Learning and Counseling
Lab recognizes and values that students learn in diverse ways. The Learning and Counseling team works with teachers to help Lab get to know your child.
We work with students to help them work to their greatest potential and to contribute to our learning community. We aid parents, teachers, and administrators in understanding the academic, developmental, and social/emotional dynamics impacting Lab children and families.
In partnership with faculty and administrators, the Learning and Counseling team provides a continuum of services that help students, with all learning styles and needs, maximize their potential, while making curriculum accessible and enriching the school experience for all students. The Learning and Counseling team serves the Lab community by:
- Working closely with individual and small groups of students, both inside and outside of classrooms, to help strengthen areas of learning challenge
- Collaborating with teachers to support the academic and social/emotional needs of students
- Promoting the health and wellness of students through in-class lessons, individual and small group meetings, and parent and student workshops
- Partnering with parents, teachers, and outside specialists to support student development and success
- Director of Student Services
- Learning Coordinators (N/K–grade 12)
- Academic Specialists (N/K–grade 5)
- Curriculum Support Teacher (grades 3–4)
- School Counselors (N/K–grade 12)
- College Counselors (grades 9–12)
- Testing Coordinator (grades 3–12)
The Director of Student Services coordinates Learning and Counseling services for students across all five schools to ensure their educational, emotional, behavioral, and developmental needs are optimally served. The Director of Student Services works closely with all administrators and faculty across Lab.
Contact the Director of Student Services for…
Learning and Counseling questions/concerns; Transition questions/concerns (between schools); Educational Leave of Absence; IEP/504 plan questions; School-sponsored assistance for outside services
Learning Coordinators assess and observe students, develop learning plans, and consult with teachers, counselors, academic specialists, administrators, parents, and students. Learning Coordinators help inform the Lab community about various learning styles, differentiated learning, and best practice interventions. As students transition from grade to grade, Learning Coordinators support them, their families and their teachers, to anticipate their needs and facilitate successful transitions.
Contact your Learning Coordinator for ….
Learning questions/concerns; learning support; staffing requests; referrals for tutoring and evaluations; in-class accommodations; testing accommodations
Academic Specialists provide support services to children and teachers in all areas of learning. They assess students’ academic progress, provide individual and small group instruction, co-teach, assist in differentiating instruction, and consult with parents and teachers to provide students with a quality educational experience.
Contact your Academic Specialist for…
Academic intervention and enrichment; learning goals
The Curriculum Support Teacher is a resource for grades three and four, responding to the needs of both teachers and students. They model full-class lessons, co-teach and work with small groups of learners, providing general support as well as enrichment. The Curriculum Support Teacher helps design, plan, and implement units and lessons in language arts, math, and social studies.
Contact the Curriculum Support Teacher for…
Academic intervention and enrichment; learning goals
School Counselors support students socially and emotionally so that they may be successful academically. Counselors are available for individual or group meetings with students, parents, faculty, counselors, administration, and external student support resources.
Contact your School Counselor for…
Social/emotional learning and support; referrals for therapy/family counseling; family crisis support; developmental questions/concerns; course selection
College Counselors provide support and advocacy to students and parents throughout the entire college search and application process. They actively consult with faculty and administration regarding course offerings, student recommendations, college admission requirements, and student acceptance trends.
Contact your College Counselor for…
College exploration; College application process; financial aid application; scholarships; transcripts; course selection
The Testing Coordinator organizes the administration of standardized testing, which starts in the Lower School. The Testing Coordinator actively collaborates with faculty and the Learning Coordinators to ensure that students with approved accommodations are adequately supported throughout their testing experiences.
Contact the Testing Coordinator for…
Standardized testing dates and schedules; testing accommodations (standardized tests); score reports
- Addressing Crises, Tragedies, Major News Events
- Age-appropriate ways to support children during times of stress or tragedy
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- Mental Health
- Managing your distress in the aftermath of a shooting (American Psychological Association)
- How to talk to children about difficult news (American Psychological Association)
- Talking to Children About Tragedies (American Academy of Pediatrics)
- Explaining the News to Our Kids (Common Sense Media)
- Helping Children Cope with Frightening News (Childmind Institute)
- Helping Kids After a Shooting (American School Counselor Association)
- Helping Children Cope with Terrorism: Tips for Families and Educators (National Association of School Psychologists)
- Talking to Kids About Fear and Violence
- Teaching Kids to Respect Other Religions
For our youngest children, the main goal is to help the child sustain a sense of trust in the environment. This means carefully monitoring them for signs of stress, and calmly responding to their questions as these come up. The most crucial elements in the environment for the very youngest children are the adults who care for them. Therefore, as much as possible, we must comport ourselves with confidence and equanimity, demonstrating to the youngest among us that they are in good hands.
