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 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.
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 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.
The Lower School Counselor, Ally Youderian, is a resource for Lower School students, families, and faculty. She earned her bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire and her master's degree in School Counseling 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 seven years. “Mrs. Y” provides short-term individual or small group counseling for any student at the Lower School. School counseling referrals may come from teachers, families, or as a student self-referral. Common topics include self-regulation, managing strong emotions, friendship/social skills, coping with change/transitions (e.g. family changes, moving, or other major transitions), and grief support. Mrs. Y also works with all students through monthly wellness lessons and other school-wide programming. Wellness lesson topics are determined by the CASEL Framework, ASCA (American School Counselor Association) Student Standards, and student needs assessment data, and are designed to complement the skills students learn through the TOOLBOX curriculum.
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.
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 16 years of direct experience as a nursing assistant in diverse health care settings. Christina assists students with routine requested care such as the administration of prescription medications, maintains student health records, and is a liaison between the school and parents/guardians regarding health concerns, questions, and resources. She also manages the lower school's attendance records, and students should sign in and out of school with Christina. Christina is certified in Basic Life Support with the American Heart Association.