Every morning, head of school Pat Shipley stands at the doors of the school, greeting each child by name as they arrive. The scene epitomizes the atmosphere that Rossman School aims to cultivate among the members of its community. “We’re intentionally a small school, and it allows us to build personal relationships with each child and their parents,” Shipley says. “The spirit of the school is really a family spirit.”
That family spirit is echoed throughout all aspects of Rossman. Founded in 1917, the school teaches 230 students in junior kindergarten through sixth grade, providing a rigorous education, while emphasizing the principles of kindness, honesty, respect and responsibility. “Every child knows what those guidelines are and what they mean,” Shipley explains. “It starts from the very beginning.”
An 8-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio enables teachers to provide close attention to each child in their classroom, while every faculty member eats lunch with the students, and homeroom teachers monitor recess. In addition, every student is a member of a ‘Rossman Family,’ individual groups made up of children from every grade and led by a faculty member. Students remain in the same ‘family’ throughout their entire educational experience, and take part in monthly Rossman Family Gatherings. “No matter what they do in life, how they build relationships with other people is going to affect their lives. We all feel that character is very important, and the development of it is an intricate part of who we are,” Shipley notes.
At Rossman, excellence in academics and character share equal importance. Using programs like 6+1 Traits of Writing and Everyday Mathematics, the challenging curriculum prepares students for the next level at independent secondary schools. While students build their knowledge, they also develop strong moral fiber. “It’s our responsibility as educators to help these children become good people, both for secondary school and beyond,” Shipley says. “It’s an overall education, helping students develop into responsible young adults who are caring and compassionate.”
The results of that comprehensive education come through in everyday examples, like the sixth-grader from Shipley’s Rossman Family who started a ‘peer improve’ effort with her friends, making sure classmates feel included or helping others who are having a bad day. “They understand that one kind act promotes other kind acts,” Shipley says.
By building a partnership with parents, Rossman is able to perpetuate its mission throughout the school community, and those parents recognize the efforts, Shipley explains. “I just received an email from a parent to one of the kindergarten teachers, and the line that stood out to me was, you feel like family to us. That spirit is pervasive.”
After 95 years of education, Rossman School is focused on readying its students for the future, working on collaboration, team-building, public speaking and other assets that children will need in a global, connected society. In her 10th year as head of school, Shipley gets to see those efforts firsthand every day, whether she’s greeting children in the morning, or reading to each class, as she does once a week. “Any opportunity to be with the students is so uplifting and reminds me why I became an educator. It’s my favorite part of any day.”