An independent day school serving grades K-12 | St. Paul, MN

Student Resources and Support

There are multiple resources within the Lower School for student support, which is a partnership between a student's teachers, parents/guardians, and the support staff listed below.

Academic support

  Karen Rassmussen 

Academic support in the Lower School is offered through the Center for Learning and Teaching (CLT). Karen Rassmussen, the Director of the CLT, oversees the arc of student support, programing, academic tutoring, and policy development across the three divisions. Karen and her team work to provide support and professional development for faculty around best practices in teaching, and how to apply current research to better improve practices in the classroom. Karen joined SPA as the Director of the Center for Learning and Teaching in 2018, and prior to SPA she worked as the Learning Specialist at St. Thomas Academy for 13 years. Karen holds a bachelor’s from the University of Minnesota, and a master’s from the University of St. Thomas. She also holds certifications in Autism Spectrum Disorders and Orton-Gillingham teaching. 


Laura Duke

Lower School Literacy Support Specialist, Laura Duke holds a bachelor's from Pacific Lutheran University, a master's from St. Catherine University, and certifications in Reading Recovery and the Wilson Reading System. In her role as Literacy Support Specialist, her experience as both a classroom teacher and as an interventionist informs her connections with students and colleagues in the Lower School in meeting the literacy needs of our diverse student body.




Tristan Gavin

Tristan Gavin comes to SPA from the Bertschi School in Seattle where he worked as a learning specialist and will serve in the same role at SPA. He loves learning students' strengths, challenges, and motivations for succeeding in school, and working with teachers to give students the support that they need to succeed. At SPA, Tristan is responsible for tracking student growth, making plans for their support, and providing resources to teachers and families. Tristan holds a bachelor's from Whitman College and a master's from Relay Graduate School of Education.



For more information about the work of the Center for Learning and Teaching in the Lower School, contact CLT Director Karen Rassmussen.

Counseling Services

  Ally Youderian

The Lower School Counselor, Ally Youderian, is a resource for both Lower School students and their parents. Ms. Youderian works with students to reach their academic and social-emotional potential. Ms. Youderian earned her bachelor's from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire and her master's from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ally joined the SPA community in 2020 after serving as a school counselor in New Richmond, Wisconsin for 7 years.

Mrs. Youderian may provide time-limited, 1:1 or small group support for students who have difficulty with self-regulation, managing strong emotions (i.e. worry or anger), grief and loss, coping with change/transitions, family changes, or friendship/social skills. An outside evaluation may be required when a child's functioning is impaired due to internal or external issues affecting relationships and learning. Following an evaluation, a Learning Plan will be formulated when warranted and shared with parents to address the student needs in the classrooms, the ways in which the school can support the student without placing undue burden on the school, and recommendations for additional supports outside of school that may be necessary for the student.  The counselor may support students directly within the classroom setting to support the development of therapeutic strategies with the goal of facilitating student independence in employing the strategies with reduced support over time. 

   Dr. Naomi Taylor

diversity and identity development

Dr. Naomi Taylor, Director of Intercultural Life, serves as a resource for Lower School teachers and families on matters of positive racial identity development, gender and sexuality inclusivity, cultural and religious diversity, and socioeconomic diversity.  Her work with Lower School students may include lessons on diversity topics within the classroom, individual support for a student, and facilitating the student of color affinity group, Common Ground Junior. Dr. Taylor is a part of the Lower School Student Support Team and provides ongoing education and professional development for faculty and for parents.  

Student health

The Goodrich Campus has a dedicated Health Office, adjacent to the Converse Auditorium. The Goodrich Health Office is staffed by full-time Lower School Health Assistant Christina Cristobal; Christina is a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) with 14 years of direct experience as a nursing assistant in diverse health care settings. Christina assists students with routine requested cares such as the administration of prescription medications, and is a liaison between the school and parents/guardians regarding health concerns, questions, and resources.