BSM Teachers Reveal Impressive Secrets

Students typically see their teachers in the school environment, which makes it difficult to view them as participating in hobbies outside of school. Though most never find out, the teachers at BSM have vibrant stories to tell, from bungee jumping to singing for the king of Norway.

Emily Chmielewski has performed for the King of Norway with her college vocal group, the St. Olaf Choir, at St. Olaf College. She toured with this crowd, which included multiple vacations. During her junior year she stopped at the Oslo Opera House where the King was in attendance. After performing, the group briefly enjoyed some perks of royal life, such as extra security and an elaborate dinner. “We got to go to this really fancy reception at the US ambassador’s residence … it was an ‘I shouldn’t be doing this at twenty-one kind of thing,” Chmielewski said.

Similarly, Jennifer Bevington has performed with a professional choir called the Vocal Essence for about ten years. “We’ve been super lucky to have a lot of really amazing opportunities to perform with famous groups that are coming to the Twin Cities. We’ve been with the Rolling Stones, Rufus Wainwright, Andrea Bocelli…it’s a side benefit of being in [Vocal Essence], but usually we perform more like a regular choir,” Bevington said.

Chmielewski has multiple musical skills, including the ability to play the accordion, which she learned her freshman year of college. “It’s just a fun niche thing I learned…my grandma actually played for a while so it’s kind of a fun family connection,” Chmielewski said.

Many teachers have talents in the arts, and not just in music, but also in painting. Anna Overbo has been rosemaling, a Norwegian style of folk paint, since she was about eight years old to connect to her heritage. This type of art includes traditional designs that are typically floral with continuous brush strokes. “I like designing my own little things…so then I started freestyling…experimenting with a color scheme that wouldn’t have been part of the traditional thing…you can interpret it into your own thing or you can just go rogue,” Overbo said.

Yet another teacher with a creative side is Rosalie Goldberg, who has been quilting for over fifteen years. She took it up after she received a sewing machine as a present. Since then she has designed many quilts for her family to give as gifts, and she usually makes them over school breaks when she has more free time. “I keep it pretty basic, pretty simple, but it’s fun…It’s fun for me to get different ideas. Play with different squares and do different designs and I don’t do anything super fancy,” Goldberg said.

John Groess’ high school job is not related to the arts, but was unique in its own way. He decided to work at Bath & Body Works during the holidays because he was seeing someone who worked there, and his main job was to move boxes that weighed over seventy-five pounds. One day the manager noticed that the guy customers would talk to Groess and not the female helpers, so she offered him the job as a salesperson. “…I worked there and I learned the difference between body butter, body shimmer, body cream, body lotion, body oil, and body spray…I always would put on the evergreen lotion, so that was my signature scent at the time,” Groess said.

Mary Murray’s previous job was a bit more of a hazard than Groess’ and it has made her absolutely hate beets. She worked at Del Monte Foods factory in the beet canning department, and she did not receive much training before her first shift. One time the canning line started to overflow, so she opened up the grate to the well so the water would drain more quickly. She forgot to close the grate, so she fell into a pit that was full of beets. She luckily didn’t break her arm or leg. “All I can think of when I think about working there is the smell of it permeating and smelling like dirt,” Murray said.

When Keanan Faruq was in his mid-twenties, he decided to travel the world and visited thirty-two countries. “My favorite country was Laos…I rented a motorbike and I just traveled south through Laos on a motorbike sleeping on random people’s floors of their homes, and eating from their gardens. It was an enlightening experience, but it was the most fulfilling and gratifying culture and people…I made my way down to the Cambodian border. And that’s when I returned the motorbike to some guy there and kept going,” Faruq said.

When Groess took a trip to South Africa he felt compelled to do what was the world’s highest bungee jump at the time. The only thing that complicated this was he has an immense fear of heights, but he followed through anyway to prove that he could conquer his phobia. “It was one of the most peaceful and spiritual things I think I’ve ever done because I had this fear I was gonna die and then all of a sudden, it’s perfectly calm and I’m at peace with the world,” Groess said.

It is not necessary to travel to have interesting life experiences, such as when Murray witnessed a house raid next door. “All of a sudden these cars are speeding in and slamming on their brakes. [My neighbor] was being raided because he had been growing some herbal supplements that were not legal. They had the DEA, the FBI, the Hennepin County Sheriff, the police department from not just St. Louis Park, but also neighboring police…They had a battering ram they used to beat in the door…They had guns drawn. This was serious…Then they arrested him and took him and he was gone for a couple days. But then he got out,” Murray said.

Barbara Watson’s talent is something that everyone could benefit from: organizing. She has helped family and friends clean out their homes when they are in the process of moving, and has even considered starting her own business. “I haven’t had the time yet with other things I enjoy doing, but it’s just kind of a fun thing to help people realize how much easier life can be if things have a place and…are organized,” Watson said.