January 26, 2024 - Issue #119

Hello from Pioneer Elementary!

Hello Pioneer Elementary Families, 

As we’ve turned the page to a new year and a new semester, we have a myriad of things happening at Pioneer Elementary. This is the time of year that we look to maximize student learning. Routines are in place and better than ever. Students have built strong relationships with their teachers and classmates. Teachers are poised and ready to prepare our students for the end-of-year achievement goals and assessments. The upcoming end-of-year assessments are ones we celebrate as we have consistently outpaced our regional peers in all areas. We have top-notch students here at Pioneer and it shows in all that they do! Here are a few highlights of what we’ve been up to this year and more importantly, where we are headed.

Leaning into Literacy

Literacy, which includes all things reading and writing, has been our focus at Pioneer. Teachers have worked tirelessly on early-out and in-service days to hone our instruction around reading and enhance our techniques with students. This year, we have been particularly focused on the area of building vocabulary and background knowledge. Having a solid foundation in words and their meanings is critical to understanding what we read. For example, if you’ve never heard of the game of Cricket, it makes reading a text about it extremely difficult. However, a text around a more familiar topic, such as farming or wintery weather, becomes exponentially easier. 

In the world of reading, the saying “Knowledge Matters” holds true and it’s built through science, social studies, and music as well as the everyday experiences we share with our children. 

One particular focus of training this fall and again last week with Mary Jorhal, literacy consultant from Sourcewell, was on oral language and the “big, bold audacious” words we speak with students. So…don’t be surprised if your student comes home asking you if your day was “delightful” today or if the weather is going to be “horrendous’ tomorrow!


There’s been a fair amount of new legislation this year and of particular importance to Pioneer is the READ Act. Within this act are guidelines for teacher training as well as curriculum selection that will help students gain the skills to read and comprehend. Not surprisingly, many of our teachers have already taken or are in the process of taking this training. The training, LETRS, has already become instrumental in our instructional planning and a turning point for many teachers in their classrooms. We look forward to rolling out the READ act within Pioneer and are thrilled to announce we already have many of the portions of the act already in place!


As you walk the halls of Pioneer, you will not find a more caring and dedicated group of people working with students. From the playground to the classroom, students are learning to navigate their world, find their passions, and build positive relationships that will impact them for a lifetime. We are definitely ONE-OF-A-KIND and we thank you for entrusting your children and their learning to us!

Mr. Tom Otte, Principal

Ms. Wendy Becker, Assistant Principal

Celebrating our paras this week

Pioneer Elementary Paraprofessionals

Healy High Paraprofessionals

This week we celebrated our hardworking, dedicated, patient, empathic, compassionate, resilient paraprofessionals. Each day this week, paras were treated to games, themes, thank yous, food, and fun - all courtesy of Pierz Schools staff and admins.

Paras play a crucial role in our schools, offering support for instruction, student activities, individual students, and various other tasks that contribute to educational success at Pierz Schools. The support services they provide are integral to student achievement, leading to a more effective and successful educational experience for our students, staff, and families.

December PRIDE Students

5th grade: Payton Robinson,

Eliza Marshall

6th grade: Drew Sadlovsky,

Arianna Smude

7th grade: Tyler Thesing,

Tessa Woitalla

8th grade: Lucas Scott,

Cadence Samuelson

9th grade: Tyler Kimman,

Payton Kimman




Discipline (self)


These are the five characteristics our students strive to exhibit throughout their time here at Pierz Schools. Teachers are encouraged to nominate students each month they feel are strong leaders among their peers using these character traits. A committee of teachers, counselors, and administrators then choose two students from each grade as recipients of the PRIDE award each month. Earners of the award get their choice of Subway or Red’s for lunch. Congratulations to ALL the nominees!

Happenings at Healy

Band and choir students 'Let the Good Times Roll'

The motto of New Orleans is 'Let the Good Times Roll', and the 150 students and chaperones arriving at the Crescent City last week did just that! A recap from Band Director Mr. Joel Pohland:

"Wow! What a trip for our Band/Choir students who traveled almost the entire length of the Mississippi River to New Orleans, Louisiana! The students had an incredible time and had some amazing opportunities. The trip started with just having the experience of flying, as many students went on their first flights. When we arrived, the students were greeted by some traditional NOLA fare: rice, beans, and catfish. While perhaps not their favorite meal, many of the students had a great time experiencing the new cuisine.

