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7th & 8th Grade

Welcome to the Otters Classroom

7th & 8th Grade 

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Becoming a student in the Otter classroom carries the status of being some of the eldest in the school community.  Because students have generally grown-up in the school culture at GES he or she has acquired a set of leadership skills that are practiced and used as they serve as role models and mentors to the younger students. Along with leadership, the Otters have gained the necessary academic skills, self-discipline, and the ability to be more independent learners. 


As they prepare for their transition into high school the students work individually and collaboratively on assignments and projects-practicing critical thinking and problem solving with the teachers as facilitators and guides. They receive Math and Science instruction from Lisa Vanderwyst, Erik Hahn and other middle school subject specialists.


As in all classrooms at GES the Otters start each day with a morning circle.  In middle school, this circle is called The Circle of Power and Respect. Though the familiar components are still practiced, as they are in the younger grades, the middle school circle takes on a more complex and age-appropriate tone. 
The primary goals of the circle are to:

  • establish trust,

  • teach social skills,

  • make school meaningful. 

  • to set the tone for learning by making the transition from home to school.

As the year progresses students take responsibility for organizing and leading the circle, taking turns throughout the year. 

Adolescence is a time when one begins to forge a personal identity separate from the group.  In a safe and accepting environment students are encouraged to explore the answer to the question, “Who am I?”   Stressing acceptance and appreciation for everyone, students become a closely knit group of unique individuals.  Otters are given opportunities to show their competency, to be independent, to establish relationships with each other and the adult community, and to have fun! 

Otters Educators: Kathryn Nelson-Pedersen and William Choi

Kathryn Nelson-Pedersen teaches 7-8 graders Language Arts, Social Studies and Art, and serves as the primary homeroom teacher responsible for the creation of a classroom community through the intentional teaching of a social curriculum.


Kathryn was born and raised here in Grand Marais.  She is the fourth generation of Scandinavian immigrants who settled in Cook County.  She is proud of having deep roots here and of having been formed and educated by the individuals in this place and this environment. She is dedicated to giving back to the community through the act of education, and she is proud to be directly involved in the future of the community through its young people.
Kathryn became involved with GES while it was still being formed by attending community information and pizza nights.  The grassroots nature of the organization and the rich discussions about how education could be more student-centered, responsive to individual needs, and teach social responsibility in a nurturing environment were exciting to her and fit her teaching philosophy perfectly.

William Choi is also a regular part of the Otters classroom, inspiring students in Science and Math every day.

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