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Lower School: Grades 1–5

Watch: Why Rowland Hall Lower School

Former Principal Jij de Jesus takes you on a tour of the Lower School and shows you why it's an ideal place for young learners.

Welcome to Rowland Hall's independent private elementary school. This is a place of joyful learning and continuous growth. It's an inclusive community that inspires students to seek their sense of self, wonder about their world, and pursue their interests while supported by a caring faculty and staff.

It truly is an honor for me to be a member of Rowland Hall's Lower School team. Many factors drew me to Rowland Hall, from a mission that “inspires students” toward discovering a productive and meaningful life of learning, to a beautiful campus staring up at the Wasatch Range. But the thing that most excites and inspires me each day is the community of people that comprise the Lower School: an energetic, talented, and tight-knit faculty and staff; a leadership group that aspires to the highest ideals of teaching and learning; warm and welcoming parents, guardians, and families; and, most endearing of all, a group of eager, joyful, smiling students. Together, we are building the next generation of compassionate, curious, and courageous leaders.

I am proud to be part of the Rowland Hall community. Our community.


Jij (pronounced "jay") de Jesus 
Lower School Principal

Independent Private Beginning School Principal - Emma Wellman - Salt Lake City, Utah

Emma Wellman
Beginning School and Lower School Principalget to know Emma

Contact the Lower School

720 South Guardsman Way, 
Salt Lake City, Utah 84108

Lower School Snapshots

Elementary school student plays ukulele at Rowland Hall, an independent private school in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Elementary school teacher helping students in science at Rowland Hall, an independent private school in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Elementary school students on the playground at Rowland Hall, an independent private school in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Lower School Stories in Fine Print Magazine

Valedictorian Zach Benton speaks at Rowland Hall's 2021 senior graduation.

At this year's fifth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade graduation ceremonies, student speakers shared funny, reflective, and inspiring stories.

Seniors Maddy Frech and Zach Benton (pictured above), as well as Senior Celebration speaker Chiara Kim, expressed their gratitude for the positive ways the Rowland Hall community shaped their lives. Eighth graders Tessa Bartlett, Jojo Park, and Ainsley Moore reflected on the importance of friendship through their middle-school years, and several fifth-grade students thanked their teachers, family, and friends for creating a supportive and engaging learning environment in the Lower School—especially during a pandemic.

We have posted their speeches here for you to enjoy.

Student Voices

Rowland Hall beginning schoolers plant flowers on Earth Day.

In their final episode of the 2020–2021 school year, Rowland Hall princiPALS Emma Wellman and Jij de Jesus take on the topic of bullying.

When they leave the elementary years and get into more complicated and dynamic years—middle school, high school—that foundation of clear communication with your child is going to be really important.—Jij de Jesus, Lower School principal

While parents and caregivers are undoubtedly familiar with the term bullying, the definition can shift depending on who’s talking. Knowing this, Emma and Jij explain what it means when educators use that word, as well as walk listeners through what’s happening to kids developmentally during the early childhood and elementary years so that they understand what behaviors are typical and which may require intervention—areas that may not be clear to all caregivers as their children mature, but that school personnel see often and can help explain.

“As educators and people who work with children, we think about typical development all the time,” explained Emma.

The princiPALS also examine what parents and caregivers can do if they suspect their child may be being bullied—or might be the one bullying. Listeners will walk away with a better understanding of what is behind children’s behaviors and how to target support to help students gain skills that will help them manage tough situations for life. Additionally, they’ll hear tips they can put into practice starting today, including establishing open communication with children, an important step that benefits families for life.

“When they leave the elementary years and get into more complicated and dynamic years—middle school, high school—that foundation of clear communication with your child is going to be really important,” said Jij.

Check out “Bullying,” along with other episodes of the princiPALS podcast, on Rowland Hall's website, Stitcher, and Apple Podcasts.

Podcast resources:


Rowland Hall Nurse Assistant Debbie Skidmore, who is retiring after the 2020–2021 school year.

By Aria A. and Hannah H.

This month, after 26 years at Rowland Hall, Debbie Skidmore—known as Nurse Debbie to students—will retire. In addition to her most recent role as McCarthey Campus nurse assistant, Debbie has worked as a Lower School lunchroom monitor, recess monitor, and Extended Day support person. In honor of her retirement, fourth graders Aria A. and Hannah H. recently sat down with Debbie to chat about her time at Rowland Hall and what she’s looking forward to in the next chapter of her life.

Debbie has been a nurse at Rowland Hall for over 20 years! I think students at Rowland Hall will miss her very much and this will be a reminder of how great she was. We will always keep her in our hearts. We will never ever forget Debbie.

How did you start working here?

A good friend of mine in 1994 told me that she was going to be quitting lunchroom duty and asked me if I wanted to take her place, and I had never heard of Rowland Hall before and it sounded cool.

What was your most memorable moment working here?

I just love Rowland Hall.—Debbie Skidmore, retiring nurse assistant

One time a fifth grade girl fell off the monkey bars and she broke her arm, and that was the first time I ever saw a broken arm before. It went straight, and then in a U shape, and then straight. And because children’s bones are soft that’s what happened.

How has this community impacted you?

It just enlightened my mind of possibilities and high standards of how to treat children, and I just love Rowland Hall.

What will you miss most about Rowland Hall?

