Beginning & Lower School

science class first grade

Welcome to the Beginning and Lower School

At Catlin Gabel Beginning and Lower School, we honor childhood. While giving our students the space and time to be young, we also build their agency and capabilities by inspiring them to be big. Our teachers are masterful experts at attending to each child’s cognitive, emotional, and physical development while harnessing the power of their natural curiosities.

Children learn by building their own understandings. Our students are given the freedom to make many of their own choices and learn, early on, that with freedom comes responsibility. We encourage thoughtful, intentional risks and expect children to behave responsibly toward others and their environment.

Students learn to listen to others, appreciate different perspectives, and work together to solve problems. We cultivate their sense of self—they learn to manage their emotions, thoughts, and energy—while helping them to become responsible members of community.

In the Beginning and Lower School, students engage in wondering, investigating, hypothesizing, building understandings, and developing academic skills. It’s a place of joyful, natural, purposeful learning.

Dawn Isaacs,
Head of Beginning and Lower School

Dawn Isaacs Beginning Lower School Pride Parade 2019

Meet Dawn Isaacs, Head of Beginning and Lower School

Dawn encounters a wide range of students In the Beginning and Lower Schools—seven grades in all—but remains committed to seeing every child as an individual learner. “Each child is the unit of consideration,” she says. “And we work to know where they are developmentally, and then to give them just the right experiences they need to move onto the next stage.”

For over two decades, Dawn’s work as educator has been focused on beginning and lower school students. She earned her B.A. in Education from Bradley University in Illinois and her master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Maryville University in St. Louis. For most of her career, she taught kindergarten through 3rd grade in public, charter, and independent schools.

At Catlin Gabel, Dawn was a second grade homeroom teacher for four years, and then served for three years as Head of the Beginning School. With the merger of two divisions at the start of the 2018-19 school year, she became the Catlin Gabel Head of Beginning and Lower School.

They know how to engage in the world, how to wonder and ask questions, how to research and explore, and come up with ideas and solutions. And this lays the foundation for their future learning because now they know how to be a learner in the world, and that they are an active participant in it.

Dawn Isaacs