Mike Slette, President
Japanese Ambassadors from Luther High School
Our family and several others at Oak Grove recently had the wonderful opportunity to build some very special relationships in just a short amount of time. For six days leading into Holy Week a group of families hosted 19 girls ages 16-17 from Kumamato, Japan. These girls are students at Luther High School, a sister school of sorts with Oak Grove, who came to Oak Grove for a cultural experience. My compliments to these girls’ families, Luther teachers and administrators, and the girls themselves because they were poised, polite, engaging, curious, pleasant and all in all about the best ambassadors any group could hope to send abroad.
We welcomed into our home Mana and Chihiro who were absolutely a joy to have part of our family. We got to know them and they got to know us, all in spite of there being a bit of a language barrier for which we were not much help. Thankfully they have studied English and were remarkably good at helping us with the language challenges. The girls also loved our dog, Gus, who serves as his own ambassador of love and friendship like only dogs can do. Here’s a picture of the three of them enjoying a little time together:
The mission of Luther High School calls for them to provide “a holistic education for each student based on Christian principles of faith and love to God and love and service to others.” Our mission at Oak Grove uses different words but echoes the same theme. From seeing these 19 girls and their chaperones interact with each other and all of us Grovers, I found another commonality that brought us all together—a deep value on building personal relationships. Time and time again when talking with people about Oak Grove and what it is that makes us unique, it seems the common thread always leads back to relationships. Relationships are those connections between people that go well beyond simply knowing who someone is; it’s about actually knowing someone. Likes, dislikes, passions, special gifts and abilities, areas of struggle…the dimensions to knowing someone are almost endless.
Mix together a spirit of hospitality with curiosity and adventure and what to do you get? Friendships that span the globe and relationships nurtured from afar—what a blessing Mana, Chihiro and our other friends from Luther High School brought to us! And what a blessing it is to be part of a 110-year history of relationship-building that gives life to everything we do.
I couldn’t help but be intrigued by a recent evening news story about Rjukan, Norway, a town of 3,500 located about 100 miles west of Oslo, Norway. It turns out that Rjukan is situated in a deep valley surrounded by 1,300 foot mountains. With the sun shifting way to the south during the winter months, Rjukan has spent the first 100+ years of its existence not able to see the sun from September through March. Seasonal Affective Disorder was one issue impacting residents in spite of a gondola installed years ago that allowed people to ride to the top of the mountain to soak in some sunshine.
About 100 years ago an early town leader had an idea to mount a set of mirrors on the top of the mountain and redirect sunlight into the village. 100 years ago it was a great idea without a practical solution for implementation. Enter advances in science, technology, solar and wind energy and the like and what do you have? Sunshine in Rjukan!
Artist Martin Andersen, (who is clearly multi talented) apparently created the plans and led the funding effort (5M Norwegian Kroner) to build three giant mirrors, called heliostats, on the top of the mountain. These mirrors sit on two axes and are computer-controlled to reflect sunlight into Rjukan’s town center in a very similar way to what was done in 2006 in Viganella, Italy. It’s amazing what a little human ingenuity can do!
When I heard this story it struck me, what an awesome metaphor it is for the intersection of faith and science. In this metaphor, if you replace “Son” for “sun” and “humankind” for “residents of Rjukan,” all of a sudden you have the wonders of science and technology reflecting the light of Christ to us and moving us out of the darkness. To quote Microsoft Distinguished Engineer and Christian Apologist Steve Anonsen (from Roxane Salonen’s column in The Forum, Oct 25, 2013), “What if God created a puzzle that will take society centuries to unravel? Wouldn’t that be cool? And isn’t that exactly what’s happening with science?”
At Oak Grove we are embracing the intersection of faith and reason, challenging ourselves to live boldly in the Lutheran dialectic of biblical truth and scientific discovery. To use Steve Anonsen’s word, it is pretty “cool” to see how we can nurture growth academically, in our Christian faith, and in our commitment to serve others by following all that the Son and the Father’s incredible creation can teach us. The great hymn says, “This is my Father’s world”—what an amazing place it is!
To read Roxane Salonen’s Oct. 25 article please visit
To view the CBS Evening News story about Rjukan, Norway visit
Integrating Christian faith instruction into the curriculum of both the Early Learning Center and the Elementary School builds a strong foundation for the students starting at a very young age. Each student is also involved in at least one community service project per year, which nurtures an orientation to service leadership.
Faces At Oak Grove!
