Whether it’s with family, co-workers or the community, people succeed when they come together to support each other. You can see this philosophy put into practice every day at Rossman School. Located in Creve Coeur, the independent elementary school is committed to providing a well-balanced education of both the heart and mind. Students are encouraged to be their best in a nurturing environment filled with supportive teachers, staff and peers.
Character education is integral to Rossman’s approach to learning, and its curriculum is built on the core values of kindness, honesty, respect and responsibility. “We create a safe learning environment,” says Rachel Dixon, lower school director. “Students can learn by taking risks and making mistakes because they know they are valued and respected.”
A key part of this approach is the school’s family program. Led by a teacher or administrator, each Rossman family consists of one student from every grade, starting with junior kindergarten. The program has been in place for nearly two decades and strengthens connections among the school’s population. By bringing all grade levels together, it provides unique benefits for everyone, according to Dixon. “New students immediately feel connected to the community because their Rossman families make them feel welcome,” she says. “Older students have the opportunity to take on leadership roles and model character values.”
The groups meet monthly and complete projects together. In September, they wrote letters to recent graduates, wishing them well and letting them know their Rossman families were thinking of them. They also read books centered around the school’s core values, such as The Empty Pot, a Chinese folk tale about honesty. “Everything connects back to learning together,” Dixon says. “By having discussions across grade levels, students get to experience different perspectives than they would in a traditional classroom environment.” Even the youngest students can be part of the conversation and take on important roles during projects.
Group activities also extend beyond these meetings. Each spring, Rossman hosts a spirit day with special events, including a basketball game where alumni who are current high school seniors get to play with members of their families who are now fifth- and sixth-graders. At the end of the year, there also is a field day. Last year as part of an ongoing sustainability project, families planted native species in the school’s Drosten Greenhouse and learned about pollinators. Plus, there are small, unstructured interactions every day. “Everyone loves spending time together,” Dixon says. “It’s special when I see students stopping to say hello or give a high-five to someone in their Rossman family.”
The success of the model is evident. Students learn to respect others, build relationships, take responsibility and make an impact on the world around them. Dixon notes that they also have fun engaging with a cross-age community and supporting members of their families. “I enjoy field day and all of the family gatherings,” says a current sixth-grader. “I feel like a leader because the junior kindergarteners look to me when they are unsure of something. I remember feeling that way, and now, I can guide them.”
Located in Creve Coeur, Rossman School serves children in junior kindergarten (age 4) through grade six. The independent elementary school fosters character development through its Rossman Family Program. Pictured on the cover: Senior kindergarten teacher Abbie Duvall with her Rossman family. For more information, call 314.434.5877 or visit rossmanschool.org.
Cover design by Julie Streiler | Cover photo by Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography
Pictured at top: Students learn and explore in Rossman’s Drosten Greenhouse.
Photo: Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography
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