Kari Misulonas

Kindergarten; Early Childhood Curriculum Leader; Director of Student Support Services

kmisulonas@morganparkacademy.org

Ms. Misulonas graduated from MPA and joined the faculty in 1989. She holds B.S. and M.A. degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Q&A

What do you enjoy most about teaching at Morgan Park Academy?

The small class sizes and close community at MPA allow us to form strong relationships with our students and their families. I like building trust and a rapport with my students and parents. This home-school connection is crucial to children being successful in school. I enjoy watching the children grow from year to year and touching base with them and their parents as they move through the Lower School.

What experiences or people had the most influence on you?

My kindergarten teaching partner for twenty years was a true mentor. Through working with her, I learned how to be a compassionate and dedicated teacher. I experienced the importance of collaboration when working with colleagues and parents. She was a role model for best practices in the classroom and how to address the whole child in instruction. We worked together to build a developmentally appropriate kindergarten program at the Academy.

What do you want your students to take away from having known you?

In kindergarten, we lay the foundation for students to become successful in school and to continue as lifelong learners. I want every child to leave kindergarten knowing that they’re good at something and feeling “smart.” Above all else, I hope my students have learned to show kindness, tolerance, and respect for others. When parents tell me how much their children enjoy school or how they missed being here during a break, I know I am doing my job. The children want to be here!

What was your student experience like at MPA, coming here for high school?

Initially, I wanted to attend high school where my friends were going, but I fell in love with MPA almost immediately and then was afraid my parents were going to make me leave. The caring faculty and small environment allowed me to take risks and become involved in extracurricular activities that I might have missed at a larger institution. The diverse group of students exposed me to neighborhoods and cultures that I would have otherwise not known. Many of those classmates became friends for life. Even when years separate our gatherings, it often seems like time hasn’t passed. The community at MPA fosters lifelong bonds among people.

How did you come to teach here?

I returned to the Beverly area after attending the University of Illinois for my undergrad and graduate education. Quite honestly, I didn’t expect to be back at MPA and teaching here. I was applying for teaching positions all over Chicago, primarily at private schools. I have always valued private school education and thought it was a good place to start my teaching career. At that time, in 1989, one of the kindergarten teachers was leaving MPA and Winnie Theodore called me to interview for the job.

After getting hired and working here, it seemed very natural to be teaching here at MPA. The hardest part was calling the Upper School teachers by their first names. I was so thankful that I didn’t see them on a daily basis, being in the Lower School. I never did refer to Mr. Wolf as Martin or Mrs. LeRose as Claudette!

You’re an alumni parent as well; what was it like to see your children follow in your footsteps as MPA students?

For 15 of my 25 years teaching here at MPA, I brought my children with me to school every morning. It was so rewarding to hear my kids’ stories at the end of the school day. My daughter would always start out the ride home by saying, “So, do you want to hear about my day?” That was something I treasured when they were here.

MPA was great for my children. It provided them with opportunities to shine that they may not have gotten at a different school; playing sports, being on the stage, top-notch academics, and teachers who cared about and talked to them.

My kids went to college with the knowledge that they could find their way, get involved, and be successful no matter what the size of the school. I attribute this positive self-esteem and internal drive to being at MPA since kindergarten. It truly did prepare them for life in college and beyond.