I am very excited to begin my teaching degree here at Oak Grove. I was hired this fall as a physical education and Health teacher. I grew up in Moorhead and graduated from Moorhead High School in 2011. I attended NDSU and graduated in December of 2015 with a bachelor's degree in physical education and health education. I am in my 6th year of coaching boys JV tennis and girls varsity tennis for Shanley-Oak Grove-Park Christian schools.
Athletic Director & Development Officer
Brent Wolf is our new Athletic Director replacing Justin Pieterick who is leaving to further his education. Brent will also continue his work with the Oak Grove Development Dept.
Director of Campus Ministry
Jessica holds a Bachelor of Science in both Health and Physical Ed., a coaching minor and a Masters of Arts in Education with a Montessori Emphasis. She comes to Oak Grove from Hope Lutheran Church, Fargo where she has been on staff since 2010 and held a variety of positions including Director of Student Ministry and Director of Confirmation. Jessica will graduate in 2018 with her Masters of Divinity degree through Luther Seminary via its Distributive Learning Program, and will be ordained shortly afterwards.
Jessica explains that this call to Oak Grove is a perfect marriage as it combines her love of teaching and most of all her love of Jesus. When considering this position, Jessica says she looked at her God-given talents and believes that they align with what is important in this role-her love of teaching, a desire to lead and a passion to build relationships.
When asked what she is most looking forward to in this position, Jessica says, “Walking along side of students in times of struggle and joy and I want to create a hunger in students for God’s word.
Jessica is married to Dane and together, they have a daughter, Eloise.
M.S. Special Education
Paraprofessional, Middle School Resource
It is my pleasure to introduce myself. My name is Heidi Campbell-Beer. I am newly hired this summer (2016) as the paraprofessional for Oak Grove Middle School.
I graduated from Concordia College, Moorhead, have a middle school endorsement through Bemidji State University, and a master's degree in special education (2012) from Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM). During my time at MSUM I was inducted into Phi Kappa Phi honor society for academic achievement. I have had experience teaching gifted education, Title 1 reading and math, 1st grade, 4th grade, and serving students with special needs elementary and middle school levels. I have experience teaching in Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.. My passion is helping students succeed and love to teach reading. I am excited and look forward to working with everyone at Oak Grove Lutheran School and learning from all students. I am proud to work at an exceptionally fine school.
I have been married to Robert Beer for 12 years. We are both originally from Princeton, Minnesota. Our boys are, Caden (10) and Carson (8). Some activities I enjoy outside of work include bicycling, walking, planning family camping trips, sales, and cooking.
4th Grade Teacher
I am excited to be joining the Oak Grove family teaching 4th grade at the elementary school. I graduated from Valley City State University and taught in the Fargo Public Schools. During a short break from teaching, I worked for Moorhead Youth Hockey as the Office Manager. I live in Fargo with my husband, Doug, and daughter Kendall who will be a Kindergartner at Oak Grove. I also have two older children-Abby, who is 24, married, and about to have a baby girl, and Andrew, who is 20 and will be attending Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa on a baseball scholarship. I am looking forward to getting to know everyone and look forward to the upcoming school year!
I am very excited be joining the Oak Grove community as a kindergarten teacher. I graduated from the University of North Dakota with my master of science in elementary education. Prior to working at Oak Grove I worked as kindergarten teacher for six years in two other districts. My husband, Ryan, and I live in Fargo. We have a son, Nolan, who is 9 months old. I am looking forward to a great school year!
3rd Grade Teacher
Tina Wehri is joining the Oak Grove community as the newest 3rd grade teacher. Tina is a graduate of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, with a Masters in Education. For the past two years, Tina has subbed in the Fargo Public Schools. She and her husband, Zach, live in North Fargo with their dog, Kona.
1st Grade Teacher
Abbie Siirila is joining the Oak Grove community to be our new 1st grade teacher. Abbie is a graduate of Concordia College. Miss Siirila has substitute taught in the Fargo Public School District, West Fargo Public School District and at Oak Grove as the long-term substitute for Mrs. Spriggs. She and her fiancé Jon live in Fargo and are excited to be tying the knot in November.
Melvin Whitney Jr.
Varsity Football Coach
Oak Grove Lutheran School is pleased to announce its recent hire of Melvin Whitney Jr., who will join Oak Grove as our Varsity Football Coach. Mr. Whitney will work closely with players, students and staff to forward the mission of Oak Grove Lutheran School.
