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Alumni Spotlight: Claire Pieper (Class of 2008)
By: Head of School Elizabeth Zurlinden
Great Stories. Great Graduates. A special interview featuring a mother-daughter duo.
Benjamin Franklin once said, "An education is the investment with the greatest returns." A friend of mine who sent her daughter to Rossman years ago is always quick to share that it was one of her best investments. Funny thing is, her Rossman alum daughter now enjoys a burgeoning career in NYC in the field of investments. As head of school, I am always curious to learn what families value in a Rossman education, so I enthusiastically took the opportunity to interview this mother-daughter duo about investing in elementary education and their Rossman School memories. For this unique Alum Spotlight, let me introduce you to Claire Pieper (Class of 2008) and her mom Tammi Pieper.
Claire, let’s catch up. Tell us about where you are now and what you do professionally.
"In June 2018, I graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in economics, and shortly thereafter, I moved to NYC. I currently work on the trading floor at one of the world’s largest investment banks, dealing with Treasury Bonds and Interest Rate derivatives."
What are three words to describe your daily work?
"Dynamic, fast-paced, intellectually challenging."
You work in the finance industry analyzing investments. Do you feel your education at Rossman was a good investment?
"Definitely! All the opportunities in my life have been born out of a superior education and a community invested in my growth. Rossman instilled in me a love of learning at a very young age, as well as the importance of mentorship, friendship, and community."
Tammi, what was important to you when you were looking for an elementary school for Claire? Why did you select Rossman?
"Alan and I both believe the benefit of a strong education to be invaluable for a happy, purposeful life. Like many parents, we started Claire’s college fund at birth and never doubted that she would attend. As parents looking at elementary schools, we carefully contemplated the value of a private versus public education. Given we lived in Ladue with access to good public schools, it was important that the institution we selected not only have strong academics but also recognize the importance of nurturing and guiding the developing minds of young children. Without a doubt, Rossman seemed to best demonstrate both our academic and personal values."
Claire has attended wonderful schools – a great secondary school and university – but you once said the best investment you made for her education was to send her to Rossman. Please explain.
"While we are so proud of Claire and her accomplishments, we are most proud of the graceful young woman she has become and her ability to overcome challenges. And we recognize that she benefited from many outside influences during her journey to adulthood, starting with Rossman. Since our children spend half their waking hours at school, the importance of selecting an elementary school community of administrators, teachers and parents who share your values is paramount. When Claire arrived at middle school, it was apparent that the foundation of values (kindness, respect, responsibility, honesty) she learned at Rossman was as important as academics. At Rossman, our family developed life-long friendships that we continue to cherish today and will always consider a blessing."
Claire, how did Rossman prepare you for secondary school?
"Rossman taught me diligence with my schoolwork and provided a good foundation in writing and mathematics while instilling the importance of values of honesty, respect, and kindness. For example, I fondly remember reading Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” in sixth grade, an example of how Rossman pushed us to be analytical and intellectually mature."
Is there a Rossman teacher you had a special connection with or who had a great impact on you?
"Annie Menees and Lynn Frankenberger — both took a unique interest in bonding with their students, investing in their academic and personal growth both inside and outside the classroom. For example, during the summer, Mrs. Frankenberger helped me with my writing skills and Ms. Menees gave me tennis lessons!"
Tammi, is there a particular teacher that you remember fondly?
"Claire’s art teacher Mrs. Crosson was one of the most imaginative and creative teachers we encountered. We have several of Claire’s favorite pieces framed and displayed in our home, and just recently, Claire and I went through her portfolio and were amazed at the projects and what she accomplished at such a young age. However, as with many teachers at Rossman, Mrs. Crosson’s attention to Claire’s needs outside the classroom are what I cherish and remember most. When Claire got paint on her new “Lilly” outfit and became very distressed, probably fueled by fear of telling her mom, Mrs. Crosson saved the day. She hand-washed Claire’s outfit and hung it out to dry so that Claire could finish her day happy without any worries."
Claire, it’s been more than a decade since you were a Rossman student. What are a few of your favorite Rossman memories?
"Field-day, art classes, ghost in the graveyard in PE class, the Rossman song!"
What is your favorite Rossman tradition?
"Probably the basketball game with the secondary school alumni. While at Rossman, students always look up to the high-school grads returning – almost like the movie stars coming back home. Conversely, when on the brink of graduating from high school and heading to college, it’s wonderful to reconnect with your elementary school peers and teachers. Moreover, my Rossman classmates are still some of my closest friends, even though we attended different high schools and colleges and now live in different cities."
Tammi, are there special memories you have of your family’s Rossman days?
"We loved the Holiday Programs, Grandparent’s Day and Field Day, and especially enjoyed sharing these days with Claire’s grandparents and extended family."
How did you get involved in the school?
"We served on numerous annual giving campaigns, chaired the plant sale, worked on school auction committees and were Room parents during first and sixth grades."
Any advice for current Rossman parents?
"Get involved and enjoy the Rossman community. It’s a very special place!"
Claire, when I interview Rossman alumni, I always ask them the same closing questions. So, what was your favorite…
"Anytime we got chocolate milk or churros!"
Holiday program song?
"Little Dreidel! I love that our program touched on the many traditions, cultures, and religions celebrated during the holidays."
"Sketching and Painting beautiful houses on Lafayette Square; I loved that the school pushed us to learn and explore a historic neighborhood in Saint Louis and capture it via the arts."
"In general, I loved sixth grade as we were given the opportunity for increased independence and responsibility. Specifically, sixth grade camp offered a special chance to bond with our classmates."
Any advice for Rossman parents?
"Trust the process. Rossman helps build the mindset for success in a nurturing and caring environment."
Complete this sentence. Rossman is _______.
"Rossman is a second home, where children can learn, explore and have fun."
Tammi, how would you complete this sentence? Rossman is ________.
"Rossman is a magical place for nurturing young hearts and minds."