Monitor for signs of stress including difficulty separating from parents, excessive fears for parent safety, bad dreams, lack of sleep, repeated questioning and physical issues such as headaches, stomach pain. During this time of stress, work on staying connected, making sure there is family time and being watchful.
Let your children take the lead and allow them to guide the conversation with their questions. Children typically ask questions that are appropriate to their developmental stage. Answer them simply, without added detail or inference. Empathize with their feelings. Let them know "it is ok to feel _____ " (use their words). Empathizing can quiet anxiety over a situation. Reassure their safety by mentioning all of the people that work to keep them safe at school and in the community. Lastly, they will take their cues from you, so try to have the conversation when you feel you can be calm and reassuring yourself.
Once the child has indicated they are done talking about it, the parent should respect this, and allow the child to bring it up again if and when they feel the need to do so.
Parents should monitor their children for signs of stress which may or may not be verbalized and watch for any signs of changes in typical behaviors. Answering questions as they come up is a good strategy, and avoid answering questions your child has not asked. Lower school children are more capable than younger children of dealing with concrete facts about the world. It is useful to remind them that the adults around them are taking care of things so they can continue to learn, grow, explore, and express themselves. Whatever is necessary to ensure the child's sense of trust in the environment must be maintained. Doing things that you enjoy, sticking to your normal routines, and being with friends and family help make us feel better and keep us from worrying.
Other suggestions include:
- Limit access to media resources; Media coverage can produce increased fears and anxiety in children.The more time children spend watching coverage of tragic events, the more likely they are to have negative reactions.
- Graphic images and news stories of chaos, injury, and death are especially upsetting to children.
- Monitor your conversations with other adults. Be careful of what you and other adults say about the school closing or the media coverage in front of kids; children often listen when adults are unaware and may misunderstand what they hear.
- Make time to talk. Let children's questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Watch for clues that they may want to talk, such as hovering around while you do the dishes. Some kids prefer writing, playing music, or doing an art project as an outlet. Concrete activities such as drawing, looking at picture books, or imaginative play can help them identify and express their feelings.
Middle and High School
Sometimes adults can be surprised by the directness of the questions posed by middle and high school children, and it is important to honor the question in spite of our surprise and (at times) discomfort with what is being asked. Students may be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. It is an important time to listen to their concerns, to absorb their message, and to reflect back to them what we know and how we are all working to keep school a safe place.
Wrestling with challenging questions that may not have definitive answers is a scary and developmentally appropriate task for middle schoolers that can be encouraged and supported by adults who normalize the process while providing structure and consistency.
High schoolers may seem like adults, but they are not adults in a psychological sense. They will want to discuss what is happening, and it is easy, especially with bright high schoolers, to think that they will be able to handle the manifold complexities of a situation such as this one. It is safest to assume that they may be able to handle it in terms of intellectual understanding, but not in terms of emotional integration.
Some additional suggestions for middle and high school students include:
- Conversation: be open to talking with your children. Encourage them to talk about their concerns and to express their feelings. Students may have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence. They may share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies. Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by being observant, following school safety guidelines, and participating in drills that are designed to train us all. Also, adolescents can be part of the positive solution by seeking help from an adult if they or a peer is struggling with anger, depression, or other emotions they cannot control.
- Information flow: your children will be getting their information from a variety of sources, among them social media, so it is important for you to help them weigh the value and appropriateness of the information they are receiving and passing on. In seeking answers, your children may be overly focused on the flow of information around this. Please consider monitoring their online activity and guiding them toward official sources of news and updates.