Just helping the children and making them feel happy when they’re feeling sad, especially the little kids. I would close the blinds, and let them lay down, and when it’s time to go back to class they’re all happy.

What are you looking forward to most about being retired?

Playing with my grandchildren; learning how to cook better food, healthier food; being healthier; and doing deeds in my neighborhood, helping my neighbors.

Fourth-grade students Hannah H. and Aria A., who interviewed retiring nurse assistant Debbie Skidmore.

Debbie, Hannah, and Aria on the McCarthey Campus.

Nurse Debbie is an AWESOME person. Everyone at Rowland Hall will miss her. We are very thankful to have had her in our lives.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been unable to celebrate our departing colleagues as we customarily would. We are planning an on-campus gathering on Saturday, August 28, to honor those who worked at Rowland Hall for 20 or more years and left the school in 2020 or 2021.


First grade teacher Lizbeth Sorenson chats with a student during writing workshop.

Upon entering first grade, students are just beginning their reading and writing journeys, with varying levels of literacy experience. By the end of the school year, thanks to the guidance of a dedicated team of teachers, these first graders have become confident, age-appropriate readers and writers.

Rowland Hall’s first-grade team—April Nielsen, Galen McCallum, Susanna Mellor, and Lizbeth Sorensen—puts their hearts and souls, and more than 70 combined years of experience, into the art of teaching first graders how to read and write. These teachers are the backbone of Rowland Hall’s uniquely engaging literacy program, a key educational pillar that serves as a launchpad for students’ love of reading and writing, which continues to grow throughout their time at the school. 

Our students leave first grade loving reading and writing. They feel empowered as word professors, readers, writers, and learners.—April Nielsen, first-grade teacher

“Our students leave first grade loving reading and writing,” explained April, lead first-grade teacher. “They feel empowered as word professors, readers, writers, and learners.”

During their first-grade year, students have a variety of opportunities each day to strengthen their skills and foster a foundation of empowerment. They practice reading, writing, and phonics, and learn about different genres and how to use authors’ techniques in their own writing. “Students feel empowered to take control of their own learning,” April said. “They’re excited about their progress as readers and writers.”        

What sets Rowland Hall’s literacy program apart from others? Undoubtedly, it’s the devotion and hard work of the first-grade teachers. The team uses the best research-based practices, as well as their combined years of teaching experience, to create joyful and engaging classroom communities of children who feel safe trying new things while actively learning. “The first-grade literacy program is highly engaging, developmentally appropriate, and thorough,” said Susanna. “It includes explicit, teacher-directed instruction, as well as many components that are discovery-based, requiring students to investigate and explore.”

The program also offers individual support for each student throughout their reading journeys—and this has been especially true during the pandemic. The teachers were proactive following distance learning in spring 2020, identifying students who would benefit from additional support over the summer to ensure they wouldn’t fall behind when they returned to school in the fall. These students were offered a two-week summer learning program where they could focus on reading and writing, as well as mathematics, in ways that would keep them excited about learning. Once students returned to the classroom, the teachers worked tirelessly to offer them individualized literacy instruction, while also being proactive about reaching out to families about progress and how to support children at home. Thanks to Rowland Hall’s small class sizes and administrative support, they used formative assessments to guide their instruction. “We meet with each student individually to find out exactly where they are and what they need instructionally,” explained April. “Then we are able to work with students individually and in small groups to practice the new skills being taught each day.”

Rowland Hall first graders in a writing workshop.

First graders practice reading, writing, and phonics skills during writing workshops throughout the year.

As the year progresses, the teachers use methods that encourage students to examine language and build meaningful literacy knowledge and skills. One of the most impressive aspects of Rowland Hall’s program is how they weave together reading and writing units to optimize student success and retention. “One nice thing about our program is when we’re reading nonfiction books,” April explained. “That’s when we’re learning how to write nonfiction, too, so students are really learning how these books are organized both during reading and writing time.”

The first-grade team is constantly hard at work implementing new and innovative strategies for writing workshops that make learning both inclusive and fun for students so that they want to explore those skills.

The first-grade team is also constantly hard at work implementing new and innovative strategies for writing workshops that make learning both inclusive and fun for students so that they want to explore those skills. (In fact, Galen highlighted how, during choice time, students often choose to do reading and writing activities. “I love writing workshop because I can use my imagination to write my very own books,” commented first grader Scarlett M.) Writing workshops allow the first graders to use a variety of skills to write and illustrate their own stories, building confidence and ownership of their own literacy learning. Students create everything from narratives to persuasive writing to nonfiction stories, and at the end of the year participate in an authors’ celebration where they read a story of their choice to their classmates and parents. This May, for example, student Ozzie S. chose to read his story about a “sushinami”—a tsunami made of sushi.

“It was fun writing my story and I'm excited to read it for the class,” Ozzie said. “I really liked drawing the pictures of the sushinami.”

The literacy program has been a longtime strength at Rowland Hall, and during an unconventional year, the program has been especially beneficial to students. Due to the consistent hard work and dedication of the first-grade team and their students, April is confident this year’s first graders will be well-prepared for second grade.

“I am extremely proud of our first graders and my team,” said April. “All of my students have made great reading and writing progress this year because they received intensive, systematic reading and writing instruction.”


You Belong at Rowland Hall