St. Mary's School
left_body body

St. Mary's School Staff
Troy Sladek,
Principal sladek

I am a graduate of St. John's University, with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education.  While at St. John's, I was a two-year starter for the SJU football team as a running back.  I also have a Master of Arts Degree in Education and an Educational Administration Licensure from St. Mary's University.  For nine years I taught in grades four and five for District 206 and was the dean of students at Jefferson High School for one year.  Since 2004 I have been the principal at St. Mary's Elementary School.  I am married to Janelle and our two sons are Braeden, age 14, and Ashton, age 11.  In my free time, I enjoy being on the lake with my family, golfing, and fishing.

Current Principal's Passage

Molly Ihnen,
Kindergarten vanderwerf

My name is Molly Ihnen (formerly Miss Vanderwerf), and I am one of the kindergarten teachers at St. Mary's. I was born and raised here in Alexandria, MN, and feel blessed to be a member of the St. Mary's School family! I graduated from Minnesota State University in Moorhead in December of 2010 with a degree in Elementary Education and a minor in Psychology. I spent the spring of 2010 substitute teaching in District 206, and the Brandon/ Evansville school district. I was fortunate to be offered a Kindergarten position, here at St. Mary's, in June of 2010. I am loving my time here at the school with the kindergartners...We have a BLAST and learn SO much during the year!! This past summer I married my best friend Matt, and we are currently living in Lowry! It's been fun teaching without the wedding planning looming over me!! I truly love what I do and am so happy to be a part of the St. Mary's team!


Sue Helgeson,
Kindergarten helgeson

I am one of the kindergarten teachers at St. Mary's school. I learn so much from five and six year olds! I earned my teaching degree from Hamline University in Saint Paul, MN where I also majored in British Literature. This is my nineteenth year of teaching kindergarteners. It is a BLAST! Thirteen of those years have been at St. Mary's. It is wonderful to work with such amazing teachers and families. I am married to John, who is a physical therapist. We are having fun being parents to three adult sons. All three are off at college, so John and I are adjusting to a much quieter home and doing only one load of laundry a week!!!! We love when our guys come home!

Sue Ristvedt,
1st Grade ristvedt

After 20 years in Kindergarten, I was ready to advance to 1st grade. This is my 6th year in 1st grade and I am enjoying the change in lesson plans. I have been teaching at St. Mary's since I graduated from Moorhead State University in 1980.  St. Mary’s is a wonderful school…for kids, for parents and for teachers!

My husband Wayne and I have 2 adult children – Eric (and Deb) live in Alexandria with our grandchildren Sophie(7) & Blake(5). Amy (and Pat) live in St. Louis Park with our newest granddaughter Lucy.

I love being a Grandma!


Emily Struchen,
1st Grade struchen

Hello, my name is Emily Struchen and I am one of the first grade teachers here at St. Mary's. I graduated in 2006 from SMSU in Marshall with a degree in Elementary Education with a Middle School Communication Arts/Literature License. After graduating I taught first grade for two years at St. Anne's in Wabasso, one year as a resource teacher for District 206 at Voyager Elementary and have been here at St. Mary's for the last 8 years. My husband Aldon and I live in Osakis with our daughters Finley (7) and Veda (3), our cat Winston, and our dog Barley. In my free time I enjoy playing with my girls and spending time with my family and friends. I am so thankful to be a part of the St. Mary's family and look forward to another great year.

Tara Hetland,
2nd Grade hetland

Hi! I'm Mrs. Hetland, one of the 2nd grade teachers! Here's a little background information about me... I achieved my bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, with an emphasis in Pre-Primary Education, at Minnesota State University Moorhead in the fall of 2006. I am licensed to teach age three children up to sixth grade. I also took extra training to receive Special Education and Coaching Certificates. This is my eighth year teaching at St. Mary's and I absolutely love it! The students, families, and staff are wonderful to work with! I am married to my husband David and we have two boys named Dylan and Tate. Dylan is also a St. Mary's Saint with me! We reside in our hometown of Osakis, which is 10 miles east of Alexandria. David and I love to spend time with our sons, play golf, go fishing, and just be around our families and friends as much as possible. I also like to help at church and be involved in community activities. Please stop and see our classroom at any time! We would love to have you!

Pat Finnestad,
2nd Grade

Hello. I am Pat Finnestad. I have an education degree from what was then Mankato State University and a Masters of Education degree from the University of MN. I taught kindergarten for 7 years, then stayed home to have a family. I returned to teaching and taught until I retired in 2009, when we moved to our lake home here in Alexandria. I realized I did not want to be done teaching and was blessed to find St. Mary's School. My daughter is one of the third grade teachers here and I have two grandkids in school at St. Mary's. How blessed am I??? Plus, I get to teach YOUR children, which is truly a gift and a blessing. I love reading, amateur acting, gardening, being on the lake, traveling, family and my students. And oh yes, chocolate...I love chocolate. :)

Brittnay Kompelien,
3rd Grade

I graduated from the College of St. Benedict with a K-8 degree in Elementary Education and a concentration in Language Arts. My husband, Ryan, and I moved to Alexandria in 2003. We have a son, Leo (11), and a daughter, Lane (9), and therefore much of our spare time is spent going to and from the various activities that they are involved with. In any additional spare time, I enjoy spending time with my family, photography, reading, spending time on the lake, cooking, golfing, gardening, and watching baseball and hockey. I feel SO blessed to be a part of the St. Mary's school community!