Mr. Whitney is originally from Chicago and moved to the Minnesota area in 1996. He played Football/Basketball at NCTC, in Thief River Fall, Minnesota. He then transferred to NDSU and played one year as a defensive back. Melvin graduated from NDSU with a Bachelor's Degree in University Studies.
For the past six years Melvin has been the WR/DB Coach & Passing Game Coordinator at Shanley HS, Fargo, ND. He coached multiple wide receivers and defensive backs to All-Region/All State status, with four North Dakota 2A State championship game appearances with a state championship in 2012.
Mr. Whitney is married to wife Sara, and they have a son Michael (6), and dog Roxy.
“I would like to thank the administration, and all parties involved in choosing me to lead the Grover football program. I can't wait to get started, meet all of the Grover family, and help to lead the young men of the Grover football team.”
“I will be working hard over the next coming weeks to assemble a coaching staff, get a calendar set, and to meet with the players and their families so that we can start to work towards achieving our goals as a football program, with the first being, heading out to Shiloh in Bismarck and taking on Heart River.”
“I look forward to the challenge of bringing the Oak Grove Football program back to a position of competitiveness and one that the kids enjoy to come out to and be a part of, during and after their high school years.”
Scott M. Brusven
Director of Theatre Productions
Scott M. Brusven is life-long creative. For nearly the last decade, Scott worked for the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre and The Stage at Island Park, in touring theatre, education, marketing, and also served as Artistic Director from 2009-2014. He has directed, choreographed, designed, produced or acted in nearly 60 theatre projects since 2005. During his time at FMCT and The Stage he created K-8 summer education programs which engaged nearly 200 students in the arts each summer.
Through his work he also developed partnerships with five local theatre companies to produce their work as a part of The Stage's season. In his spare time, Brusven works as the Executive Assistant to the Region Chair for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) in Region 5. For the last nine years, he helps coordinate and run logistics & hospitality for nearly 1500 (annual) participants from all across the upper Midwest, and also three times has coordinated the National KCACTF in Washington DC. Brusven also spent five summers as the Artistic Director of Summer Musicals for A Center for the Arts in Fergus Falls. Scott hold his degree in Theatre Arts from Concordia College in Moorhead MN and he currently serves as the Marketing and Events Director for Eco Chic Boutique.
Boys Golf Coach
Kris Kroetsch, a native of North Dakota, is a PGA Member and currently the Director of instruction at the Fargo CC. Kris will be taking over the position of Head Coach of the Oak Grove Boys Golf Team. Kris is originally from Grand Forks, ND where he graduated from Grand Forks Red River in 1997. During that time Kris played on 3 state championship teams and was a 3-time all-conference and 2-time all-state player. After a short time at Texas Lutheran University, Kris came back to North Dakota to attend the University of North Dakota and play on the Men’s Golf Team. Kris won 5 college tournaments and played on 2 NCC conference championship teams, was named to 2 all-conference teams and 1 district all-star team. Since then, Kris worked and played professionally at the Moorhead CC and Fargo CC earning his class A PGA membership in 2008. Kris has won 30 events in the Minnesota Section PGA. He is a multiple time Dakota Chapter PGA POY, 2007 MNPGA Assistant POY and has participated in 2 PGA National Assistant Championships and 2 PGA National Championships. Kris is married to his wife Kim and has a 4-year-old son Rory and a daughter Zoe.
Middle School English/Language Arts
I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead in 2012 with my BS in Secondary English Education. Having moved several times during my childhood, I now consider Moorhead to be my 'hometown.' This will be my 5th year teaching English/Language Arts. I have taught senior and freshmen English, as well as 6, 7th and 8th grade Intervention Language Arts. I am excited to have found my niche in middle school, and look forward to teaching 7th and 8th grade English here at Oak Grove. I reside in Moorhead with my husband Jarrod, who is a true Moorhead townie, along with our busy 1 1/2 year old son Isaac. In my free time, I enjoy leading a Christian Couples group with my husband and experimenting with new healthy cooking recipes, along with reading and having dance parties with my son. My mantra for the coming school year is, "Let your light Shine!" Matthew 5:15-16, as this was the scripture that led me in discernment to my new home here at Oak Grove.
Shellie Simonson Ulven
Church Relations and Development
Hello, I am excited to be a new member of the Oak Grove staff and look forward to meeting many of you. I am Shellie Simonson Ulven working with Church Relations and Development. My initial start to my career included working in schools with children and families with mental health concerns and as a children’s mental health case manager. However, over the last 12 years my work experience has changed to include working in development, event planning, and communications in non-profits around the area. I find I really like creating relationships with people and learning what motivates their involvement within the community.
