March 2019 District Life Changer

When it comes to education, Mae Gruss is a true believer in strong relationships. The fourth-grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary enjoys the challenge of getting to know her students and helping them learn in ways that may or may not be traditional.

One of her gifts is her ability to build community and connect with others, especially with her students. Growing relationships with them is vital.
She shares her own stories and takes time to learn about their lives. The relationships she builds are evident years later when former students run up for a big hug or to take a selfie with her.

Her coworkers see the positive impact Gruss has made on the life of every student and staff member she interacts with.

“She spreads love, welcomes with open arms, and supports in any way she can. She is truly a gift to Eisenhower/XinXing,” said Sara Schmidt, assistant principal at Eisenhower Elementary.

Whether it is using music, hands-on activities, or utilizing flex spaces, Gruss works hard to discover new ways that help her students learn.

“I am a true believer that learning can and should be fun,” Gruss said. “I try to use what works for each student to succeed recognizing that they are different and the same all at once.”

Q: Background: Gruss was first introduced to the Hopkins community well before she was hired. She met a former Hopkins teacher at an event in college, who encouraged her to get a teaching license. When she was asked what district she wanted to work in during graduate school, Hopkins was her first choice. She completed her student teaching at Tanglen Elementary and was hired at Eisenhower Elementary before she finished her program.

Q: What do you love most about working in Hopkins? I love how Hopkins is moving like a river. The ebb and flow is beautiful here, and I love our willingness to embrace change, explore out- of-the-box ideas, and do what is best for kids.

Q: Proudest moment? Each and every connection I make with families and students. It makes my heart happy when students return, they smile, and fond memories are shared. Each interaction is laced with hugs and selfies!

Q: Teaching philosophy or favorite quote? Rita Pierson, an educational hero of mine, often said, “Kids can’t learn from people they don’t like.” I’m a believer of this, and I believe in strong relationships first.

Stats: BA in psychology from Augsburg University • MA in education from the University of St. Thomas. Gruss has been teaching at Eisenhower for the entire 19 years she has taught at Hopkins. She spent one year teaching first grade and 17 years in second grade before teaching fourth grade.