Meet the Main Street School of Performing Arts Staff! We are proud to be a part of Arts Education in Minnesota. To send an MSSPA staff member an email, simply click on their name. (MSSPA Staff photos by: Erika Ludwig Photography)
Barbara Wornson (Executive Director)
Ms. Wornson has attended and received degrees from the University of Iowa, the University of Kansas, the University of Minnesota, and the University of St. Thomas. She was born and raised in Mason City, Iowa. Wornson states, “The arts explore the world and ideas in a way that I can understand and participate in. The arts both shake up my world and calm my soul.” For Ms. Wornson, it is the passion of the MSSPA community, the students, the families and the staff; the feeling of being on a great artistic adventure together that make this school the special place it is. Wornson constantly listens to and creates all kinds of music, but she loves classical music and old time rock and roll.
Molly Thompson (Office Administrator)
Ms. Thompson attended University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, after growing up in Nekoosa, Wisconsin. For Molly, it is through the arts that she is able to understand the world around her; the arts know no barriers. The amount of creativity and individuality at MSSPA found in the students is very refreshing and welcome. Ms. Thompson’s favorite genre of music is pop-opera.
Rob Thompson (Director of Outreach/Theatre)
Mr. Thompson holds a Bachelor of Arts from St. Cloud State University and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Florida. Thompson grew up in Plymouth Minnesota on the banks of Medicine Lake. Mr. Thompson states, “Performing arts are the sinews that connect us as humans, in the pictures and sounds created in live performance we find those things that connect us all on this planet. ” For Thompson, the global community we have where we all join each day for a common goal of enriching our lives through our art is the most amazing thing about MSSPA. Thompson cannot confine himself to a single guilty pleasure he loves comic books, sci-fi, and CSI.
Denise Lee (Mathematics)
Ms. Lee has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Computer Science from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. She received her teaching license from Hamline University in St. Paul. She is married and has two grown boys. Lee grew up in Burlington, MA with her 5 brothers and 1 sister. Ms. Lee loves the ambiance at MSSPA because the staff and students push themselves to excel every day. She loves the creative vibes that she feels when she is in class or walks in the hallways. Both the staff and students are a great bunch of people. What more could one ask for in a work environment? When Lee is not at work, she loves to rock climb and mountain bike—two new passions since becoming an empty nester..
Jennifer Harding (Social Studies)
Ms. Harding holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of St. Thomas. She grew up in Waconia, MN. She believes the arts are important for self-expression and self-actualization. They are the spice of life– making every day interesting, fun, and enjoyable. Harding says, “As a teacher I appreciate that I am allowed to use my creativity and performing arts background in developing arts-infused lesson plans. The students amaze me on a daily basis with their gifts in music, theatre, and dance and with their unique perspectives on life. ” The item Ms. Harding treats herself to occasionally is Caribou Coffee.
Sarah Omernik (Language Arts)
Ms. Omernik attended the University of Minnesota for both her undergraduate and graduate school. She was fortunate to grow up in the sleepy little town of Richland Center, Wisconsin. For Omernik, the performing arts are vital to exploring creativity and encouraging critical, curious thinkers. “Without the arts this world would be a dull and boring place. ” Ms. Omernik loves MSSPA’s overall climate of respect for each individual. “Main Street acknowledges and embraces each student for their unique and special talents. ” She just can’t get enough 1980’s power ballads.
Suzanne Kehret (Science)
Ms. Kehret attended Iowa State University. She spent the majority of her childhood in Norwalk, Iowa on a 10-acre farm. Kehret was deeply involved in performing arts throughout high school and college. She believes arts are a marvelous way to express yourself. To Ms. Kehret, the passion and compassion of the students and staff at MSSPA is what makes Main Street special. Have a question about Big Bang Theory? Feel free to ask her; she never misses an episode.