- Warning signs: recognize behavior that may indicate your child is concerned. Teens and adolescents may minimize their concerns outwardly, but may become argumentative, withdrawn, or allow their school performance to decline. Seek help when necessary. If you are worried about your child's reaction or have ongoing concerns about his/her behavior or emotions, contact your child's school counselor or your healthcare provider.
- Routine: We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to maintain routines, even with the most mature high schoolers. Routines can help create a sense of safety, so do things that you enjoy and stick to normal routines, like being with friends and family. Conversely, a temporary adjustment in some routines may also create a sense of safety for you and your family.
- At school: Encourage your children to speak with their counselors, who are there to support them in the days to come. Students may seek them out whenever they need to throughout the day.
- What Parents Should Know About Bullying (Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center)
- Creating A Safe and Caring Home (National School Climate Center)
- What Bullying Looks Like in the Digital Age and How to Prevent It (Edutopia)
- How to Talk About Bullying (stopbullying.gov)
- Talking to Kids When They Need Help (American Psychological Association)
- Bullying: A Module for Teachers (American Psychological Association)
- An Inventory of Bullying Resources (stopbullying.gov)
- The Bully-Free Classroom (Scholastic)
- 8 Steps to Combat the Bullying Epidemic (Edutopia)
- What is Identity-Based Bullying-and How Can I Stop It? (Edutopia)
- Doorways Into Activism (Edutopia)
Support for LGBT Students and Students with Disabilities
- Consideration for Specific Groups (stopbullying.gov)
- 13 Tips on How to Talk to Children About Diversity and Difference
- Teaching Children About Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- Talking With Kids About LGBT Issues
- Expanding the Circle: Teaching Children Inclusion
- Teaching Your Child About Peers With Special Needs
- 5 Ways Parents Can Talk to Kids About LGBTQ Identity
- Talking to Kids About Discrimination
- Talking to Kids After Racial Incidents
- Beyond the Golden Rule: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice
- What White Children Need to Know About Race
- What Happens When Minority Kids are Taught Not to Talk About Race? 100 Race Conscious Things You Can Say to Your Child to Advance Racial Justice
- What’s Missing from the Conversation: The Growth Mindset in Cultural Competency
- Teaching Young Children About Bias, Diversity, and Social Justice
- “Dialogues Across Differences” Prepare Students for Life Beyond the Bubble
- How Schools Can Build Unity in Divided Times
- Six Ways to Stand Behind Your LGBT Students
- 6 Strategies for Creating a Nurturing Classroom for Your LGBT Students
- Resources for Addressing Racism and Hatred in the Classroom
- 10 Tips for Teaching About Invisible Disabilities and Bullying
Resources for students, teachers, and families
- How to talk about mental health issues (Child Mind Institute)
- Mental health myths and facts (US Department of Health and Human Services)
- Helping children understand mental illness (Mental Health Association of Southeastern PA)
- Facts for families guide (American Academy Child & Adolescent Psychiatry)
- Mindfulness: Good for you and your students (Teaching Tolerance)
- Responding to trauma in your classroom (Teaching Tolerance)
- Stress management: Using self-help techniques for dealing with stress (HelpGuide)
- Self-care resources (Mindful Teachers)
- Guided meditation and mindfulness app (Headspace)
Suicide Awareness and Prevention
Learning and Counseling Team Members
Director of Student Services: Nicole D. Neal
- Learning Coordinator:
- Academic Specialists:
Karen Andersen, Susan Olander, Kate Docter, Lydia Friedman-Siddique
- Counselors: Cristina Alvarado, Adam Margol, Stacy Marienthal, Lauren Snelling, Kate Surmeier
- Learning Coordinator: Terri Nitahara
- Academic Specialists: Mandy Bunte, Keren Faling, Teresa Serangeli
- Counselors: Mariaelena Lozano, Melissa Steger, Christine Sullivan
- Learning Coordinators: Meghan Gilbert; Maureen Schmidt
- Counselors: Sylvia Aschliman, Matt Landa, Lyneth Torres
- Learning Coordinators: Laura Doto, Lesley Scott
- Counselors: Camille Baughn-Cunningham, Aria Choi, Tracy Graham, Teddy Stripling
- College Counselors: Patty Kovacs, Abby Wagner, Melissa Warehall, Sharon Williams
- Testing Coordinator: Cecilia Mullon