs and a few flags left from the closure.

With books donated by the community, their library shelves are a third full. With round tables donated from WSU, the media room has a space designated for creative building, using everything from art supplies to gears and wires.

With shelves and furniture donated by previous teachers, Sieve has created a bright and colorful learning space for a combined classroom for second, third, fourth, and fifth grades. Lentner has also created a beautifully themed room for the kindergarten and first graders that has lovingly been named the “Pinterest Room.”

But the community involvement won’t stop just at donations.

“We want to bring the community in here as much as possible,” Lentner said.

Whether it’s by building partnerships with the Winona Family YMCA for afterschool care and preschool, or by partnering with other nonprofits–like museums in the area–and community leaders, the plan is to meet kids’ needs in music, art, and other subjects through collaboration and engaged learning.

Using collaboration and engaged learning to teach is something all three teachers said they first learned–and experienced firsthand–while at WSU.

“The thing that really sets Winona State apart is the opportunities and number of clinical hours you spend in the classroom learning and observing,” Sieve said. 

Through WSU’s Education program, all three alums had spent time at Rollingstone Community School to gain classroom experience before it closed — Sieve was even an elementary student there during her childhood.

“I had clinical experience at nearly every school in the Winona area,” Reisdorfer said.

Seeing combined classrooms, different models of engaged learning, and how to use the space around the school as teaching tools, were an engrained part of their education at WSU, they said.

The three teachers plan to use the natural outdoor space, hiking trails, school garden, and other locations near them in their lessons.

“My whole teaching philosophy has been based on my education at WSU,” Sieve said.

For Reisdorfer, who is the Lead Teacher of the school, the education he received from WSU goes a step further with him pursuing a master’s degree in Educational Leadership. With the classes he’s taken so far, he’s learned how to motivate, collaborate, and move forward as a team with a servant leadership approach.

“You’re always ready to help your staff,” Sieve said to Reisdorfer with a smile.

With room for more enrollment and potential to grow, the Rollingstone Community School team is feeling good about reopening and excited to see kids.

Just like in every teaching position during every school year, Lentner said they’ll be ready to adapt to whatever challenges come their way.

“You never know what curve balls you’ll get thrown,” Lentner said. “Sometimes you just have to jump in and step up to the plate.”

Thankfully, they all know there’s a community ready to support them when they need it.

“There’s so many people rooting for this school to be successful,” Sieve said.

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Tesla Mitchell

Named after the 80's rock band, Tesla Mitchell has a decade of experience covering local news and features as a journalist in Winona. A Saint Mary's University alumna, Tesla graduated with a bachelor's degree in Journalism with an emphasis in political science and entrepreneurship. During her free time, Tesla enjoys organizing block parties, being a super mom and an avid heavy weightlifter.