Tracy Johnson (Science)
Mrs. Johnson attended the University of Minnesota, Morris for her degree. She grew up in Holdingford, MN – a tiny farm community famous for being the inspiration for Garrison Keillor’s “Lake Wobegon” stories. The performing arts are important to Johnson because there are some things that cannot be expressed in any other way, and the arts are a vital part of what gives us our identity. They allow students to discover and experience something greater than themselves. Mrs. Johnson love for MSSPA comes directly from the students and staff; they make every day an adventure, and bring her so much joy! After working with students who are this creative, she can’t imagine teaching anywhere else. Johnson is a huge fan of cheesy cowboy-western novels and even cheesier science-fiction novels – the more unbelievable, the better.
Michael Leverentz (Mathematics)
Mr. Leverentz has attended several institutes of higher learning including the University of Minnesota, Duluth, Coaches Training Institute, Landmark Training, Mankind Project, School of Playback Theater, Interplay to name a few. He grew up in the Twin Cities both on the St. Paul side and Minneapolis side. Leverentz believes the performing arts help staff and students to explore their inner landscape and help to develop creative solutions in life. They are also fun to participate in and watch. Mr. Leverentz continues to participate in dance and improvisational theater as often as he is able. For Leverentz, the community is very important. MSSPA has created an accepting environment for students to take risks in both the performing arts and academics. A guilty pleasure for Mr. Leverentz is watching movies. He especially enjoys going to the opening night at the movie theater.
Lesley Ernst (Director of Special Education)
Ms. Ernst holds degrees from the University of Minnesota - Duluth and Twin Cities' campuses. She spent her childhood in Minneapolis and Burnsville, Minnesota. For Ernst, the performing arts are vital because they keep life fun and interesting and satisfying. When asked what it is about MSSPA that makes it special Ms. Ernst said “ I love the warm, accepting atmosphere here! ” Something she really enjoys, but not too often, is ice cream for breakfast.
Michelle Erickson (Social Studies)
Ms. Erickson attended Wheaton College in Illinois for her degree. She is pleased to say she grew up in and still loves the Twin Cities. Erickson strongly believes artistic expression is necessary to freedom- on all levels. Also, art performance just makes the world beautiful. The most important part of MSSPA to Ms. Erickson is the fact that this school is a haven for learning, for collaboration, for growth. She is a big fan of all things European. She loves dance, ballet in particular. Ms. Erickson has been known to do a Slovakian chardaz or two with a local folk group.
Louisa Cadwell (Theatre)
Ms. Cadwell holds a degree from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and a graduate degree from Hamline University She spent two years in Knoxville, TN and the rest in Moorhead, MN while growing up. For Cadwell, the constant exchange of ideas and creative energy helps people connect and celebrate our unique abilities and contributions as artists. The performing arts are invigorating. Ms. Cadwell finds inspiration at MSSPA from the students who contribute to the atmosphere and community that makes this school such a special place to come to every day. Her guilty pleasure (as any student who’s seen her computer desktop can attest to) is playing The Sims 3. Shhhhh.
Matthew McFarlane (Music)
A musician of diverse abilities and interests, Mr. McFarlane has an undergraduate degree from Graceland University, and a Masters Degree from Westminster Choir College. He spent his formative years in a household filled with music in Oelwein, Iowa. For McFarlane, the arts provide the opportunity to express what cannot be said with words. He believes Main Street is an inclusive community where anyone with an artistic skill and drive can find their voice. Mr. McFarlane suggests you try Star Wok. He loves it.
Steve Mollick (Music)
Mr. Mollick holds Bachelor of Music from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. He spent his childhood throughout Ohio - in a small town called Chillicothe, the home of the pro football hall of fame, Canton, and a suburb of Columbus. For Mollick, it is intellectually challenging and emotionally satisfying to hear and perform music - “What else would I do, anyway? Play sports? ” The thing that makes MSSPA special to Mr. Mollick is the friendly, welcoming environment centered on artistic excellence. His guilty pleasure comes in the form of fake meat products - meatless hot dogs/corn dogs, fake buffalo wings, etc. “They are neat, ” he says.