Ashley Kubat,
3rd Grade

Hello, I am Miss Ashley Branstad and I am one of the 3rd grade teachers here at St. Mary's. I graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato with a degree in Elementary Education with a Middle School Mathematics License. After I graduated I taught Pre-K in Eden Prairie for 3 years then taught 1st grade in Apple Valley for 3 years. While I was teaching in Apple Valley I attended graduate school and graduated with my Masters in Differentiated Instruction from Concordia University, St. Paul in June 2016. In my free time I enjoy spending time with my nieces and nephew, reading, biking, swimming, creating projects, traveling and being with friends. I feel so blessed to be part of the St. Mary's community.

Jennifer Gustafson,
5th Grade schneider

My name is Jennifer Gustafson (formerly Miss Ridler), and I am the fourth grade teacher at St. Mary's. I was born and raised in Willmar, MN. I graduated from St. Cloud State with a major in Elementary Education and a minor in Special Education. It is a true blessing to be a part of the St. Mary's family. In my free time I enjoy golfing, being in the outdoors, hunting, and spending time with my family. This past summer I got married to Brett, and we just bought our first house in Alexandria! It is going to be a wonderful year, and I will not have to worry about wedding plans! Stop by anytime to see our classroom. The door is always open!

Heather Schneider,
5th Grade

I have a BA in Communications from the State University of New York College at Oswego, and a BS in Early Childhood Education from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. I have worked at St. Mary's for 10 years. I have been married to my husband Jon for 18 years, and we have two children, Jack (13) and Megan (10). We've lived in Alexandria for 11 years, but have also lived in Texas, North Dakota, Arkansas, and Buffalo, NY, where Jon and I are from originally. My hobbies include spending time with my family, painting, golfing, gardening, and knitting.

Blair Hovel,
4th Grade kompelien

Hi! My name is Blair Hovel, and I am excited to be teaching at St. Mary's School again. Ever snce 1986 I have pretty much lived in Alexandria other than a few years after college. I have had the honor of teaching at St. Mary's School in thier old school, out in Villard, and now the new school. What a beautiful place to work with awesome staff, students, and parents.

I graduated from Alexandria High School in 1996. Moved on to Saint John's University and graduated from there in 2001. I have also taught in the Holdingford Public Schools which was great, but nothing beats being able to talk about the Word of God! I have been blessed with an awesome wife, Lecia and 3 great daughters, Isabelle, Rosemary, and Ahryanna. In my spare time, I love to golf, be involved with hockey, help others reach their dreams and learn about their God given abilities, and most importantly spend time with family and see them smile and laugh.

Angie Nelson,
6th Grade rustad

Hello! I'm Angie Nelson. I'm a lifelong member of St. Mary's Parish, a St. Mary's School Alumnus, and have been teaching here since 2002. I teach 6th grade as well as 5th grade math. I feel that the best part of St. Mary's School is being able to integrate faith with all aspects of our daily interactions and learning. I have been married to my husband John for almost fifteen years and we live on a farm northeast of Carlos. We have three beautiful daughters and one energetic son. Our oldest daughter, Julia, is a fifth grader here at St. Mary's. Our middle daughter, Brooke, is in second grade. Shelby, our youngest girl, is in first grade. Our little guy, Colby, one and a half. Outside of school, I love spending time with my children and husband. I can often be found cooking or baking, and I enjoy reading when I can sneak it in.

Kimberly Hawkins,
4th grade / Spanish

Aaron Korynta,
Media Specialistpohlen

Hi, My name is Aaron Korynta and I am excited to be teaching at St. Mary’s School.

I am originally from Grand Forks, ND where I attended the University of North Dakota and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Education. I returned to school to earn a Master of Arts degree in Education from St. Mary’s University. I taught for eleven years for the Alexandria Public Schools working with 3rd grade keyboarding classes and high school business and computer classes. I enjoy fishing, camping, boating, gardening and spending time outdoors.  I also enjoy reading and keeping track of many of the Minnesota sports teams. I look forward to a great year.

Jane Herth,

It is my pleasure to join the staff at St. Mary's School as their music teacher!

I received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the College of St. Benedict and a Master of Music Degree from Arizona State University. I was a longtime elementary music teacher in District #206. I am also active in the music ministry at St. Mary's as a cantor and accompanist.

In my spare time I love to travel, decorate and enjoy the company of family and friends.



body_3 body_3