On Saturday, the students had the opportunity to tour the NOLA Jazz Museum, the Presbytere, and the Cabildo which all housed hundreds of years of New Orleans history right in the heart of Jackson Square. That night, they were treated to a ghost tour through the city; the same evening, the city had a parade to kick off the Mardi Gras celebration, which we learned officially starts twelve days after Christmas. Jackson Square is also the area where the students performed.

On Sunday, many students attended mass at St. Louis Cathedral, which is the oldest active Cathedral in North America. After, we went to the National World War II Museum which included a stunning 4D movie experience of WWII that was very eye-opening to all of our students and chaperones alike. Sunday night we had a chance to board the Steamboat Natchez for a cruise down the Mississippi that featured incredible food and the world-famous dixie band, The Dukes of Dixieland. Our students had a blast touring the boat, checking out the sights, and listening to some phenomenal music!

On Monday, we had an incredible experience of taking a bus tour throughout New Orleans with tour guides where we stopped at one of the above-ground cemeteries and learned why there really isn't a final resting spot in New Orleans. We had a chance to go to City Park and get beignets at Cafe du Monde, as well as see where the city sits below sea level and where the levees broke during Hurricane Katrina. This was fascinating to see where the water was, how high it reached, and how much the city has recovered. We also had a chance to go to the Aquarium, visit the French Market, and have dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe.

On Tuesday, we couldn't leave New Orleans without visiting Mardi Gras World and making our very own Mardi Gras masks! It was amazing to see how the floats are made and stored and learn more about the history of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. We had an amazing tour guide, phenomenal bus drivers, unbelievable chaperones, and of course, the best students! This was a trip the students and chaperones are not soon to forget and we encourage you to ask them about their experiences!" —Mr. Joel Pohland, Band Director

Snow Daze Week at Healy

Next week marks our mid-winter Snow Daze week at Healy: a week of winter-themed fun to break up the doldrums of winter. We can't wait to see all the creativity of dress-up days and have some fun during our pepfests. Student Council members put together some outfit ideas for 'inspo'!

Happenings at Pioneer Elementary

Hands-on learning for sixth graders

Each year, the sixth-grade health classes have the unforgettable experience of dissecting deer hearts as they explore the cardiovascular system and learn the placement and function of chambers and valves of the heart and their interaction with the lungs. It is always such a cool hands-on learning opportunity - although not all students would agree.

Cold days mean indoor recess fun

Minnesotans are definitely a hardy stock. But last week, our robustness was put to the test and indoor recess was a must for a couple of the most bitter days. On those indoor recess days, students play in the gym or get cozy with cards, board games, chess, and checkers.

As a rule, students will go out for recess any time the windchill is -5 degrees or

warmer. When the windchill is -6 degrees to -15 degrees, recess may occur, but will be

shortened. Here's to looking at warmer temperatures next week!

Looking Ahead

February 9: 2-hour Early Release - Teacher Workshop

February 12 & 13: Elementary Parent/Teacher Conferences

February 16 & 19: No School - Presidents Day Break

Community Education

Upcoming Community Education

Calling all adults—join us for pickleball fun! Looking for a way to get active, socialize, and have a blast with friends? All levels of play are welcome. Come to the open gym on Sunday nights at 5pm. New players are welcome every week, no experience or your own equipment is necessary.

Call to learn more about the pickleball tournament on February 10 or stop by Frosty's.

Rachel Young will be offering CPR certification on March 13, a refresher on March 14 and the BLS training on February 5. First Aid certification on February 21 and the refresher on February 22.

Enjoy a free cup of coffee on February 2 after you drop off your preschooler, kindergartner or 1st grader and connect with other parents with kids the same age as yours. Learn more about PTO and all the ins and outs of Pioneer Elementary. 7:45-8:30am

Pioneer Conference room by door 20.

Sponsored by Community Ed, PTO and ECFE

Are you interested in becoming a bee keeper? Molly Gensmer, our very own head cook at Healy, will be offering the first session on Monday, January 29. Discover the initial costs, equipment needed, and time commitment to start your beekeeping journey. Learn more and register in the community ed webstore.

Watch for more adult classes coming soon! You can always view the latest in offerings on www.PierzSchoolsPayOnline.org under Community Education and follow Pierz Community Education on Facebook.

Register for any of the classes by calling 320-468-6458 ext 1906

Pierz Public Schools #484

[email protected]

District Office: 320.468.6458

112 Kamnic Street, Pierz, MN 56364