On their first day of kindergarten at RCLS in 2001, Micaela Rud and Nathan Witte and their parents faced the start of their school careers like all young families do: a little nervous, a little excited, and with a whole lot of anticipation––hopes and dreams, if you will––about what their school years would bring. Kindergarten is like that, even if, of course, a kindergartner doesn’t yet recognize the significance of that first day of school. It is a major transition, an exciting beginning–– the start of great things.
In 2001, Miss Timm was one of RCLS’s beloved kindergarten teachers. In her class, Nathan remembers acting as the seal trainer and ring leader in the kindergarten circus. Micaela, in the same class, remembers taking home Miss Timm’s activity calendar and completing the weekly projects with her family, and she recalls collecting donations for the Red Cross in preparation for the 100th day of school and, also, embarking on a thrilling search for the leprechaun on St. Patrick’s Day. Put together, Nathan and Micaela’s memories of those early days are a snapshot of an enriched, happy childhood, one that is shaped, inevitably, by a place where they spent so much formative time.
Remarkably, it is fair to consider their memories together, for now, 17 years after they first met in kindergarten, Nathan and Micaela are husband and wife, married just a few months ago, on June 30 at the Mayowood Stone Barn here in Rochester.
Great things begin in great places, indeed.
To talk with this newly married couple and enjoy their collective memory is to get a glimpse of what it is like to learn and grow at RCLS. As they look back on their RCLS school years, Nathan and Micaela recall activities and relationships that augment the classroom activities and learning of their K-8 education. For example, the memories that stand out in Nathan’s mind concern his involvement in athletics and music at the school: “I really enjoyed going to basketball nationals in Indiana during my 8th grade year [. . .and] playing in the conference tournament for soccer during middle school,” he recounts. One year, he notes, he was delighted to be awarded the “Male Athlete of the Year,” but he also enjoyed playing the lead in the operetta that is a popular RCLS music tradition, and he loved performing in both the concert and jazz bands. At RCLS, where students can participate in band and athletics as early as 4th grade, Nathan found a place to learn and excel at both, an opportunity made possible by the school’s priority for “whole-child education” and commitment to offering a wide range of extracurricular activities to young children.
Micaela, on the other hand, remembers her place with friends and other school activities. “I remember playing at recess with Ashton Andersen, Lydia Patton, Emma Allen, and Clare Heins,” she says, as she lists some of the dear friends that make up so many of her childhood memories. Micaela also fondly remembers particular events, like the traditional States Fair in 4th grade and the many plays that she participated in during her middle-school years. Additionally, she remembers, “I always looked forward to track and field days as well as the auction,” she says, as she notes two of the all-school activities that continue to be highlights of the RCLS school-year calendar. Even as she recalls the rich texture that all of this activity granted her childhood, Micaela still places a high value on the academic aspect of her RCLS years. “One of my proudest memories [is] when I became the 8th-grade valedictorian,” she says, as she references one of RCLS’s most celebrated traditions: an 8th-grade graduation ceremony, complete with valedictory and salutatory addresses and a blessing for the school years to come.
For Nathan and Micaela, the school years to come were at Mayo High School, where both enrolled in a number of honors classes and Advanced Placement courses such as math and physics, wherein they worked as lab partners. I had to laugh as they remembered that “Micaela did most of the work [in physics lab] because Nathan was busy golfing for the varsity Mayo team.” It seems the couple got an early start on exercising division-of-labor, and by the sound of it, they were both highly involved and extremely busy in high school. Nathan also played soccer at Mayo, and he persisted with music by playing in the pep band. Micaela notes that she attended nearly all of Nathan’s games in spite of her own full schedule of activities, which included the debate team, the Key Club, and the Bella Voce choir.
The takeaway for those of us wondering what life after RCLS looks like? “RCLS provided us with a strong academic foundation that allowed us to pursue advanced coursework in high school,” the Wittes explain. “Not only that,” they continue, but RCLS also “fostered an environment of discovery that enabled us to ask our own questions.” Rigorous coursework and supportive teachers, a wide range of extracurricular activities, and affirming, long-term friendships, together with “religion classes, weekly chapel services” and “great spiritual role models” set Nathan and Micaela, individually at the time, on a path to excel academically at the same time that these served to grow their faith. To hear their story is to appreciate the favorable outcome of a whole-child emphasis––to appreciate a place that offers such a foundation for academic achievement without compromising spiritual health.
Clearly, the shared future is bright for this young couple. What started as a lifelong friendship took a romantic turn in high school, when Nathan and Micaela attended nine high-school dances together, and persisted through college, despite Nathan’s rigorous course of study in industrial and systems engineering at the University of Minnesota and Micaela’s equally challenging academic endeavors in neuroscience and Spanish at the nearby University of St. Thomas. Since their respective college graduations last May, the couple has married, and each has begun advanced degrees. In August, Micaela matriculated as a first-year medical student here in Rochester at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, while Nathan began a course of study at the University of Minnesota that will end with a PhD in industrial engineering.
So, beyond their commendable career plans, what exactly does the future hold for these ambitious RCLS alumni, now a family?
“We just want to finish school and then see where Micaela’s residency program takes us. We hope to have a big family one day,” the Wittes reveal, “and hopefully get a dog. Ultimately, we want to end up living in the Midwest.”
The Midwest. Hmm. Maybe Rochester? Maybe even RCLS?
After all, great things begin in great places.
We thank Nathan and Micaela (Rud) Witte for sharing their remarkable story with us. We love the featured photo on this article, which includes Nathan and Micaela and a number of their fellow RCLS alumni at the Wittes' wedding in June.
To all RCLS alumni, we would love to hear from you! Please drop us a line to let us know what you have been up to since your graduation from RCLS. You can contact us by submitting a note on the Alumni page on the school’s website.