Cover Stories

Heart & Mind: Rossman School

An art installment called Perspectives hangs in the newly designed library at Rossman School. The piece is a fitting encapsulation for 2020, says head of school Elizabeth Zurlinden.  “The pandemic has given us all a nice dose of perspective when it comes to what is important,” she says. “For Rossman, caring for the hearts and minds of children is our first priority.” The private elementary school in Creve Coeur helps students in junior kindergarten through grade six succeed through challenging academics and a nurturing environment.

For Zurlinden, one of the most impactful things about the pandemic has been watching how Rossman’s students, especially the graduating class of 2020, have responded to adversity. In the spring, sixth-graders found their final year at the school disrupted. They had to transition to distance learning, missing out on spending time with their classmates and special graduation events like class trips. “There was such potential for sadness, but the students exhibited an amazing mix of grace and grit,” she says. “Collectively, the class was able to subdue their disappointment and find joy and ways to be grateful. I was really proud of them.”

At the start of the crisis, the class of 2020 organized a food drive to provide groceries for first responders working at a nearby hospital. “They broadened their perspectives and thought beyond themselves,” Zurlinden notes. “They took on the challenge to rally together and finish strong. Instead of looking back with regret, they made the best of it and moved forward.” That type of resilience is something that Rossman works to instill in all its students. The school fosters a supportive environment where kids can take on challenges without the fear of failure. “Our students are given plenty of opportunities to try,” she says. “I love that they don’t give up and are energized by the challenge.”

The unthinkable circumstances of COVID-19 have highlighted Rossman’s strengths. “Given this season of change, we’ve reflected on what is true and unchangeable,” Zurlinden explains. “We remain committed to cultivating habits of academic study, character and leadership.” The school is dedicated to the formation of the whole child, focusing just as much on socioemotional growth and strong character as rigorous academics. The core values of honesty, kindness, respect and responsibility are woven into each school day with intent. “Over the course of eight years, our students spend more than a thousand days with us, and we see each one as an opportunity to challenge, support and love them,” she notes.

Rossman has been able to resume on-campus classes with new safety measures. The school rearranged spaces to better accommodate social distancing, added custom guards to each desk, and requires students to wear masks throughout the day and eat lunch in their classrooms rather than the dining room. Despite these changes, Zurlinden says everyone is excited to be able to learn together in-person. “The best compliment I receive is when kids tell me that school doesn’t feel that different,” she notes. “Sometimes, all I focus on is just how much has changed, but the most important thing is that our students still feel encouraged, challenged and respected. That’s what the shared experience of school should be.”

Located in Creve Coeur, Rossman School serves children in junior kindergarten (age 4) through grade six. The private elementary school fosters character development by offering a challenging curriculum in a nurturing environment. Pictured on the cover: Rossman first-graders. 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: Rossman class of 2020 as first-graders in 2015
Photo courtesy of Rossman School

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