Cassy Schauwitzer (Language Arts)
Ms. Schauwitzer received her degree from Augsburg College. She grew up in Duluth, Minnesota. Schauwitzer grew up taking dance classes her entire childhood into adolescence and continued to coach while in college and in her first years of teaching. She has found that being a performer grounded her because it forced her to adhere to a strict schedule, but also allowed her to reach inside herself to do the best that she could. For Ms. Schauwitzer, the community at MSSPA is like no other school community she has ever been part of. One thing she can never give up is making time to read "for fun" every night before she goes to bed and snuggling with her dog Edison.
Rachel Mollick (Music)
Ms. Mollick attended Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota for her Bachelor of Arts in Music Education. Mollick grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The performing arts are what make her feel alive. “It gives me energy and makes me feel human and connected with the people I create, rehearse, and perform with. ” The vitality of MSSPA, for Mollick, is found in the school feeding the need of students who want to be creative and expressive. For her, it's not just a school, but a place to facilitate exploration and discovery of one's self through art. Ms. Mollick loves candy bars. The end. And sometimes can't stop watching bad reality TV Shows on Bravo and TLC.
Steve Cullison (Special Education)
Mr. Cullison received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Minnesota in Psychology, and Master of Arts from the University of St. Thomas in Education. Cullison grew up in The Twin Cities. For Cullison, the arts have always been a vital part of his life he enjoys writing music and was active in theater in high school, so he still holds a great appreciation of the hard work that goes into mounting a production. Why MSSPA? “All of the cool kids are here! ” Mr. Cullison has recently taken to GeoCaching for fun.
Betsy Maloney (Dance)
Ms. Maloney holds a Bachelor of Arts in Dance and English from Gustavus Adolphus College, and a Master of Fine Arts in Dance Performance and Choreography from the University of Colorado, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Minnesota. She grew up in the Twin Cities and Alexandria, Minnesota. Maloney believes whole-heartedly that dance is important because it is how she makes sense of the world around her. It’s more than an activity; it’s a way of life. The thing that makes MSSPA special to Ms. Maloney is the community built and shared between the students and staff members. Ms. Maloney’s guilty pleasures: sweets and mystery novels. She could eat candy and read all day with little prompting.
Jayne Koprowski (Special Education)
Ms. Koprowski had attended Northern Arizona University, University of Alabama, and the University of St. Thomas. She spent ages 0-11 in Fridley, MN and ages 11-18 Grand Rapids, Minnesota. For Koprowski, the performing arts are important because, “having a passion helps give life purpose. The most amazing thing about our school lies in the fact that MSSPA is a place where people can be themselves.” Ms. Koprowski’s guilty pleasure is leaving the country.
Stacy Dennis (Special Education Paraprofessional)
Ms. Dennis attended the Art Institutes International Minneapolis. The majority of her life was spent in southwest Minnesota and the Black Hills of South Dakota. For Dennis, the arts are an integral part of and provide “balance” to her life. The dedication and compassion for the students on a very personal level and the reciprocal of that from the students make MSSPA a very fulfilling place to be for her. Ms. Dennis loves classic literature and film!
Alison Miller (Gifted & Talented Coordinator/Math)
Ms. Miller holds a Bachelors of Arts from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and a Masters from the University of St Thomas. Ms. Miller grew up in South East Minneapolis (Prospect Park). For Miller, the arts provide flavor and beauty to her life. The best part of MSSPA for Ms. Miller is the nurturing, inclusive environment where both students and staff are concerned for others. The vitality and creativity of the community makes it fun to come to work. In regards to her guilty pleasures, she proudly states, “I don't feel guilty about any of my pleasures.”
Diane Maus (World Language)
Ms. Maus has attended Bemidji State University, Universidad Iberoamericana (Mexico City), College of St. Scholastica, Concordia College, and Hamline University. She grew up in Blackduck, Minnesota. When asked why the performing arts are important, Maus replied “ I have been singing for audiences ever since my first solo in first grade. Recently I have been performing with my university alumni choir. These experiences have enriched my life beyond measure. ” To Maus, MSSPA is an important school because it encourages everyone to create and perform in a nurturing environment. The two guilty pleasures for Ms. Maus are chocolate and Masterpiece Theatre.
