Lower School Counselor Shares with Mind and Brain Students

Lower School Counselor Kaela Rowe recently met with seniors in Bridget Lesinski’s Mind and Brain elective to talk about her work at the school and her educational trajectory, then answered questions from interested students.

Students in the elective spend the semester immersed in an intimate study of the domains of psychology, prompting Rowe to comment on her work with students in JK—3rd grade. Known affectionately by younger students as “The Friendship and Feelings Teacher,” Rowe is a frequent presence in classrooms who thoughtfully implements age-appropriate curriculum that helps students to better communicate with one another and learn to channel and regulate their big feelings and emotions in constructive ways, both in the classroom and at home.

Many Mind and Brain class members were Rowe’s students in the Lower School and recognized her references to “The Glassman”—an imagined entity she introduces to 1st grade students to help them articulate when they are feeling fragile and upset—or the stuffed “Yeti” she uses to console those struggling with understanding and mastering a new concept, reassuring them their feelings are temporary and they might succeed YET. Rowe also helps students understand the importance of gratitude in maintaining happiness and being a gracious gift recipient creates an environment of love and appreciation.

Rowe spoke about the range of issues troubling Lower School students these days, from anxiety to depression, ADHD and more, as well as the ways a Lower School counselor works with students and families to help make a difference.  

Rowe shared that she attended Parker up to 8th grade and loved reading and writing. She went to Lincoln Park High School’s IB program in 9th grade because of rising tuition costs and pursued her love of reading and writing at Rice University in Texas, where her educational horizons broadened. Rowe graduated with majors in behavioral science and English and, following a year off, pursued a doctorate in psychology at the Illinois School of Professional Psychology. 

After graduating, Rowe worked with adolescents in therapeutic day schools, which inspired her to consider the benefits of working with younger students to intervene before the problems became so severe. She served as a long-term substitute LS counselor in 2003 while her predecessor was on sabbatical leave. When she saw that Parker was looking for a full-time counselor in 2005, she applied for the position and has never looked back.

Reflecting upon her 19 years in Parker’s Counseling Department, Rowe related her pleasure in seeing some students continue using the strategies she taught them as they grow into young adults. Her guiding vision is to prepare students to be brave, flexible adults who are confident in their ability to solve their own problems and the problems they see in the world.

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Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.