I am married to Jon, a Psychologist at Sanford Health and we have two children; our science loving son, Beck (6) and our simply silly and very creative daughter, Edda (3).
When I am not working at Oak Grove you will find me at Oxbow Country Club as the Horticulturist, designing, planting and maintaining the gardens.
Besides gardening, I also enjoy cooking, reading, yoga, cross-country skiing, going to the lake, traveling and playing with my family.
Tracy Aaker comes to Oak Grove from West Fargo High School. She has 15 years of teaching experience in both Fargo and West Fargo School systems. For the past 9 years she has been the coordinator of the Lighthouse Program, a structured study hall that provides educational support for students.
Tracy is from Moorhead, MN and graduated from Concordia College with a Social Studies Secondary Education Degree. She taught social studies at West Fargo High School for five years before leaving to do Christian Education and Youth Ministry. Tracy spent 5 years as a stay-at-home mom, time she wouldn’t trade for the world, before returning to teaching. She is passionate about young people and is excited to become part of the incredible staff of Oak Grove School.
Tracy lives in Fargo with her husband, Mark (87’), and their two daughters, Becca and Mari. Becca graduated this spring from Oak Grove and will be attending Augsburg College in Minneapolis and Mari will be a sophomore at Oak Grove this fall.
7/8 Science, 373.7189
Sarah Breen grew up on a family farm near Langdon with a younger sister and brother. She graduated from Langdon Area High School. While in high school she was very active in Science Olympiad, competing at the regional, state and national levels. Sarah then moved to Fargo to attend North Dakota State University. She graduated with majors in Biological Sciences Education and Biological Sciences, also earning her middle school endorsement. During her time at NDSU Sarah was a member of the Gold Star Marching Band. Sarah is very excited to be joining Oak Grove Lutheran School teaching 7th and 8th grade science this fall. Sarah and her husband reside in Fargo.
JULIE DIETRICH: SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHER
Julie Dietrich joined Oak Grove’s faculty in the 2013-2014 school year. She is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead with a degree in elementary education, a concentration in Social Studies and mathematics, and a coaching licensure. Julie has taught in the Fargo Public Schools, Indianola Public Schools, and Riverside Christian School. Julie teaches Oak Grove middle schoolers World Geography, United States History, and North Dakota Studies. She supervises the OGMS Student Council and assists Aaron Zinter with the Oak Grove Board Game Club. Julie resides in Moorhead with her husband, Mike, and their two sons, Evan and Daniel. When she’s not busy teaching Julie enjoys music, volunteering in the community, reading, & swimming.
Julie Dietrich, Social Studies, 373.7143
RENAE LANGE: MIDDLE SCHOOL MATH
Renae Lange, a recent graduate of the University of Mary, is eagerly stepping into the middle school math position. She will be working closely with both the middle school team to foster academic excellence. In addition, she will be involved with setting up National Honor Society at Oak Grove.
A Bismarck native, Renae graduated as valedictorian from Shiloh Christian School. From there she went on to pursue mathematics education at the University of Mary in Bismarck. While in college, Renae devoted her time to a ministry called Cru, the choir and vocal jazz group, and to tutoring high school and college students. She would tell you that ministry, math and music are her passions in life and that she is blessed to have the opportunity to use her gifts at Oak Grove. She joined our staff for the 2013-2014 school year teaching 7th-9th grade math
Renae Lange, MS/HS Math, 373.7173
AMYJO MURPHY: LIBRARY & MEDIA SPECIALIST
AmyJo earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Minnesota State University of Moorhead. Right after graduating she was blessed with her first child and chose to stay home. My family later moved to Iowa where I earned my Masters in Religion. Besides volunteering in my children’s school, I supervised a home a school family for a couple of years and later tutored students for math. In 2010 we moved back home to West Fargo. The children were older so I pursued my desire for teaching. I substitute taught for three years, and then accepted a position as an office/classroom paraprofessional. Some of my time was spent assisting students and staff in the library. I am excited about joining the Oak Grove family as a Library Media Specialist.