GaVae Carlson (Director of Student Services)
Ms. Carlson attended the College of Saint Benedict for her undergraduate degree and Saint Cloud State University for her graduate degree. She spent her childhood in the Twin Cities. Carlson’s believes the performing arts allow us to explore the full spectrum of the human experience, which makes them vital to what we do daily. For Ms. Carlson it is the sense of community at MSSPA is amazing; "it is a treat to work with students, families and a staff that have chosen MSSPA as the school they wish to come to." Ms. Carlson has a couple of guilty pleasures, chocolate with caramel or peanut butter.
William T. Leaf (Theatre)
Mr. Leaf attended the University of Minnesota for his Bachelors in Theatre and Hamline University for his Masters in Education. He grew up in New Hope Minnesota in Northwood Park. Leaf believes, “we use our art form as a vehicle for discovery and exploration." Since it’s inception, it is MSSPA’s community that makes it special for Mr. Leaf, “and that the community is accepting of every student that comes through the door. ” Mr. Leaf loves photography, cooking, baking and small woodworking projects like building sets.
Lara Ciganko (Dance)
Ms. Ciganko holds a BFA and MFA in Dance from Florida State University. Geographically, most of her childhood was spent in upstate New York in the “foothills” of the Catskills, although most often she was found in a studio taking class or rehearsing. Ms. Ciganko feels the arts are vital because they “remind us that we are human and it is our mind and body, our ‘instrument’ that is continuously exploring and being fine-tuned to selflessly share its creativity and expression found deep within our souls for humanity. ” She greatly enjoys seeing the MSSPA students dig deep into themselves, growing and learning through the performing arts mediums. Ciganko claims her greatest guilty pleasures are time spent with friends/family and engaging in good conversation.
Tyler Flory (English)
Mr. Flory holds a BA from St. John's University with a major in English and minor in Music. He also holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from University of St. Thomas. His formative years were spent in Lincoln, Nebraska. The performing arts are important to him, "because creating art gives credibility to the human race. They are also really fun and I have made friendships through them that I wouldn't have made otherwise." He values MSSPA because of the "dedicated faculty and that the students are willing to look at the world in a different way." Mr. Flory willingly admits that he is a sucker for girly pop-rock.
Stephanie Wilson (Special Education Paraprofessional)
Ms. Wilson grew up not too far away from MSSPA and has, as she puts it, "always been in Minnesota." She graduated from Minnesota State University - Mankato, with a BS in Secondary Education in the Communication Arts and Literature content area. The performing arts are very important to her, "because as a performer, you are able to explore meaning within text whereas if you were just reading it. It also helps those who are visual/ kinesthetic learners, like myself, understand and interpret deep feeling and emotion." Ms. Wilson think MSSPA is a great place for both students and staff, "I have never felt a sense of belonging and understanding like I have felt in the past 2 months. The students are talented and have tons of potential. They are the reason I enjoy being here!" Her guilty pleasure after a long day at school? Ice cream.
Tammi Adams (Special Education)
Ms. Adams attended and received her BS in Environmental Engineering from Montana Tech, and her MA in Education from the University of St. Thomas. Ms. Adams became involved in the arts at the age of 4 years when introduced to dance by her mother, an Olympic-trained ice skater. “I danced for 12 years. The hardest part of my day is not running into the dance studio and joining in! Fortunately for all of us, I have learned to control these impulses!” For Adams working at MSSPA is a phenomenal experience as “each and every day the halls are full of music, song and dance”. Ms. Adams currently enjoys yoga, Montana, gardening and The Big Bang Theory. She wants to be an organic farmer and wildlife rehabilitation specialist when she grows up.
9/28, 11/9, 1/18, 3/22, 4/19, 5/17
Eisenhower Community Center
1001 Highway 7
Hopkins, MN / Map
Una Festa Musicale
St. Jospeh's Church of Hopkins
Hopkins, MN / Map
Eisenhower Community Center
1001 Highway 7
Hopkins, MN / Map
SUPPORT THE STREET
Hopkins, MN / Map
Patchwork: A Combined Concert
St. Jospeh's Church of Hopkins
Hopkins, MN / Map
Common Ground: Spring Dance Concert
The Lab Theater
700 N. 1st Street
Minneapolis, MN / Map