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Meet Our Faculty and Staff: Tess Ingebrigtsen, Science Teacher
David Jacobson

A love for nature is in Tess Ingebrigtsen’s nature. The second-year science teacher and middle school lacrosse coach “always had a science journal” during her childhood and spent much time with her father, “looking at the stars and listening to coyotes,” she said.

Her path toward teaching was further paved by her A.P. Bio teacher, Ms. Stacken. “She taught science in a different way,” Ingebrigtsen said. “Like a lot of students who are bad at math, I assumed that meant I would be bad at science. But she taught science with such creativity that I would go home from school just wanting to learn more.”

Ingebrigtsen considered working for the DNR, but decided she wanted to teach based on her experience giving swimming lessons and loving the moments when kids “get it.” She graduated from Winona State University in 2020 with a bachelors degree in Biology: Life Science Teaching and minors in middle level science and coaching. She joined the Academy after a year of teaching at John Glenn Middle School in Maplewood and over the summer wed John Ingebrigtsen ’16.

“I feel honored to be here,” she said. “It’s amazing how supportive everyone has been. They’ve welcomed me and given me opportunities.”

Perhaps the most meaningful of those opportunities, beyond teaching biology and Earth and Space Science, is development of her own high school elective, Land Management, set to launch in early 2023. “This class is my baby,” she said. “I’m passionate about native plants and flowers from my two summers working in native prairie in Winona.”

The Academy is providing a plot that Ingebrigtsen estimates at 8,000 square feet, where Cadets will “grow a native garden from seeds,” she said. “We’ll do invasive-species removal around the lake, and eventually I want to bring in beehives. We’ll spend about half our time outside and the other half in the classroom. Students will write up a land report, analyzing which plants grow best in this environment.”

Like many Academy faculty members, Ingebrigtsen works to ensure students take away more than just academic subject matter from her class. “I want them to have more appreciation for those who work in conservation,” she said. “I want them to have the reward of work and effort and getting their hands dirty. I want them to realize that this aspect of science is just as important as physics and chemistry. And I want them to enjoy the discipline and pride of working to take care of their own piece of land.”

She also will bring to her Land Management class the demeanor and approach to students that characterize her other classes and her coaching. “It’s a sense of mutual respect,” Ingebrigtsen explained. “I want students to be comfortable approaching me with questions. We talk about their weekends at the beginning of class as a way to make connections. This is a great community, so I try to reward behaviors of brotherhood whenever I see them.”

Those rewards entail flat-out fun, such as giving out stickers with uplifting memes to students who earn them, or the opportunity for students to name any of the specimens that Ingebrigtsen keeps in her classroom. Thus the hip-hop influenced moniker of the Notorious R.A.T. (see adjacent photo).

An image of a rat in a jar

Where does such enthusiasm and creativity in the classroom come from? For Tess Ingebrigtsen, it’s just her nature.