AmyJo Murphy, Library & Media Specialist
RENEE O’CONNOR: BAND DIRECTOR
Renee O’Connor received her Bachelor's Degree in Instrumental Music Education from South Dakota State University in 2000, and Masters Degree in Instrumental Music Education from North Dakota State University. She also holds a vocal music certification from Valley City State University. She has taught in various districts in South and North Dakota for eight years encompassing all areas of K-12 band and vocal music. In her career she has served on the state board of South Dakota Music Educators, and adjudicator for South Dakota Junior High All State Band, and the board of the Lake Agassiz Concert Band. Renee enlisted in the North Dakota Army National Guard in 2007, commissioning as a Quartermaster officer from NDSU ROTC in 2010. She currently serves as the Detachment Commander of the 3662 Maintenance Company. As a team leader for Military Funeral Honors, Renee has been a part of over 375 military funerals including numerous high profile details, such as the return of fallen Soldiers from Korea and Afghanistan as well as Jim “Fang” Maroney. Renee has been married to her husband Colin, a programmer for Microsoft, for 14 years, and has one son, Caden, who is an active 8th grader at Discovery Middle School in Fargo.
Renee O'Connor, Band Director, 373.7177
JENNIFER REHDER, THIRD GRADE TEACHER
Hello. My name is Jennifer Rehder and I am going to be teaching third grade! This will be my first year teaching at Oak Grove Elementary but my second at Oak Grove. I was the Library Media Specialist at the North Campus last year. Since graduating from Concordia, I have been a part of education for several years serving in various roles. I started out as a classroom teacher in Stillwater, MN then moved back closer to home and took a few years off to be a stay at home mom. I was the Director of Education at the Children’s Museum and a 4-H Program Coordinator for the University of Minnesota. The classroom is where my heart and skills fits best and I am extremely excited to be back!
In addition to teaching, I love spending time with my family. My husband, 3 kids (16, 13, and 10), and I outside of Comstock, MN. We raise pigs, sheep and chickens to show in 4-H, involved in church and school activities, and spending time outside camping and bonfires. Life gets crazy and full but we love it.
The mission of Oak Grove, “To express God’s love by nurturing students for academic achievement, lifelong Christian commitment and loving service throughout the world” is so significant to our community and world. I look forward to the challenge of adding to the positive impact Grovers provide.
Jennifer Rehder, Third Grade Teacher
JORDAN SCHUMACHER: FIRST GRADE TEACHER
Oak Grove Lutheran School is pleased to announce that Jordan Schumacher will be filling the position left open by Erin Schnell. Jordan graduated from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD with degrees in Business Communications and Elementary Education.
While in college Jordan worked with kids in a variety of settings for the Sioux Falls YMCA ranging from an after school program director, to a high ropes course director, to leading a camp that drove around the upper Midwest visiting amusement parks. After college, Jordan taught 4th and 5th grade for five and a half years at Hawthorne Elementary in Sioux Falls. Jordan is excited to take the best practices he learned as an intermediate teacher and apply them to a primary classroom.
In December of 2010 Jordan and his wife, Gina, moved their family to Fargo to start a business. Their son Spencer (4th grade) began first grade at Oak Grove in August of 2011 and since then their family has become more impressed and involved with the elementary each year. Jordan, Gina, Spencer, and Teagan (1st Grade) are all thrilled to be establishing deeper roots at Oak Grove and look forward to another wonderful year at Oak Grove.
Jordan Schumacher 701-318-2722
JULIE VANCURA: VOLLEYBALL HEAD COACH
Julie Vancure graduated from MSUM in Moorhead, MN with a Degree in Mathematics with an emphasis in Computation. Her coaching experiences have included Barnesville High School in Barnesville, MN where she was a head volleyball coach for a year as well as Barnesville’s head softball coach for two years; Junior Varsity Volleyball coach at Kindred High School for one year; and she has been coaching Junior Olympics Volleyball for seven years. Julie’s goals for Oak Grove are to pass on her passion for the game to the athletes. Teach them to be competitive and always strive to work hard and improve their skills.
Julie grew up in Anoka, Minnesota and attended Anoka High School. My parents live and work in Anoka. Her mother works for the Anoka Hennepin School District in payroll and her dad, Delbert, works for the city of Anoka as an Electrical Lineman. He recently retired from the Anoka/Champlin Fire Department. She has a brother who is in the Marines and lives in Fredericksburg, VA with one child (Alyssa - 5) and is getting married in September. Julie has a sister who is married with two kids (Rebecca - 4 and Samuel - 1), they live in Anoka, MN.
Julie Vancura, Volleyball Coach